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Monday, 19th October 2015
In Events In Japan,

Kimonos brought right up-to-date at Tokyo Fashion Week

The kimono has long been associated with Japan, but in recent years, fewer women in the country have been wearing it, until now. As Tokyo Fashion Week came to an end on Sunday (October 18th), the classic kimono started to stage a comeback.

Kimonos are traditionally made out of a heavy silk, which gives them their characteristic rigidity. The new take on the garment is seeing the likes of jersey, wool and denim being pressed into use by designers as they reinvent a Japanese wardrobe staple.

Jotaro Saito, the celebrated fashion designer, told the AFP news agency: "The kimono is fashion… it shouldn’t be presented as old-fashioned.

"I want to spread the message that [the] kimono can be worn every day, it's something people can wear like they wear modern clothes, not… something that makes them feel like they are in a costume."

The word kimono literally translates as 'something to wear' and was originally used to cover a wide variety of clothes worn by men and women over for centuries. Over the years the term has become more specific and now just refers to the stiff outer robe, which is generally tied with a sash called an obi.

Up until the late 1800s Japan remained in a state of self-imposed seclusion, which protected the wearing of the kimono from outside influences. Once the country became more involved with other cultures, its people moved away from traditional dress and started to wear items more in keeping with those in the west.

Kimonos can still be seen on women in specific parts of Japan, but their use has been prohibited further by how expensive they are. This means they are often reserved for special occasions, such as weddings, with some brides opting to hire them instead of purchasing their own due to the price.

Another element of kimono-wearing that some find off-putting is the knots that must be employed to ensure it is fastened tightly enough and worn correctly. So complex is this sequence that there are even classes available to teach such skills.

A number of schemes have been launched by government officials to promote the kimono, with the most successful being the Kimono Passport. This initiative was launched in Kyoto, Japan's former capital, offering anyone wearing a kimono discounts at various shops and restaurants.

Fans of the traditional garment are keen to bring it back into fashion, which is what was seen on the catwalk this weekend. Designer Saito has a vested interest in the survival of the kimono, as creating these garments is something of a family business for him, as his family have been dyeing kimonos in Kyoto for generations.

He believes that adapting it for modern use is the only way to ensure the kimono continues to be seen throughout Japan.

"What we need to do now is evolve the kimono. We cannot just do what previous generations have already done. We need to respond to the street… to alter traditional designs and make something which suits women’s lives today without losing the traditional appeal," he added.

Saito's kimonos may feature denim and polyester, but they are far from everyday items, costing upwards of one million yen (£5,417). They are all made by hand, incorporating traditional dyeing, stitching, printing and embroidery techniques.

He was not the only designer to showcase new takes on the kimono at Tokyo Fashion Week, however, with some versions of the item hugging the models' bodies, others being slashed to the knee and some being teamed up with leather collars and high-heeled boots.