9/01/2016

New Project

Our company, Mode & Classic LLC, accepted an investment in April. The amount of investment was worth several times the amount by which we can present our show at New York Fashion Week.

I believe that the Kimono Fashion Show which we presented in February at New York Fashion Week was successful in terms of the show that tried to demonstrate potential magnificence of Kimono at one of the biggest fashion venue. We received various media exposure in the world, including Newsweek and NBC News.

But reality hearts. Kimonos were never sold after our show and only one dress was sold.

Our original purpose of the show was to save Kimono craftsmen / artisans, but aging of Kimono craftsmen and bankruptcies of Kimono factories continue throughout Japan. Even if I continue exhibiting Kimonos at New York Fashion Week, I am afraid that there would be some discrepancy between my wish and people’s needs, and I could never reach the goal before the collapse of the Kimono industry. After our show at New York Fashion Week, I am easily aware that we cannot continue the similar show at the world-wide fashion venues.

I have started the new project. In this project, I directly contact with and ask the Kimono craftsmen/artisans who weave Kimono textiles and/or dye fabrics. We develop and design products: dresses, suits, and accessories, other than Kimono.

In my previous project in February, I actually collaborated with Kimono Artisan Kyoto, Kimono production wholesalers. It is difficult to distinguish them from Kimono craftsmen/artisans, but for kimonos which needs multiple steps until completion of production, Kimono production wholesalers make all steps efficient and control craftsmen. In my current project, I hope directly to contact and ask craftsmen. But because Japanese Kimono industry is old and rigid, I was not able to get any information about craftsmen from these Kimono production wholesalers.

I started from “Zero”.

I knew that there are some people who don’t want designers like me directly to contact with craftsmen. So, I started to find craftsmen behind the scenes. Initially, I was not able to find any connection with them.

I need to find Kimono craftsmen who could help me by myself. I have more than 2,000 friends on Facebook. First, I searched people who were on photos with the Kimono wholesalers. Second, I examined closely these people on Facebook. Then, I directly contacted with all the people who I thought should be Kimono craftsmen.

Because I followed my intuition, I was not sure who real Kimono craftsmen, working at their workshops, were. To tell the truth, it is difficult to distinguish craftsmen/artisans from wholesalers, only according to Facebook articles.

When I contacted with Kimono craftsmen, some were happy to discuss about our new project, while others denied to communicate with me. I was often told “please contact me though wholesalers” before I explained our new project. I thought that denial from craftsmen is quite normal. Thus, I was very impressed that some craftsmen accepted my inquiry.

I never gave up, and continued contacting with Kimono craftsmen. I finally met some craftsmen who told me “We will help you in confidence.” These craftsmen asked other craftsmen to help me, and I have made networks of Kimono craftsmen in that town. Luckily, that town is the key location for Japanese Kimono industry.

It seemed that light suddenly shines when wondering in a pitch-dark cave.

Then, I realized that though our new production with craftsmen, I have established the framework in which I can directly make inquires to Japanese craftsmen from USA. I gradually spread my networks in Japan. Sometimes I got craftsmen’s advices on the designs of our new products. Sometimes I discussed about the small details of the designs and textiles with craftsmen.

I think that in our new project, I make progress on my mission: “to pass on Japanese hand-made works to the next generation with Kimono craftsmen/artisans.”

I am concerned that our new project is recognized just as a quest for profit by our company. It’s possible that many people don’t understand that we are trying to pass on the arts of Kimono creation to the next generation, even if we use Kimono textiles, but don’t use them for Kimono.

Dress making in the world market is, of course, very competitive. I think that it’s easier for me, with a lot of carrier for Kimono, to continue Kimono fashion shows. It should be harder for me to enter into competition with other designers. But I want to challenge for Kimono, because I love Kimono and the arts of Kimono creation. Because I want to pass on these arts to the next generation before they vanish.

The home base of my business is New York, USA. Unfortunately, something with the form of Kimono are not sold enough for sustaining and even reviving Kimono industry in Japan. It should take very long time until Kimonos are accepted in the world fashion market. I cannot afford to wait any longer. I also need some outcome for the investment. I cannot afford to stick to just the form of Kimono. I need selects products, made by Kimono textiles/fabrics, which have possibility to be sold in the world markets. 

My mission does not change:
“We want people in the world wear real Kimono.”

It’s not easy decision, but I decide to create products beyond the form of Kimono, using real Kimono textiles/fabrics. I hope that my proposal will be able to influence on world-wide fashion market.

It should be a small step, but I believe that this small step can expand and make big progress 5 year or 10 year later.

This project starts with our dream:
“We want people in the world wear real Kimono.”

The production is ongoing. We can publish out products in several months.

Please support us!

HIROMI ASAI
Kobayashi-Some Kobo in Tango, Kyoto Japan