Wander past a certain kimono store in Aoyama and center stage in the window is a riotous splash of canary- yellow cotton, with bright cubes of grass green and swirls of earthy brown. A tribal red-and-black obi tied high around the waist completes a perfectly styled kimono that on close inspection evokes not the misty mountains of Japan but the searing heat of another world: Africa.
The contrasting landscapes of Japan and Africa may seem, literally, worlds apart. But they have been artfully united in a collaboration between an African designer and a traditional Japanese kimono-maker. Launched last month, Wafrica — Africa plus wa for Japan — has unveiled a range of kimono handcrafted in an array of African cotton fabrics that would seem to be a million miles from the subtle silks more commonly associated with traditional Japanese dress. Yet despite the orange comets and flashes of lightning tearing across a moss-green background, and the tribal swirls in colors that recall the sun-drenched African soil, the prints blend seamlessly into the kimono form before they surprise Japanese shoppers with their foreign origin.