Yoshikimono combines rock and kimonos

JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI- In the face of the shrinking domestic kimono industry, there are people who are creating a new allure for the traditional Japanese garb, introducing innovative designs and Western-style dressing methods.

Many people are expected to come to Japan from overseas for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, a great opportunity to showcase the appeal of kimono.

Yoshikimono is the kimono brand owned by Yoshiki, the leader of rock band X Japan. The brand draws attention by boldly introducing revolutionary designs to the traditional world of kimono.

“The kimono is a part of the beautiful Japanese culture. It’s also in my roots,” said Yoshiki, who was born into a family running a kimono shop and grew up with the garment. As a musician, he expanded his reach abroad, where he often talked about traditional Japanese culture with his colleagues – and it was through that experience that his wish to treasure kimono grew stronger.

He started the Yoshikimono brand about 10 years ago after an encounter with an established kimono maker in Kyoto.

A model wears a creation by Japanese rock star and kimono designer Yoshiki (L) at the YOSHIKIMONO first collection during the finale of the Tokyo Fashion Week in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP/ JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI
A woman in a Kiiro kimono gown

“I wanted to give shape to my wish, which I felt was my mission,” Yoshiki said.

What he had in mind was to revitalise the whole kimono industry by changing people’s mind-set about kimono being something you wear only on special occasions. Yoshiki became a legendary figure by combining music genres from opposite poles: rock and classical.

Now, he hopes to create a fusion of rock and kimono.

A Yoshikimono runway show that he held in October last year featured “dress kimono”, or kimono worn backward and arranged like a dress, and kimono with manga printed on the fabric.

The manga included one starring Yoshiki himself as well as the popular work Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan). He hopes such exciting kimono will appeal to young people as well.

He is also looking ahead with the goal of expanding the brand’s business to a worldwide audience this year.

“I’m still new to the fashion industry,” he said modestly, but added, “I was harshly criticised in the music scene in the beginning. I’m sure there will be both praises and criticism for my kimono. I’ll accept them humbly and continue the challenge myself.”

Yoshiki defies established norms and absorbs new values while also paying respect to tradition. This kind of approach certainly heralds an evolution of kimono.

Many people want to enjoy wearing kimono casually and feel more familiar with the garb. There are suggestions for new ways to put on kimono so the attire can be worn easily, like ordinary Western-style clothes.

One such product is the “kimono gown”, a hot-selling product of the Kiiro brand. The brand’s first shop opened in the Shibuya Parco shopping building, which reopened in November after renovation.

The kimono gown looks like an ordinary kimono at first sight, but the sleeves are shorter and there are pockets on both sides of the body.

When worn as kimono, the wearer simply gathers it at the waist with a broad obi sash made of leather or wool material, instead of making an ohashori tuck around the waist.

When worn as Western-style dress, the wearer puts it on like a long coat. Despite its avant-garde appearance, it is manufactured at a kimono factory.

“We removed 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, the 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 realise how profound kimono can be by wearing this,” Nagahashi added.

An Instagram picture ignited a popular trend of wearing kimono without knotting an obi sash, which was suggested as “belting an obi without a knot” by a kimono class organiser named Ayaaya 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, many people started imitating her on the social media site.

Basically, you wrap an obi around the waist and fix it with an obijime belt. You can 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 also published a book introducing the approach, Obi Musubanai Obimusubi with TAC Co.