Japanese Patterns, The World of Colors

The Japanese Patterns of Autumn

After the colors (former post), here is a review about the patterns, animals, flowers and textures for the fall / autumn season.

A quick historic reminder to start … that you can switch if you read the former post about colors.

The period called “Heian” (794 / 1185) in Japan has been very stable. It is known as a kind of golden age for culture, arts, and imperial court. During this time, for Europe, it’s the middle age.

That’s during this periode that several clothing precepts were defined, and got anchored in Japan. And since the Japanese culture is very much linked with seasons, it is the same for clothing. Those precepts (Jūnihitoe, kasane no irome) concern the fabrics, the number of layers, the color palettes and combinations, the patterns. They even already integrate the specific complexion of the skin (re. the Tale of Genji – XIème).


For example, with the colors of the Dahlia, which is blooming till October.

[basel_title title=”FLORAL INSPIRATIONS”]

When we talk about autumn, the first image we have, that’s the multicolored leaves. It’s a cliché, so ordinary, that we do not see the magnificent beauty of this spectacle.

Indeed, the general idea is to see how the nature of autumn can be a source of inspiration, when we just take a few seconds to differently look at it.

First, autumn, for fruits and vegetables, is the season for apples, pears, maize, pumpkins, grapes, figs, quinces, … to which we can add the nuts, hazelnuts,  rice spikelets, persimmons.

For the flora, firstly, it’s the new colors for the leaves, on the trees and on the ground. This mainly concerns the maple trees, the oaks, birches, poplars, …

All this gives an incredibly rich universe of colors, and color combinations, which we can endlessly use. It teaches to differently see the colors … especially for colors like khaki, purple, olive, rust, bistre, … Indeed, it is very interesting to talk a walk in a forrest or a public garden, and wonder: which ideas of dressing does it give me?  Or find a “natural” idea to match a special green or ochre.

In autumn, many flowers are blooming: asters, pétunias, chrysanthemums, dahlias, …

Specifically in Japan, there is a group of 7 plants (Aki No Nanakusa), which is linked with autumn for centuries, and is represented below, so, from left to right and top to bottom:  miscanthus (sivergrass), pueraria (pea family), dianthus (eg carnation), patrinia (honeysuckle), Eupatorium (herbaceous plant), and morning glory (or campanula, which is very close).


For September, still for Japan, we can mention commelina (dayflower), the great burnet, the Japanese knotweed as they can be seen on fabrics.

Morning Glory
Great burnet
Japanese knotweed

Still in Japan, October is the month of Chrysanthemum, so important there; and then maple tree and ivy. Knowing that hanami (admire the cherry blossom in sprint) is as popular as momiji-gari (the maple leaves in autumn).

[basel_title title=”ANIMAL INSPIRATIONS”]

Get inspired by fauna is less immediate for us … except, of course, for the leopard / cheetah, or zebra style. The asian culture is different; for instance, we can see birds, insects, or animals on fabrics or potteries for centuries. And indeed, the fauna is also a very interesting source of inspiration, for colors and color combinations.

Which animal in autumn? It’s the season of animals which look after their food for the winter … or become more visible become their food is less abundant (squirrels, foxes, hedgehogs, …), those in heat (deers), all those birds migrating (sparrows, geese, ducks, …). Beyond those, in Japan like in China, there is an interest fir crickets and fireflies. As a matter of example, here are 3 birds that visit us in autumn:


What inspires me in the crane? This association of grey shades, enhanced by this touch of dark red.

The thrush? This feathering between brown and olive, with a lighting touch of hazelnut.

The plover? This elegant and subtle mix of grey, brown and beige.

[basel_title title=”AUTUME – THE WABI SABI SEASON”]

Psychologically, October is a kind of pivot month, when you can feel a certain nostalgia for the vitality and warmth of summer, and in the mean time, see beautiful leaves that are falling and decaying, face cold winds and rains, start to have dinner when dark has fallen, … All this gives a kind of wabi-sabi atmosphere.

How to simply explain what means wabi-sabi? I would say that it’s about knowing to value patina (eg the effect of time), and the most essential … that’s about the unique lustre of an old cabinet … the richer taste of a green tea made in an old tea pot …. or simply the pleasure given by an old wine. All there more that grapes are ready in …. autumn.

What could mean get dressed wabi-sabi?

In terms of color, any color including a grey tone, whether we talk about pink (antique pink), or green, brown, beige, etc.

I also think that autumn is the best season to include retro / vintage items. With a personal preference for shoes and bags.


Autumn, especially September is a month when there are many festivities in Japan (like Mid-Autumn Festival). Therefore, the drawings of musical intruments like flute or drum can be present on seasonal garments.

The geometric patterns can be used all year around. This said, this specific one featuring grass and dew is rather for autumn.

In terms of fabric, autumn is a month where cold and warm can alternate, when it can be rainy. Therefore, the materials that are better thermoregulating, and have a higher moisture absorption (with a dryer feel) have more interest. This is the case for wools and linen. In terms of weave, the crepes -more or less thick- are also relevant because they encapsulate a bit more air. On the same principle, we can also, like Japanese, simply increase the number of layers … what also offer more opportunities for color and style combinations.

Another suggestion: since the autumn winds can be cold, it’s also interesting to give a priority to fabrics with a very tight weave. Indeed, against cold, tight weave and thickness are the key drivers of comfort.

Since the autumn light is less strong, since the sun is low and the sky often greyer, it’s better to avoid shiny and pale fabrics. Especially close to face, risk being to give a sader or paler complexion or mood.

[basel_title title=”CULTURAL MIXES, NOW & YESTERDAY”]

Successively, on the first rank, creations from Itchiku Kubota (textile designer), Jotaro Saito and Hanaé Mori.

Below, creation from Carine Gilson, Hermès, and Etro.

And to finish, 2 of my creations for automn:

Black obi waist belt / wrap belt, featuring colorful maple leaves, made with a Japanese cotton fabric
Obi Belt / Waist belt, in cotton and linen, associating a Japanese fabric with a floral pattern of camellias, featured in olive green, burnt orange and ochre / ecru.
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