We love Japanese fabrics that are chock full of imagery and meaning. The "Fans & Flowers" necktie and batwing bow tie by Olaf Olsson are no exception. The fabric we used for this neckwear includes folding fans, four different flowers, and a wave motif, all of which have deep meaning and long histories in Japan.


Folding fans, known as Sensu, have been an important part of Japanese culture for hundreds of years. While the folding fan itself has a practical use on hot days, it also has a deeper symbolic meaning and use in Japan. It can be seen in traditional Japanese dance styles such as Kabuki. The folding fan also plays an important role in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. Certain types of folding fans, such as a “court fan” or “hi-o-gi” made from silk and special types of wood, were even considered to be a symbol of wealth and high social status.

Here is an example of a traditional Japanese Fan Dance.

Folding fans were invented in Japan around the 6th century, with the earliest visual depiction of fans seen in burial tomb paintings from the 6th century. Traditionally Japanese folding fans are made from strips of wood and either washi paper or silk. The fans come in many sizes and can be used by women or men. The fans are often decorated with beautiful hand painted patterns, pictures, and Japanese calligraphy.  

There are many types of images that can be found on traditional Japanese folding fans and each design can have a specific meaning. Ume flowers, or plum blossoms, represent a new beginning. Sakura, or cherry blossoms on a fan are considered symbols of richness and good luck. A pair of birds symbolize the romantic love. A koi is used as a sign of good luck and a long life.

Here is a short video on how folding fans are made.


Hanakotoba is the ancient Japanese art of assigning meaning to flowers. Hanakotoba is a nuanced language that was created to help communicate one’s feelings and thoughts to another through the presentation of flowers. Even the different colors of a specific flower could mean very different things. A red poppy meant fun-loving, while a white poppy was a symbol of rejoicing, and a yellow poppy meant success.

There are a number of flowers on the “Flowers & Fans” necktie and batwing bow tie by Olaf Olsson including cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, chrysanthemums, and poppy flowers.

Click here for a list of flower meanings in Japan. 

Click here for a our blog post on Hanakatoba. 


In Japan Seigaiha means blue wave of the sea. Seigaiha is a pattern made up of layered concentric circles creating arches it is symbolic of waves or water and is a symbol of good luck, power and resilience.

The Seigaiha pattern was originally used in China to represent the sea on ancient maps. It’s use started to appear in Japan in the 6th century on clothing funerary terracotta clay figures. It has continued to be be an important symbol in Japan for centuries and can still be seen to today on on clothing, kimonos, ceramics, and in modern Japanese advertising and branding.

Check out or Pinterest Board on Japanese Folding Fans.

The “Fans & Flowers” Necktie and Batwing Bow Tie by Olaf Olsson

November 19, 2017 — Olaf Olsson