Case study

How Katie’s kimono became big in Japan

Our Textile Design student Katie Gilbert’s modern take on traditional Japanese clothing gained her international recognition and saw her work on show at exhibitions in Japan, France and Germany.

The skills Katie developed on our course were central to her being named one of the winners of the International Kimono Fabric Design Competition 2017.

Brilliant and friendly

Katie has always been a creative person and her career aspirations throughout school were fashion designer, artist or interior designer.

She truly knew that Textile Design was the specific path she wanted to take after studying a Higher National Certificate in Fashion and Textiles – which allowed her to join the University of Derby textile Design course as a second-year direct-entry student.

Why did she choose Derby? Katie’s twin sister, Bethany, began her Psychology degree at the University of Derby a year before Katie enrolled onto our Textiles course. Katie says:

“I had already toured the facilities and knew how brilliant the resources and equipment on offer were. The friendly atmosphere at the University made me feel at ease and welcome, which was very important to me.”

Katie Gilbert Textile Student with Kimono Design
Katie Gilbert with her winning kimono design.

Nurturing talent

Throughout her degree, Katie was able to use a broad range of facilities and resources on offer to support her studies.

“Without the support on offer, I wouldn’t have achieved as much as I did,” she says. “I gained a wealth of knowledge in printing and dyeing (both digital and manual) and had the opportunity to learn digital embroidery, laser cutting and etching.”

Katie says this support came not only from her lecturers but also from the technicians who are on site to help students with practical elements of their courses. She says: “I was grateful for the technicians who were on hand to teach me how to make up the print pastes and dyes using various chemicals, as some universities have their pastes already made up for their students to use.”

Katie Gilbert working in our Textiles department
Katie Gilbert in our Fashion and Textiles studios in Chandos Pole Street

The winning design                

While at the University, Katie entered numerous design competitions in order to enhance her real-life learning. In 2017, she came across the International Kimono Fabric Design Competition.

“Entrants to this competition had to produce some artwork that they could see being applied to a Kimono using the traditional Yuzten technique accomplished by expert Japanese craftsmen. And it had to be something the entrant would wear,” she says.

“My design was titled 'Modern Japan Kimono Design’. It reflects a combination of both traditional Japan and modern Japan. The kimono is a very traditional piece of clothing in Japan. Therefore, I have decided that I should use Japan itself as my design inspiration. I wanted to try to give the kimono a modern look, using block shapes, in bright colours, unlike the intricate florals that are more traditionally used.

“The main component in my design is a Japanese hand fan that has been repeated in different colours. I have decided to use a hand fan to produce my design because it is an iconic, traditional item in Japan that has been recognised worldwide as a symbol for the country."

Winning the competition meant that Katie’s original design, along with a traditionally painted version of it, was displayed at Kyoto International Exhibition Hall in Japan, Maison du Japon Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris in France and The Japanese Foundation, Cologne, Germany.

thread on bobbins

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What’s next for Katie?

Since completing her degree at the University in July 2018, Katie has decided to continue her studies with us on our MA Fashion and Textiles course to further her skills and experience needed to prepare her for a future career within printed textile design.

Outside of her course, Katie was able to gain various other skills through activities such as the “Futures Award” and the “Be the Boss” programme.

“These extracurricular activities boosted my social media and business skills as well as my personal and professional confidence.”

Student work: Digital textile print
Student work of digital textile design

You can view Katie’s undergraduate degree project “Woodland Flora”, along with previous project work on her website, KM Textile Studio.