When we think about the kimono, we tend to picture a traditional garment that showcases exquisite craftsmanship and design sensibility that has been adorned by women in Japan for centuries. However, with changing trends, luxurious silk kimono — which aren’t cheap and are mostly reserved for special occasions — are being replaced by affordable and more contemporary options like a ready-to-wear kimono dress or jackets that are easy to style and maintain.
But the vintage authentic kimono’s future is also a concern. No one can (and shouldn’t) allow this rich tradition to go into oblivion. While many vintage kimono end up at second-hand clothing stores or rental shops, some brands have taken it upon themselves to breathe new life into them.
The following seven emerging brands (which should be on your shopping radar) are redefining kimono fashion with their innovative reinvigoration and we can’t help but love them!
With their chic kimono caps making the rounds of fashion streets in Japan and abroad, [email protected] prides on incorporating the intricate kimono fabric into modern fashion.
[email protected]’s designs are handmade using old kimonos that date back from the second half of the Meiji era to the first half of the Showa, by carefully tearing apart the kimono fabric while preserving the intricate embroidered parts, which are then sewn into the shape of a cap. These versatile caps are the easiest way to embrace traditional kimonos and mix them with your style.
Another designer breathing new life into a pre-loved kimono is Keiko Tagai, whose stunning kimono hats and berets are quite popular amongst Japan’s party-goers. A self-trained designer, Tagai’s inspiration was to share the rich Japanese culture with the world through art. Her designs are handmade by Japanese artisans by upcycling formal and expensive kimonos like the kimonos worn at weddings and other special occasions. Each piece from her collection not only exudes luxury but also beautifully blends feminine elegance and strength.
Shop Keiko Tagai’s collection at keikotagai.com
If you’ve always wanted to create your kimono masterpiece, you need to check out this rapidly growing in popularity brand — Mikan by Clementine Sandner. Specializing in bags for all needs, from waist bags to cross-body bags and everything in between, Mikan recreates vintage kimonos sourced from flea markets and sellers from Kansai by giving them a modern look in the form of accessories that are easy to style while retaining the natural pattern of the rich kimono fabric.
While Mikan’s designs can be purchased online or in a special order, they also offer workshops where participants can learn upcycling techniques and create a personalized Mikan piece.
Shop Mikan’s collection at www.etsy.com/shop/MikanBags
I Was a Kimono
Based on the Japanese spirit of “mottainai” (a sense of regret over waste), I Was a Kimono is on a mission to utilize old kimonos that can no longer be worn but still retain their fabulous design and silhouette by giving them a stylish makeover. The brand started their collection by offering seasonal products like Christmas balls and table runners but expanded to producing fashion accessories and, more recently, cloth masks.
The handmade cloth masks, inspired by various elements of nature like momiji maple leaves and peonies, are a perfect pick to make a style statement while also being reusable and environment-friendly.
Shop I Was a Kimono’s collection at iwasakimono.com
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An advocate of slow, sustainable fashion, Tokyo Kaleidoscope by Lia Tee is a unique brand that is upcycling vintage kimonos by reconstructing them into versatile styles adorned by modern-day women who also want to embrace tradition. Living up to their goal for minimal waste, Tokyo Kaleidoscope combines traditional pattern making techniques with a process they’ve termed ‘fabric origami’ to create designs that feature creative pleating accents and ensure minimal cutting of the original kimonos.
Apart from a stunning range of apparel for women, they also offer accessories for men and women.
Shop Tokyo Kaledeioscop’s collection at www.tokyokaleidoscope.com
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While exquisite silk kimonos are usually considered to be apt for women, Ichijiku is one of those few brands that is upcycling these kimonos to create bespoke fashion pieces for men as well. Ichijiku specializes in handcrafted garments that bridge the gap between modern suiting and traditional Japanese style with designs like Kimono blazers and Jinbei suits. They also offer a chic range of neckties and bows that are ethically produced using sustainable silk kimonos.
Shop Ichijku’s collection at www.ichijiku.world
Founded by former JET Victoria Close who came to Japan nearly 30 years ago, Biku Designs has the mission to ‘repurpose forgotten things’ into beautiful jewelry. Through a combination of antique kimono fabric (which she sources out from all regions in Japan) with resin, Biku Designs offers a range of handcrafted necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. Some necklaces are made from the obi part in the kimonos, while rings and earrings are made from the main fabric from kimonos and other parts, including the haori and michiyuki fabrics (the jackets worn over the kimono during the winter season).
Shop Biku Designs’ collection at www.bikudesigns.com