Empress

There are beautiful stories woven within the past. Growing up I wasn't focused very much on my heritage or general history. As I've begun to learn more about my own family's history I have found this information and the objects left behind as inherently fascinating. It's with great pleasure I share with you a historic garment of my family's past. 

I was genuinely excited when I finalised the plans to photograph this treasure of a piece. This very precious and fragile vintage Kimono belonged to my Great Grandmother Alexandria, who emigrated from Russia, to China, and then all the way to New Zealand where she stayed until she passed a number of years ago. Stories like the one embedded in the intricate designs on the silk are beautiful and I'm stoked with how this look came out. Rather than go traditional I wanted to play on the feel of the Kimono as a coat, rather than a dress piece. It's not every day you photograph a near one hundred year old garment and call it high fashion!

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I am always seeking out new landscapes and majestic views, and Woodhill forest is one of the most beautiful places in Auckland. I wanted to find somewhere truly special for this authentic vintage heirloom. There is something about the quiet out in the middle of the forest that reminds me of fairytales, folklore, and magic.

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The beautiful embroidery on this kimono is all hand-woven into the silk. It features a range of patterns and colours, mostly bright corals and deep pinks, with touches of various shades of blues. The silk fabric is two colours, a deep navy blue and light earthy beige or what may have once been a soft cream shade. There is a floral design near the sleeves, and large patterns including crane birds, peacocks, larger flowers and depictions of people doing various activities on the beige silk near the neckline. I am hoping to pop by the Auckland Museum as soon as I get a chance so I can uncover what these designs are all about!

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The kimono itself is nearly 100 years old, and we aren't sure of whether it was given to my Great Grandmother as a gift by her parents while she was in China, or whether she bought it. Either way she was around the same age as me when she had in custom made for her, she lived in China for just over ten years before coming to New Zealand to settle down. For anyone wondering why the big move to China, many Russians particularly the 'White Russians' called that because of their loyalty to the Tzar, were displaced after the Russian Revolution in 1917. At the time Alexandria was fourteen years old, and quickly escaped with her parents to China. In the 1970's my Uncle had a lining added to this Kimono, to make it sturdier and prevent it from falling apart. 

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I was pretty satisfied with how this shoot came out. The unique nature of this Kimono really meant that I had to think long and hard about the styling. I wanted to go for an alternative slightly boho feel, but with a high fashion twist. The Kimono works so well as a coat, and could be paired with anything plain. I feel that jeans or something that defines your legs is best as the Kimono is rather long and can be enveloping. I opted for this plain light blue top from Kmart, and jeans from Jeans West along with a pair of boots also from Kmart. I love how the pale blue of the top brings out these colours in the embroidery. Keep this in mind when matching detailed pieces with plain garments. Select a colour that doesn't feature strongly but is still incorporated in the design. That way it provides some contrast while still looking cohesive. I harp on about this aspect of styling so often but it really is a cornerstone!

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For accessories I opted for a simpler neutral aesthetic, both earrings and choker are from Kmart and are in a slightly copper shade. I feel it works really well with the look but again, pieces that are more unusual, striking designer pieces would also work really well here. I did my hair in a partial top knot, going for that hipster vibe. Worked really well and it's a welcome change from many of my more dainty feminine looks. 

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Part of fashion, and styling is about creating an aesthetic that encompasses a feeling or says something about who are or want to be as a person. I feel it's important to embrace my femininity, to be unashamedly beautiful but at the same time to be strong, and take pride in that strength. Just like an empress. 

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Photographer. Creator. Dreamer ♥