A spectacular performance of artful mischief and theatrical trickery.
A mountainside overlooking Kyoto glistens in the early morning dew. A gentle golden light drips itself over the outcrops of rock, pooling in the flat spaces, cutting through the gentle grey haze of dawn. Beside the crooked path, a wooden Noh theatre barely stands in the amber light. Built on the stone overlooking the city below, the residents would snake their way up the path for each full moon, eager to watch their favourite plays and dances. However, since the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the theatre has fallen into disrepair, the actors now forbidden to perform. To shade themselves from the mid-summer sun and to screen themselves from the cold mountain winds at night, many animals on the mountainside have been using the abandoned stage as a shelter. It has become their home and refuge; a place to raise their young and protect their nests.
One day, the villagers decide that the crumbling theatre is an eyesore and that they will demolish it. Owing to his large ears, the hare overhears their plans and hastily runs back up the mountain to relay the news to his friends. The animals are panicked and immediately begin quarrelling over the unwelcome announcement. The wily fox, as wily foxes are prone to do, slopes away unnoticed behind a bamboo screen. A few minutes later he reappears, dressed in a fine embroidered kimono, its golden threads shimmering in the morning sun; Having discovered the ancient playbook, he has used his sly wit to unlock the dusty costume chest and has dressed himself in his luxuriant findings. His cunning plan is to fool the villagers into believing that the theatre is possessed by benevolent spirits (Yōkai), and therefore convince them that it would be a bad omen to demolish it. The other animals leap with glee at this masterful ploy and jump into the chest, rummaging to find costumes for their new characters. Inros and netsukes, armour and tassels, fans and ribbons, the box is a treasure trove of spectacular adornments.
As the villagers’ footsteps crunch towards the theatre, the animals are prepared for and awaiting their arrival. With the hollow rhythm of the Tsuzumi drum beaten by the spoonbill, the grand performance begins.
This collection references the costumes, masks and plays of ancient Japanese Noh theatre, alongside antique woodblock prints, kimono patterns and tales from folklore. The beautifully intricate hand-carved animal artwork found on inros (small wooden or ivory boxes used as an external ‘pocket’ tucked under an obi) and netsukes (the tiny wooden or ivory bead to stop the inro slipping through) also played a large part. The studio moodboard for The Noh Playbook has a palette of soft, chalky pastels infused with deep inks and rusty reds. Discover key elements of Sabina’s research here, and view some of the images which inspired her designs.
View the collection illustrations in progress, and see how the drawings transform into detailed and intricate scarf designs. Sabina creates a story for each collection, as shown below, which is then illustrated and narrated through her elaborate handiwork.
Welcome to our our Spring / Summer 2019 Campaign, The Noh Playbook.
Photographer: Kurtiss Lloyd
Model: Anna Modler
MUA: Christabel Draffin
Assistant: Johanna Rodriguez
Shop the Collection
A range of beautiful fabrics are available for each design, from classic silk twill to our sumptuous signature wool and silk blend. Each piece is printed and hand finished by artisans in the UK.