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Updated kimono designs cater to modern fashion

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                                A woman is dressed in a Kiiro kimono gown.


    A woman is dressed in a Kiiro kimono gown.

TOKYO >> As the domestic kimono industry shrinks, a few contemporary designers have taken a fresh look at the traditional Japanese garb, introducing innovative designs that merge with Western-style dressing.

One brand, Yoshikimono, is drawing attention with revolutionary designs that add boldness to the traditional world of kimono.

“The kimono is a part of the beautiful Japanese culture. It’s also in my roots,” said Yoshiki, owner of Yoshikimono and legendary leader of the rock band X Japan.

Yoshiki was born into a family that ran a kimono shop and grew up with the garment. As a musician, he traveled abroad and often talked about traditional Japanese culture with other bands. It was from those experiences that his desire grew to spotlight the kimono.

He started Yoshikimono about 10 years ago after meeting an established kimono maker in Kyoto. His goal was to revitalize the kimono industry by changing the mindset of wearing kimono only on special occasions.

In the same way he mixed musical genres of rock and classical music, Yoshiki hopes to create a harmonious fusion between rock and the kimono.

A Yoshikimono runway show in October featured a “dress kimono,” worn backward and arranged like a dress, as well as kimono bearing manga prints. One kimono print depicted “Shingeki no Kyojin” (“Attack on Titan”), while another featured an anime that starred Yoshiki himself. He hopes the designs will appeal to young people.

His plans include expanding the brand globally.

“I’m still new to the fashion industry,” he said. “I’m sure there will be both praises and criticism for my kimono. I’ll accept them humbly and continue the challenge myself.”

Meanwhile, fashionable women who want to wear kimono casually are requesting new ways to don a kimono with ease.

One garment that answers the call is the contemporary “kimono gown,” created by the brand Kiiro.

While the versatile gown looks like an ordinary kimono, its sleeves are shorter, and there are pockets on both sides of the garment.

Worn as kimono, the gown is simply gathered at the waist and secured with a broad obi sash made of leather or wool. It can also be worn open, as a Western-style duster. Despite its avant-garde design, it’s manufactured at a kimono factory.

“We (eliminated) the difficult part; that is, how to properly wear kimono, and made it simple so that anyone can enjoy it as fashion,” said Ayako Nagahashi, brand director of Kiiro, explaining how the brand introduced products with both Japanese and Western elements. “Because there’s the traditional form, you have more leeway to have fun with it. I hope users will realize how profound kimono can be by wearing this.”

But sometimes trends develop organically. An Instagram picture, for instance, ignited the popular trend of wearing kimono without tying an obi sash, a suggestion by Ayaaya, a kimono class organizer in Osaka.

“I wondered whether there was a good way to wear kimono while I was pregnant,” she said. When she posted the photo on Instagram in 2018, people began imitating her.

The technique: Wrap an obi around the waist and secure it with an obijime sash, rather than tying the obi. Arrange it by pleating the obi or twisting it like a ribbon.

“I hope both kimono beginners and those who want to arrange their own kimono styles will like it,” said Ayaaya, who published a book, “Obi Musubanai Obimusubi,” that included the technique.

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