The fusion of traditional Japanese culture with contemporary life isn’t a new concept, but as trends change the results can vary greatly. On the runway, we are seeing sophisticated ideas that infuse new looks with time-honored tastes in subtle yet effective ways; while on the streets, the stylings of old-world Japan have never been more kitsch and trendy. With plenty of second-hand kimono readily available, going full traditional also need not be expensive, or, if you’re in need of something for Halloween, they can add some authenticity to the spookiest costumes.
Matohu and the art of iki
Matohu is the name of designing duo Hiroyuki Horihata and Makiko Sekiguchi, and their brand is renowned for dropping traditional fabrics, motifs and techniques into 21st-century style like no other.
The brand recently held a fashion show just ahead of Tokyo’s Amazon Fashion Week in which their popular nagagi (long robes) were of a refinement befitting any spring/summer 2018 European catwalk. A purple ombre pinstripe coat and an ensemble in a colorful vintage-style flower jacquard were only topped by a navy and pewter houndstooth piece made of nishijin-ori, a woven textile created by a technique that is 500 years old. Dotting the collection were shift dresses that were not only colorful and fun but in their simplicity also surpassed trends to be timeless. Though Matohu continually bypass fashion fads, this collection seemed more ready-to-wear-now than ever before. Horihata said after the show, “We wanted to make it as contemporary as possible, reflecting what is in style now.”
You can see more of Matohu’s work at the exhibition “The Japanese Eye, Iki” at Kiriko Lounge in Ginza’s Tokyu Plaza until Oct. 29. There, the designers present pieces from their 2017 fall/winter collection, which was inspired by an Edo Period (1603-1868) aesthetic philosophy known as iki. This audacious concept of simplicity and modesty, which was originally born from commoners, is translated by Matohu into bold and beautiful designs.
This is where the eye of a fashion designer and the heart of an artisan meet at a crossroad.
Kiriko Lounge, Tokyu Plaza 6F, Ginza 5-2-1 , Chuo-ku, Tokyo
On the other side of town in Harajuku, where wild street-style rules, tradition is receiving a far more kitschy reiteration into fashion.
Look no further than the first floor of the Laforet mall. There you’ll find fashion and accessory shop Hoyajuku, which has the best selection of eclectic old-world-made-new pieces in town. There are oversized geisha and kabuki motif earrings fashioned from acrylic, chic mahjong tiles-cum-rings and other eccentric statement pieces. Among the popular items are earrings made using wooden shogi pieces and removable shirt collars re-created from old kimono fabrics.
The traditionally influenced creations also includes clothing — kimono hoodie jackets and coat designs that fuse kimono textiles with sailor-style school-uniform collars. The shop is so jam-packed with handcrafted Japan-inspired goods, that perusing it can be as much of an amusing history lesson as it is a shopping experience.
Laforet Harajuku 1F, 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Have you decided on a costume for that raucous night of excess yet? Kimono can make for an excellent outfit and they are incredibly cheap at second-hand stores in Harajuku.
Various places stock kimono goods, as do flea markets, but used clothing store Chicago Inc., across the street from Laforet, is an excellent place to shop as it has dedicated a huge area to all things kimono. A full kimono outfit can run for as little as ¥20,000, fixings and all. But for Halloween, don’t go for the stereotyped cliche of a “geisha costume.” Instead, grab a woman’s juban, the lightweight under-robe seen worn by ghosts in contemporary Japanese horror stories. Top it with ratty hair that covers your face and you have an easy costume that is such a perfect mix of yesterday-meets-today, but is also profoundly creepy.
Chicago Inc. Harajuku, 4-26-26 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo