Amongst the progressive fashion of Japan Fashion Week, it is easy to forget about the Kimono and other items that go to make up traditional Japanese dress.  Some might well argue that it has no place in modern Japanese fashion apart from as an inspiration, and indeed that Japan would do well to lose the increasingly archaic notion of the Kimono that haunts Japan in the form of the tourist friendly spectre of a Geisha undermining the image of modern Japanese fashion.  On the other hand you can’t fail to notice that people in Japan still do wear kimono and yukata relatively often and even in a very fashionable context, so I for one believe it has relevance at JFW and in fashion at large.  I suppose the problem with the kimono is that there is inherently no room for significant movement in the overall structure of the kimono without it ceasing to be one.  However, there is a huge amount of movement in the possible styling, textiles and accessories and it is here that Jotaro Saito has established himself as the pioneer of the fashion-forward kimono.  They are at one absolutely traditional, but feel fresh and thoroughly modern:

Continue reading for absolutely sumptuous colours, stunning patterns and some throughly classy styling for both men and women.  This is the perfect antidote for the tacky Yukata doing the rounds in time for the festival season, pleasantly nostalgic and even faintly aspirational (although like most tall foreigners – I don’t look exactly my best in Yukata…).

Jotaro Saito’s latest collection is filled with modern touches, from the use of denim and drapes to using stars instead of traditional crests.  On the other hand it is conventional where it needs to be and there is no doubt that these would meet with approval at the most official of occasions in the company of the most conservative of Japanese high-society.

Cluttered patch-work textiles are a big part of the current collection,

As are blown-up and over-lapping prints – very on-trend.

That lovely light turquoise just jumps out on these kimono – fabulous.

Jotaro Saito is also quite rare in designing with darker skin tones in mind

There is so much going on in each and every one of these looks.  I am a huge fan of the use of a contrasting geometric pattern on the inside of the fabrics, not to mention the exaggerated draping that gives it a little more movement than you might expect.

So there you have it, proof, as if it were needed, that kimono still have a place in modern Japanese fashion, both as fashion for fashion’s sake, but also as a practical garment to be worn.  Maybe the gulf that exists between this and street style is not so easily bridged, but surely this deserves a place in the fashion conscious of the young – beyond that worn at festivals and coming of age ceremonies.  You just have to look at the surge of Japanese patterns in Amekaji styles to see that young people identify with the symbolism and patterns of this traditional fashion, but perhaps it is the archaic structure that limits the potential use of the kimono in any practical street wear outfit.

Either way I am glad that Jotaro Saito chooses to exhibit as part of JFW even though he is the last of the kimono designers to do so – at the very least he has quite acutely shown that it is hardly a losing battle.

You can see more of his work here, including a wonderful collaboration for Gackt, and he has a sumptuous shop in Roppongi Hills.


Catwalk shots courtesy of Fashion Snap

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