Fashion Maniac: Keeping tabs on Buffalo’s fashion industry, including models, catwalks, retailers, designers, stylists, visual merchandisers and jewelers.
Article by: Phillip D. Johnson | Photographed by: Cheryl Gorski
In the realm of international fashion, we have seen the ebb and flow of many design trends. Africa is in. Sexy Secretary pencil skirts are out. Savile Row-style cuts and styling is in. “Bohemian” is out. Peasant skirts are in. Harem pants are out. Fashion, after all, is nothing if not constantly transitory in nature. But some trends always manage to survive the seasonal purge. Japanese fashion is influencing westerners more and more these days, and the Far East Asian and Japanese influences are especially apt to show up time and time again on the international runways even when the primary influence for the collection is credited to something else. The early giants of American sportswear –which is described as both day and evening fashions of varying degrees of formality that demonstrate a relaxed approach while remaining appropriate wear for many business or social occasions–in some way or another utilized certain aspects of Asian influence in their designs. These early design greats included Bonnie Cashin, Claire McCardell, Halston, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Perry Ellis, Clare Potter, Vera Maxwell, Anne Fogarty, Anne Klein, Norma Kamali, Elizabeth Hawkes, and Diane von Furstenberg.
Of course, everyone knows of Gwen Stefani’s love of Japan with her Harajuku girl back-up dancers. But it goes even deeper than that. The Japanese are usually ahead of the trends and those trends tend to eventually find their way into Western fashion. And we all know that the best high-end denim (and some of the most expensive ever) is made in Japan where they use a special dye that adds superior quality to the fabric.
Our love affair with Japan and it culture, art and fashion began once Japan opened itself up to outsiders in 1860. The period from 1890 to 1927 was the era in which Japanese influence first profoundly change the way western designers designed clothes. The late Victorian style was characterized by the hourglass silhouette. It had a close-fitting bodice, floor length skirt, and an angular shoulder. However, by the 1910s, the style had shifted to a columnar silhouette with a draped, loose-fitting bodice and rounded shoulder; this silhouette was seen through the 1920s.
Two predominant trends were the Chinoiserie period (18th century) and Japonisme (2nd half of the 19th century). Japonisme began in France in 1856 and spread widely during the next thirty years. It faded in the 1890s and merged with Art Nouveau, which had a curvilinear style very similar to ancient Chinese calligraphy and Japanese art. Japonisme influenced much of the artistic world: fine arts, decorative arts, industrial arts, architecture, literature and music. It also prepared the way, so to speak, for the emerging influence of Sino-Japanism in women’s apparel. This influence was apparent during the first quarter of the 20th century.
It was a renewed interest in the art and culture of the Far-East, particularly China and Japan, which spread among Western artists and designers. Japanese/Japanism influences in fashion can be identified by these common characteristics: the V-neckline (Japanese kimonos tend to be deep in the front), straight seams, a contrasting wide waistband (this is where the Obi comes into play), banding along the edges, full and rectangular sleeves, or full and rounded toward the ends (ergo the batwing sleeves on jackets, coats and tops), and sleeves sewn to bodice at right angle. Most importantly, the abovementioned kimono is the one Asian/Japanese influence that has somehow managed to stay alive through the decades and have found a place in fashion that is distinctly its own.
The kimono started out in the 8th century as a one size fits all garment made in straight layers – that means that anyone, of any size, would wear the same size kimono. Traditional Kimonos are composed of over 12 different pieces. The heavy layers were perfect for warmth in winter and for summer; light fabrics like linen were breathable enough to stay cool. These kimonos were generally made of any pieces of fabric that kimono makers could find, of any color, which means they were often mismatched – one of the first ever examples of color blocking!
In the 11th century, kimono makers started paying attention to details and colors when stitching, creating styled kimonos in matching shades, marking the beginning of the gorgeous garments we see on TV shows and movies about Japan. Although Japanese women no longer wear them in everyday life, reserving their kimono for special occasions, it remains the definitive feature of Japanese fashion and one of the most beautiful traditional garment-styles in the world.
