The kimono (着物) has existed in Japan since the 8th century. Originally heavily influenced by Han Chinese clothing, it was not long before the kimono became a Japanese fashion in its own right, with a huge range of different styles and designs used. Today, so steeped in history and culture is the garment that it is seen by foreigners as synonymous an integral part of Japanese tradition. However, with the increasing influence of the West in Japan particularly in the world of fashion and the rising price of the kimono, the traditional dress is in danger of becoming a relic of the past. In a society under the constant pressures of modern life, can a garment which requires so much maintenance continue to exist as an everyday piece of clothing?
Jotaro Saito is one man who is working to keep the kimono in the modern world. A third generation kimono-designer, Saito wants young Japanese people to think of kimonos as an option for going to work during the week, or shopping on weekends, rather than a traditional item to be kept in storage for a special occasion. Creating chic, elegant designs, Saito is now the only designer to regularly hold catwalk shows for his kimonos. And although he admits that the kimono market has shrunk quite dramatically in recent decades, he is beginning to see Japanese people showing more interest in the garment, especially those who are well-travelled. Saito believes that this is because people only really see and appreciate their own culture when they have been away from it.
One problem facing Saito in his efforts to increase the popularity of the kimono in Japan, is the cost of his designs. Priced at over £3,000 a piece, his silk kimonos may be slightly beyond the budget of many young people when shopping for daywear. Nonetheless, Saito’s intentions in bringing the kimono back into the mainstream are laudable, and if not quite suitable for the high street shopper, with any luck perhaps they will break into the world of high fashion, in Japan and even abroad.
Sources include: The Japan Times, Tokyo Weekender