No sayonara for Japanese kimono as it gets a modern makeover

Tokyo, June 17 (IANS) Young designers in Japan are infusing fresh life into the kimono, Japan’s traditional dress, and transforming it into clothing items and accessories — including scarves, light coats, parasols and purses — more in tune with a 21st century lifestyle.

While women in the archipelago wore kimonos in their daily lives even well into the 20th century, things began to change as western fashion made inroads into the country following World War II and as a result, the kimono fell into relative disuse, reserved only for special occasions, Efe news reported.

However, young Japanese designers are drawing fresh inspiration from this Japanese tunic in their collections, or by reusing fragments from silk or cotton kimonos to create contemporary clothing.

“The idea of recycling a piece as beautiful as a kimono really appealed to me. Some that I use for my designs are up to a hundred years old,” Tokyo-based South Korean designer, Dunegheni Park, who is also the creator of the Gallery Shili Tokyo brand, said.

“The Japanese people have stopped using this garment because it is not comfortable at all,” points out Park, who specialises in turning splendid kimonos into simpler things like light spring coats or scarves and has been digging up kimonos from flea markets and special trade fairs for six years now.

Indeed, for a woman to dress up in an elaborate kimono — such as the ones worn at weddings — takes around an hour, and that too, with the help of at least one attendant.

This prompted Park to come up with contemporary designs that could be worn in daily life, leaving aside what constitutes the paraphernalia accompanying the kimono, even the simplest version of which includes two types of undergarments and a hair ornament.

“There is something about the beauty of the kimono that attracts me, and even today it is possible to find amazing, very well-preserved pieces in some markets,” said Park.

Her light jackets with three quarter length sleeves, and scarves that fuse kimono fragments with fabrics as varied as silk and cashmere or leather, can be bought for around $863 and $288 respectively, in the upmarket Tokyo neighbourhood of Omotesando.

Other designers, such as Tomoko Kamata, are also breathing fresh life into the kimono, in the form of parasols, handbags and coin purses.

Needles, threads, fabrics and old sewing machines line Tomoko’s workshop, now in her seventies, and who has been sewing kimonos into parasols — it is common for locals to use them to guard against the scorching Sun — since she was 16.

Kamata said the most complicated part of her work is to “take apart” the second-hand kimonos, as the old ones tend to be very well-sewn, after which she uses the pieces to decorate parasols, which sells for around $288.

Spotted in different avatars, around necks as scarves, or to shield against the sun, Japan has successfully reinvented the kimono, ensuring the traditional garment stays fashionable even in modern times.

–IANS

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