Liberate the Kimono: My second publication on the New York Times

About three months ago, my opinion about kimono fashion was published on the New York Times / International Herald Tribune. The Title is “Liberate the Kimono”. I sincerely hope people in the world wear the kimono as one of their fashion.

Liberate the kimono (Published: March 11, 2011)

Kumiko Makihara (“Kimono Lessons,” Meanwhile, March 4) described the typical point of view regarding kimonos in Japan: Most Japanese people believe that the kimono is only a ceremonial dress and that there are strict rules on how and when to wear it.
And as Ms. Makihara writes, many Japanese people don’t know how to properly put on a kimono because they lack basic knowledge of the traditional culture.
Indeed, the kimono has a long history — more than 1,000 years — but most of the rules that the Japanese rely on today were established just 150 years ago, or less. The kimono has been worn much more freely for most of its history.
Unfortunately, the kimono market has been dramatically shrinking, in part because the Japanese seem attached to the rules that prevent wider use of the dress.
As a kimono fashion stylist, I would like the kimono to be recognized as a fashionable garment, not just a traditional or ceremonial dress. Today’s rules for kimono wearing certainly should be taught, and I teach them to my students, but the kimono should be worn without any inhibition.
The kimono should be recognized as a garment that is beyond cultural and ethnic boundaries. It is my hope that people will learn to enjoy wearing the kimono in a more relaxed manner.

Hiromi Asai, New York



Photo shoot with Francois Nars

NARS Cosmetics has become one of the major cosmetics company in the world. Francois Nars, a founder of the company, joined the photo shoot for “NARS Christmas Card" as a photographer. As NARS requested me to attend it, I took part in that photo shoot as a stylist.

The studio for this shooting is Pier 59, where we had the photo shooting of ads for Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. cell phone company. I remember that was my first experience to attend the photo shoot as a kimono stylist in US. I realized I could return to that memorable studio and felt my heart beat fast.

I cannot mention about the model for the photo shoot before publication, because she was a celebrity. This photo shoot was planned for her own Christmas cards. She asked François Nars to check her makeup and take her photos. There were a large number of staffs around her. All things were beyond my imagination. This photos shows François Nars checked her makeup.

The model relied on me very much. Many hair and makeup artists worked for her with me, but she asked me, every time when she needed to confirm her hair style and makeup.

I moved to New York almost 3 years ago. I cannot improve my English, but I have had various chances to work with the famous people active in the world. I turned the corner on one project, and subsequently I had another project. It’s impossible to get the bigger project abruptly. I have to do my best for all the projects, even if they are small. I think all the stacking progresses have been directing me to the bigger project.

Prof. Sakurai and I
My mentor for the tea ceremony, Prof. Sobai Sakurai, told us, “Always don’t forget the mind for “preparation”, because everything is connected”. She told us various things before her lessons of the ceremony, and emphasized the importance of the mind of “thankfulness” and “preparation”. If I had no chance to learn the tea ceremony from Prof. Sobai Sakurai, I could not work with the various professionals active in the world.

From now on, I would like to do my very best at any time. Further, I appreciate all the people who worked with me.
NARS emailed me “Pleasure working with you!” The accumulation of these words brings me steps toward tomorrow.

My lesson place of the tea ceremony in Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo


Good memories of the New York Fashion Week

My interview video on the New York Fashion Week in February is now published on the internet. That brings back some memories. I believe new trends for the next New York Fashion Week, held in September, have already started now in June.

On the NY Fashion Week in February, as I wrote in my previous article, I collaborated with designer Susan Cianciolo to have a fashion stage. In addition, we were invited to attend various shows by several fashion brands. I had chances to see some of them from February 10th to 17th, from 9AM to 9PM, both on the weekdays and weekend.

In the morning, the shows of men's casual fashion brands were presented. In the after, ones for fashionable street clothes could be seen. The most of the shows at 9PM were demonstrated for formal evening dresses.

I went to see three fashion stages from 9PM, which showed various formal evening dresses. Unfortunately I hadn't known these three brands, but when I went into each venue, there was always an air of excitement. The famous celebrities, who I saw on the TV or movies, attended the shows wearing formal dresses and got surrounded by the press persons. Actually the models on these shows wore romantic and brilliant formal dresses, in which celebrities can walk on the red carpet at the Academy Awards in LA. I didn't usual brands.
I went there in my kimono almost every day. When I entered each venue in kimono, many people asked me to take photos. When I wore the kimono and watched the fashion show for  formal dresses during the  New York Fashion Week, I realized that the kimono has a strong power as fashion and/or as a formal dress to create an extraordinary atmosphere.

Personally, the most impressive designer on the Week was Zang Toi. His designed clothes, the configuration of the show, the music, all were wonderful and full of enfolding warmth. I am not able to describe the details of his design, but I was moved to tears, when he received a standing ovation as he came to the stage for the finale.

The duration of the fashion show is only 10minutes. Every Designer tries to express all his/her creation, all things including fashion, within these 10 minutes. Zang Toi tried it and succeeded to express his world on his stage. We were certainly able to see "his designed" dress and "his created" fashion world.

I appreciate all the designers to invite me to their stages; Norman Ambrose, Perry Ellis, Rebecca Taylor, VENEXIANA, GENERL IDEA, Vivienne Tam, Mik Cire, Toni Francesc, CUSTO BARCELONA, Zang Toi, tibi, Sergio Davila. Thank you very much again. I am looking forward to seeing you on the next stage.

These are fashionable street clothes on the after program. They looked something we actually would like to wear and inspired me.


Kimono Workshop for Satsukikai

My husband graduated from University of Tokyo. So, I had an opportunity to have a kimono workshop for Satsukikai in NY, the lady’s reunion organized by alumna of University of Tokyo, as some of them kindly invited me.

First, I talked about the variety of kimonos at the workshop. My students on the kimono beginners’ class often ask me how to distinguish various kinds of kimonos and to understand dress code of the kimono. Actually, you may see variety of kimonos and obis on my company’s website “Kimono Rental Sample Images”. I explained the formal kimono for married women, called Tomesode and the semi-formal kimono, called Houmongi or Tsukesage. I advised what situation each kimono is worn in.

Then, I talked about Japanese traditional color definition: Kasane no Irome, which is originally defined as the color gradation of twelve-layered kimono (Jyunihitoe). I have already described it on my previous article “Kimono Demonstration at Van Gogh Museum”. As you know, kimono and obi are made by many kinds of fabrics, such as silk, cotton, wool, and so on. Furthermore, techniques of producing these fabrics are variable. Some of them are yarn-dyed (woven after dyed) and the others are piece-dyed (dyed after woven). Of course, they have variety of colors. So, I talked about how to select the material and color of the fabrics when we wear kimono. It is well known that we basically coordinate yarn-dyed kimono with piece-dyed obi, or piece-dyed kimono with yarn-dyed obi, but it actually depends. I think we need to try actual combination of kimono and obi, when we determine their best combination. I brought some of the kimonos and obis to the workshop and let the attendee to try various combinations. The attendee seemed to be able to understand the basics of the kimono coordination through this experience.

Finally, the attendee experienced wearing the kimono. It is important to wear the kimono correctly, but I think it is also important and required to have basic knowledge of the combination of the kimono and obi for selecting an appropriate combination depending on time, location and occasion.
One of the attendee who had learned how to wear kimono told me, “I am happy to learn not only how to wear kimono, but also the knowledge of kimono through this workshop.” I was happy to hear that.

I thought I told them too many things, but it is my pleasure if my workshop will be of any help for them. And I hope this workshop will trigger them to wear kimono.
I give thanks to all the attendee for join my workshop.