Japan’s discarded kimonos reimagined as casual wear to fit contemporary fashion | fashion trends

Vintage kimonos, often considered heirlooms and passed down from generation to generation, are piling up in second-hand markets in Japan as clothes go out of style and the country’s population shrinks. Traditionally, the long, loose garment is wrapped around the body in a series of folds, lifts and fine adjustments in a dressing process that can take 25 minutes or more. Today, designers are repurposing high-quality fabrics from turn-down kimonos to make contemporary outfits more suited to today’s sensibilities and fashions. Transformation is as much an art as it is a science.

“People used to wear kimonos every day and now they don’t because it’s uncomfortable,” says Duni Park, whose Tokyo-based Gallery Shili transforms clothes from Japan and her native South Korea into coveralls, shirts and scarves. “If things are to continue to be used, they must evolve with lifestyles.”

Park, who has been selling her clothes online and in pop-up stores at department stores like Takashimaya for a few years, is part of a circular economy movement that aims to extend the life of products. It’s a trend that even some big retailers are supporting as they use the resale of used clothes to both limit their impact on the climate and attract younger shoppers.

Between 50% and 60% of the 140,000 tonnes of textiles collected through the collection services of H&M Group brands such as H&M, & Other Stories and Weekday have been repurposed and repurposed. The Swedish fashion giant is also the majority shareholder of online second-hand clothing retailer Sellpy. U.S. outdoor apparel retailer Patagonia Inc. allows customers to buy or trade in used clothing and gear through its Worn Wear website and encourages repairs in its stores.

Fabric quality is a key factor in the ability to reuse or reuse garments and many of the garments that are produced in the “fast fashion retail type” have a much shorter life trajectory, according to Bryony. Collins, editor at BloombergNEF. Historically, kimonos were made from materials such as silk, cotton or wool, although newer versions are also available in synthetics.

Kimonos had a life cycle that benefited entire families and communities and lasted for decades or more. Once the clothes were too worn out to be used as clothes, they could be used as cushion covers, then rags or baby diapers before finally being burned and spread on the fields as fertilizer, according to Eisaku Hida, founder of Kimonoya Japan, an online marketplace. .

“Kimonos are extremely environmentally friendly,” said Hida, who often buys her second-hand supplies at auction. “There is no waste.”

On a recent Sunday, Shili Gallery’s Park walked through the stalls of Tokyo’s Oedo Antique Market. Held once every two weeks in an outdoor plaza next to a Shake Shack and across from a Bic Camera, the event is a quiet celebration of gently worn materials and objects, some of which have been used for centuries. .

Park was looking for used materials for his collection. Kimonos, she points out, are usually made from a single roll of Japanese tanmono fabric, a tightly woven fabric about 40 centimeters wide and 12 to 15 meters long, meaning that they are perfectly designed to be reused.

“You need minimal modifications to the tanmono to make a kimono,” says Park. “And when you separate a kimono, it goes right back into the original tanmono fabric.”

The used fabrics Park uses for her clothing line also offer something that brands using virgin materials lack: stories and a connection to the past. Occasionally, Park discovers a fabric representing shunga – a type of Japanese erotic art – which men used to line the inside of their kimonos or wear underneath. The scenes were not meant to be shown in public, and some wearers believed the cloth increased their manhood. “It was very hidden and nobody talked about it, but everyone knew about it,” Park says.

It’s details like this that make his designs more intriguing. Although global consumers are increasingly considering the sustainability of clothing when making purchases, decisions are also deeply influenced by emotional connections.

“There’s so much to do with clothing and fashion that has to do with branding and marketing,” Collins of BNEF said. “But at the end of the day, the way you get people to wear clothes is to make them feel good in them.”

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