New, affordable kimonos popular with young women
TOKYO -- Japanese kimonos are traditionally made of silk and require special care and cleaning. This, and their high prices, tend to discourage young women from wearing the beautiful clothing.
Even for Japanese people, the kimono has become something worn on very special occasions, such as wedding receptions and Japanese tea ceremony. Recently, however, kimono makers and retailers in Japan have been eagerly promoting more accessible, affordable kimonos that women can wear like shirts, skirts and other Western clothing.
These companies are focusing on designs that appeal to fashion-conscious consumers, made from convenient, machine-washable textiles. Inspired by these efforts, young women are being attracted to kimono as a fashion option.
The Lumine shopping mall in Tokyo's Shinjuku Station is home to dozens of apparel stores for young women. Misawa, a kimono maker based in Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan, opened an outlet of its Otsuka Gofukuten chain there in 2014, to sell kimonos designed to be worn at home as well as for casual occasions like shopping. Kimonos displayed in the shop are in bright designs -- in blue and yellow and with star or check patterns.
Naoto Otsuka, president of Misawa, took over the company from his father, who founded the business in 1973. He launched the Otsuka Gofukuten brand, in addition to more traditional lineups, hoping to make kimono more accessible and affordable to ordinary people.
For that goal, the brand basically does not use traditional Japanese patterns, but does use everyday materials such as linen and cotton. Kimonos at the shop are priced in three ranges, 10,000 yen ($84.70), 30,000 yen and 50,000 yen, competitive with ordinary clothing.
Meanwhile, Yamato, a Tokyo-based major kimono maker, launched a new type of kimono brand in 2011, inviting renowned fashion stylist Yoko Omori as the director. Double Maison's kimonos look like Western-style dresses, featuring gingham-check patterns printed on silk materials and high-quality lace.
The brand combines Japanese and Western styles, targeting women in their 30s to 40s who have their own established fashion sense. In addition to silk, the brand features materials typically used for ordinary clothes, such as linen, cotton and polyester. A kimono and an obi waist sash at the shop together cost around 100,000 yen.
Among the brand's kimonos, a design featuring luxury lace is particularly eye-catching. It can be worn for wedding parties and other formal occasions, as well as for daily use. The lace helps keep the kimono from getting creased. "We wanted to remove hurdles surrounding kimonos for shoppers, including prices and troublesome maintenance inconvenience," said Satoru Ishizaki, who heads the Double Maison business.
Double Maison's designs introduced in 2015 include a rose-pattern foil sheet printed on lace fabric (89,000 yen, consumption tax not included), and kimono made with silk-cotton from India (59,000 yen). The brand's products are currently available solely on the Internet, but the company is considering opening a brick-and-mortar shop as well.
Bankan Wamonoya, a subsidiary of leading online shopping website operator Belluna, is strongly promoting "washable" kimonos made of polyester. The company's main customers are in their 60s. But the handy machine-washable kimonos began attracting more women in their 30s, according to the company.
According to Tokyo-based Yano Research Institute, the retail market for kimonos is expected to post a 1.4% increase, to 289.5 billion yen, for 2015. The kimono industry has struggled with the shrinking market, but sales have been stable in recent years, largely helped by the new segment of consumers who have begun enjoying the traditional costume as daily wear.