Kimonos: beauty that never fades

While there are now fewer wearers, kimonos continue to find fans among Japanese and non-Japanese women alike. Kimonos are a beautiful representation of Japan’s culture and the Japanese people wear kimonos for special occasions, including at weddings, the Seijinshiki coming-of-age ceremony for 20-year-olds, Shichigosan celebration for three- and seven-year-old girls and even funerals.

When girls got married in the past, mothers would pass on special kimonos to daughters to wear at significant moments in their new lives. Each Japanese family also has a family crest called kamon, which is printed on the sleeves, chest and back of the family kimono.

Today, women in Japan still generally favour kimonos. However, they are rarely worn outside of special occasions, although some wealthy individuals and family members of kimono shops (gofukuya) wear these garments daily.

You might also encounter kimono wearers while walking through the streets of Shitamachi in downtown Tokyo. The area features many traditional Japanese businesses from wholesalers to small family diners who have been running their shops for years, selling local favourites such as skewered chicken (yakitori), grilled eel (unagi) and sweet omelette (atsuyaki tamago).

In recent years, some have predicted that the decline of Orientalism would spell the demise of kimonos. However, this has not happened as Asian artists have skilfully combined traditional kimonos with modern designs and fabrics to create pop culture apparel and high-fashion looks, drawing attention to the beauty of Japan’s traditional dress.

An example is global singer Yoshiki whose kimono brand YOSHIKIMONO debuted a full-scale collection at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo in 2015. His parents own a gofukuya. The other is Beijing-born Sara Arai (her real name is Cheng Mei), whose runway designs include kimono-inspired dresses. The innovative works of these designers ensure that the well-loved kimono continues to live on and intrigue an international audience.

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