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A Gallery Shili jumper made from a used kimono.
A Gallery Shili jumper made from a used kimono.

Photographer: Lorenzo Barassi

Greener Living

Japan’s Discarded Kimonos Get New Life as Redesigned Casual Wear

Shifting fashion tastes and a declining consumer base have created a huge supply of vintage kimonos. The question now is what to do with them.

Vintage kimonos, often regarded as family heirlooms and passed down through generations, are piling up in Japan’s second-hand markets as the garments fall out of fashion and the country’s population shrinks.

Traditionally the long, loose attire is wrapped around the body in a series of precise folds, lifts and adjustments in a dressing process that could take 25 minutes or longer. Now designers are repurposing high-quality fabric from cast off kimonos to make contemporary outfits more suited to today’s sensibilities and fashion. The transformation is as much an art as science.

“People used to wear kimonos every day and now they don't because it’s uncomfortable’’ says Duni Park, whose Tokyo-based Gallery Shili, transforms garments from Japan and her native South Korea into jumpsuits, shirts and scarves. “If things are to be continued to be used they must evolve with lifestyles.’’