[From July Issue 2014]
At Yorozu International in Roppongi, Tokyo, dresses made from kimono cloth and bags put together out of obi material and leather are laid out in rows. When the company was established in Karuizawa in 2010, a store was established in Daikanyama. Because the company wanted people from overseas to become familiar with the charms of kimono, one year ago the shop was moved to Roppongi, an area easily accessible to foreigners.
MURAKAMI Yuko, the representative director, used to work in the apparel industry. Western clothes were at the center of her life. She says that approximately ten years ago, her husband encouraged her to enroll in a school where she could comprehensively study kimono. In the beginning, she didn’t even know how to fold a kimono. She started out studying how to wear kimono, but afterwards her studies went deeper and she learned about such things as dyeing techniques.
The more she learned about kimono, the stronger her feeling that “these traditional techniques must be retained.” However, younger people view kimono as being expensive; not something that can be purchased casually. When her husband saw Murakami learning about kimono, he suggested that she establish a business. In order to give more people the chance to come into contact with kimono, she sold products made from repurposed kimono cloth.
Murakami says that the best thing is when someone enjoys wearing a kimono. However, “When I thought about what should be retained, I thought it should be the colors and patterns of kimono which cannot be found in any part of the world except for Japan.” That’s why she’s not particular about the kimono retaining its form. Rather, she utilizes its patterns to reflect Japan’s four seasons and allows the delicate colors of its natural dyes to come alive in the form of dresses or bags.
There are other shops that repurpose kimono into clothes, but Murakami has noticed that most of them use Japanese dressmaking techniques for the finish. Because Japanese dressmaking uses boxy fabric, it cannot be made to fit the body when repurposed into western clothes. Kimono fabric is 30 centimeters wide – narrower than western fabric – so Yorozu International is particular about cutting it with three-dimensional shapes in mind. They finely match the patterns, to give them new value as an attractive product.
In the case of tailor-made dresses, which are basically made-to-order, prices start from 160,000 yen – which is not cheap. However, Murakami says with confidence: “Even though kimono patterns are old, they’re never out of fashion. Once you have it made, it can be something they can be proud of to the next generation.”
One of the reasons why people have lost touch with kimono is because there are no opportunities to wear them. So Murakami holds a kimono dressing salon four to five times a month. After learning how to dress in a kimono, participants can enjoy a meal in a restaurant around Roppongi while wearing a kimono. Because it’s possible to communicate in English, word has got out and the numbers of foreign visitors have gradually increased.
The “万” (yorozu) character used by “Yorozu International,” signifies “a great amount.” With this character, Murakami expresses her appreciation of nature and the eight million (countless) forces that created the kimono. Once one touches the smooth texture of the silk kimono cloth, one can feel the fascination of kimono created by these many powers.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo