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Takahashi Hiroko

高橋理子

 4 hirokos

PORTRAIT: Standing Black Kimonos © TAKAHASHIHIROKO


Takahashi Hiroko is an artist based in Sumida, Tokyo whose work innovates the Japanese kimono tradition.

Characterized by patterns consisting of the basic elements that make up the universe – circles and straight lines - Takahashi’s work shows the infinite possibilities that can be created out of finiteness. She aims to bring about a fusion of art and fashion through her original brand, HIROCOLEDGE.

Circles and straight lines

The geometric patterns created by Takahashi Hiroko are composed of just two simple shapes: circles and straight lines. Takahashi first used these motifs as a postgraduate student at the prestigious Tokyo University of the Arts (also known as TUA or Tokyo Geidai) in 2002. By applying familiar patterns from contemporary fashion to the Japanese kimono, Takahashi aimed for the garment to be viewed not only as an art piece, but as a fashion item. It was through this project that Takahashi became aware of the variety of expression possible even when working with limited design elements. In her current work, she continues to pursue the idea of finding infinite possibilities within minimal elements. 

Kimono sustainability & renovation

Takahashi Hiroko became interested in kimono while studying dyeing techniques at Tokyo University of the Arts. She was attracted by the kimono’s practicality and lack of waste: tailored from straight lines, the same size of cloth can be adapted to any sex or body type without having to cut or dispose of the fabric. In the past when the kimono was everyday wear in Japan, it was commonplace for a parent’s old kimono to be re-dyed and re-tailored for children and grandchildren.

Takahashi’s series Project RENOVATION focuses on this sustainable aspect of kimono:  taking old kimono and having them unstitched, de-colourised, and then re-dyed with her bold geometric patterns and re-tailored. By renovating kimono, Takahashi also seeks to ‘renovate’ ways of thinking about the present: encouraging us to find joy in continuing to re-use and treasure the same objects and materials even when new things are constantly being created around us.

Craftsmanship & innovation

Takahashi collaborates with master dyers and weavers around Japan to produce her kimono. At first, her unconventional designs were met with a certain degree of resistance by the craftspeople she approached. In contrast to the more organic designs often found on kimono, Takahashi’s geometric patterns presented new challenges as her perfect circles and straight lines tend to emphasize small imperfections which can arise during the dyeing processes. Takahashi believes it is important to preserve and respect tradition but also to question and update accepted ideas if necessary. Over time and with persistence she has been able to find skilled craftspeople willing to try new techniques to help her realise her innovative designs as fine and exquisitely made kimono.

Studio in Sumida, Tokyo

Takahashi works from her studio in Tokyo, an old industrial warehouse, which has been transformed for her by Nagasaka Jo from Schemeta Architects. It is located in a back street in the Sumida district of Tokyo near the Tokyo Skytree. The shitamachi (downtown) areas of eastern Tokyo including Sumida are known for their many small factories and workshops involved in textile and print production and were well known to Takahashi from her time as a student at the nearby Tokyo University of the Arts. Takahashi decided to base herself in Sumida, drawn by its craft and industrial heritage and the sense of artistic freedom that she experienced there. Sumida is also home to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan (National Sumo Stadium) and many sumo-beya, the stables where sumo wrestlers train and live. Since 2018 Takahashi has been commissioned by the prestigious Kokonoe-beya to design the yukata (informal summer kimono) worn by its sumo wrestlers. 

Hirocoledge in London

In 2020, a kimono from Takahashi Hiroko’s brand HIROCOLEDGE was featured in ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Europe’s first major exhibition dedicated to kimono. In parallel with this exhibition, Japan House London exhibited a range of Takahashi Hiroko’s kimono and accessories which were also available for purchase in The Shop. For more information and to purchase HIROCOLEDGE items featuring Takahashi’s distinctive geometrical patterns, from yukata and children’s jinbei to accessories including bags, fans and pleated face masks, visit Takahashi Hiroko’s official website: https://takahashihiroko.jp/.