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Our understanding of Blue

The first mention of blue

“And now have I put in here, as thou seest, with ship and crew, while sailing over the wine-dark sea to men of strange speech, on my way to Temese for copper; and I bear with me shining iron.” Homer – The Odyssey

In all the works of Homer there is no mention of the word blue – instead he describes the ocean as wine dark. This choice of description extends to other ancient civilisations too, from the Hebrew bible to ancient Chinese text, there is no mention or reference to the word blue, whereas black, white, red, yellow and green are mentioned countless times. Why, when colour vision was developed in humans 30 million years ago is this the case?

When linguists analysed this, they found out that in every culture, black and white make there appearance first. They are followed by red, yellow and finally green before blue as a descriptive word enters a given language. There are some strong reasons for this. As black and white distinguish between night and day they initially were the most useful words potentially explaining why they came first. Next, red with its connotation of blood and danger from self wound or the hunting of animals. Early cave paintings are brushed with red pigment. Finally green and yellow taught us to distinguish between ripe and unripe foods. But blue, although notably present in the nature world to us, did not enter our consciousness in the same way until much later.

Blue in Nature

Blue is seemingly everywhere, from clear skies, vast oceans, to tropical birds feathers and flickering butterflies. But are they as they seem? As light refracts across a butterfly or the wings of a bird it is distorted giving our eyes the illusion of blue. The colour is not set. The waters of our oceans are clear as is our air until light works its magic by bouncing through our thin atmosphere and creating a “blue” hue. True blue is very rare and its pigment comes from a leaf first cultivated in India – Indigo.

Manufactured Blue

Experts mostly agree that we began to see blue as a colour when we started making blue pigments around 6000 years ago. The ancient Egyptians loved the the colour blue and used Lapis – a stone mined in Afghanistan mixed with limestone and other ingredients to produce saturated blue pigments. They were the only ancient culture to develop a word for blue before passing on their knowledge to other cultures in the region. However the dye was so expensive that blue remained rare for many centuries. The word started slowly spreading.

It wasn’t until the cultivation of Indigo in Asia and Africa and Woad in Europe that blue started to become more common – indigo being the stronger and more vivid pigment. Until synthesised in the 1900’s it is remarkable that a small green leaf is responsible for all the blue we see now.


Do you remember flash cards when you were learning at school? The teacher would hold up a colour and get you to say it. This process of learning has conditioned us to look for and recognise colours more stronger than we naturally would. Nursery rhymes and other songs sing the greatness of blue and have forever cemented it as the most popular and adored colour of them all.

Kiiro Design

Lilly and Tom of Kiiro love Indigo and passionately maintain their own indigo dye vats, producing garments and fabrics in true natural blue. From napkins and runners to adorn your table, to natural fabrics such as silk and linen turned into beautiful garments, we cannot get enough of Blue.

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A History of the Kimono

Japanese design is globally celebrated. Seeing it gives you a taste of beautiful, functional simplicity. Even better, a visit to Japan is an education in simplicity in form. This design practice is evident in the traditional clothing – Kimono; meaning “to wear” evolution from the name for clothing into what we have today.


The Kimono is made of panels of straight-line cut fabric. The width of the loom would dictate the size of the fabric panels that come together to form the Kimono. For example, the back of the Kimono is made of two rectangular sheets forming a back seam in the middle. Long sleeves give away one’s marital status, with the longest reserved for single ladies.

The kimono is worn with the lapel left over right, right over left is reserved for those who have passed on to the next life. They are held with a sash (Obi). Choice of the pattern was very important and showed different social status and for use on different occasions.

The ancient history of the Kimono is visible all over Asia. Origins include China with her influences spreading to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. All countries taking influence and creating their own unique fashions. From the tailored and fitted Ao Dai of Vietnam to the Korean Hanbok, key elements and rules remain in place.


The Kimono was popular for its versatility. Heavy silk and hemp lined Kimonos could be worn layered for winter; whereas light linen or cotton Yukata kimono is fitting for humid summers and warmer weather. The flat shape makes for easy folding and storage. In fact, there is a myriad of folding techniques. We have a little guide here for further reading. (BUILD PAGE AND RE LINK)!

Cinema & Pop Culture

The famous image of the Samurai warrior in the 20th-century film brought Kimono to a global audience. Sanjuro played by Torisho Mifune looking cool in his Haori was not just the influence for a whole genre of Hollywood spaghetti westerns, but also the entrance of Japanese clothing to the west.

By the 1970s, David Bowie was incorporating the Kimono into Ziggy Stardust at the beginning of his life long love of Japan. The gender ambiguity of the character is fitting for a garment enjoyed by Men and Women.

Kimono Oi

This article was written by Kimono Oi. We honor, respect, and meticulously research the tradition whilst developing our designs. Functional, versatile, and beautiful, we are passionate about bringing this wearability to everyone.