The art of the Kimono or “something to wear” in Japanese, is part of a culture which is passed down from mother to daughter. Traditionally, men and women both wore kimonos daily although there were various types. The kimono is put on the body right to left, folding the right side on your body then the left. The opposite is done only for funerals, something you might want to remember when putting on a kimono. Kimonos were also worn to show status in society (this was determined by the usage of fabric and cut) or individual design taste in the choice of the sash or fabric.
In the United States, the use of a kimono in fashion has led to many hybrid looks as well as the use of vintage Japanese kimonos in our homes. The shape of the kimono has inspired sweaters, dresses and many designers. In the 1920’s the appropriation of the kimono could be seen in dresses, the changing feminine silhouettes, robes/wraps and coats. During WWII Asian design began to enter the U.S more heavily.
During the 50’s and 60’s, we saw various Chinese silk prints and dresses as well as the 50’s style kimono sleeve on dresses and blouses. In 1971, Japanese designer Kenzo Takada, designer of the label Kenzo, introduced aspects of the kimono into his fashion designs. The silhotte was his inspiration; as seen in his use of the kimono sleeve, fuller short skirts, the use of kimono fabrics and draping. The look is very wearable when fused with other elements and began to infused high fashion and design in North America. Chances are you have worn a kimono influenced design by accident or on purpose. Who has not seen a wonderful wrap sweater from the 70’s with ethnic geometric designs and the bell or sleeves which widen at the end (the 70’s version of the kimono sleeve)? You can see the kimono influence in your waterfall cardigan, a styled wrap jacket, or dress, or even the flowing tunic you wear as cover when you go to the beach. These are just some of the clothes, worn by fashionistas every day, inspired by the kimono.
A kimono inspired jacket is a breathtaking alternative to a sweater or zip up sweatshirt; throw it on over a pair of jeans and flats and you’ll look flirty and fashionable as you run out to meet your girlfriends for drinks, then dancing.
The simple style and intricate fabric have provided inspiration for many top designers. Karl Lagerfeld, Narciso Rodriguez, Marc Jacobs and Vera Wang are just a few examples of haute couture luminaries who’ve channeled this gorgeous style in their work.
Today the kimono-style is perfect with its simple neckline, sleek lines and the classic belted style that allows you to cinch in your waist and, if you’re wearing a longer piece, create a long curve from waist to hip. You can wear a kimono-jacket as a casual layer over a sheer top, matched with jeans, or rock a kimono dress for that all important occasion.
The Spring/Summer 2012 collections from New York, designers, for the most part displayed some level of kimono/Japanese influence in their collections. Some we
re very overt (Mimi Plange, Anna Sui, Alexandre Herchcovich, Badgely Mischka, Cynthia Rowley), while others incorporated one aspect of Japanalia such as the Obi-style belt, the cinched waist or the flowing sleeves cut at an angle into their designs. Still others used the loose draping of the kimono to create modern versions in which a loose, cropped top paired with a flowing long skirt demonstrated why the kimono and the Japanese influence will never be banished from the runways of the world.
Black & Yellow tapestry dress owned by stylist, accessories from Deja Lu Boutique
Floral Skirt & green shirt owned by stylist, accessories from Lotions & Potions
Coral dress and bracelets from Deja Lu Boutique, kimono from Moda
Polka dot blouse owned by stylist, red skirt & necklace from Deja Lu Boutique, cuff from Lotions & Potions
Coral dress from David Fernan, Sheer kimono owned by stylist, gold leaf bracelet by Lia Sofia, butterfly necklace from Moda
Tan Chiffon Dress from Deja Lu Boutique, red top coat owned by stylist, flower turquoise necklace from Francella’s Boutique, spiked gold bracelet by Stella & Dot
Burnt orange dress from David Fernan, belt & bracelet from Deja Lu Boutique, Ring from Moda
Floral dress accessories from Lotions & Potions, cape from Moda
Vintage Kingsbridge Blazer
Vintage transparent faux linen Shirt over a yellow H&M T-shirt
Grey/green Flypaper jeans
Blue Speedo shoes
Orange Timberlane jacket
White St. John’s Bay shirt over a yellow v neck T-shirt
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