In Kyoto, a fashion brand is turning kimonos into couture dresses

·2-min read
The Kien brand is upcycling kimonos from the '50s and '60s to make couture dresses.

In a bid to tackle overproduction and waste, Japanese company Kien has turned to upcycling, transforming kimonos once left in the closet into couture dresses. The aim is to allow women to wear these traditional Japanese garments -- usually reserved for formal events -- more regularly, while also giving them a second life.

Like recycling, upcycling is one of the most popular means for the fashion industry to reduce its impact on the environment. Seeking to bring new or added value to waste or unused objects, upcycling first seduced a handful of designers, before taking over the catwalks, then ready-to-wear stores. In Kyoto, the Kien brand has also embraced upcycling, making the practice a part of its DNA with a double objective of fighting the damage caused to the planet by excessive production while keeping kimono culture alive.

A traditional Japanese garment showcasing ancestral skills and expertise, the kimono is nowadays only worn on formal occasions, which can range from weddings to graduations to New Year's celebrations. The intricate patterns designed and crafted on the garment by artisans therefore mostly remain hidden away at the back of a closet, patiently waiting for the next event... if there is one. And that doesn't sit well with the fashion industry's new mindset, with brands looking for all kinds of ways to reduce their environmental footprint.

The Kien brand is tackling the problem head on, choosing upcycling to give a second -- and hopefully busier -- life to Japan's kimonos, especially the Tomesode, one of the most formal kimonos worn by married women. With the help of Kyoto artisans, an array of kimonos from the '50s and '60s have been transformed into modern dresses that can be worn to parties, restaurants or other events that call for a certain elegance, all while preserving the iconic patterns for which this traditional Japanese garment is famous.

Kien is offering several styles of dresses, which are made only to order, costing between 60,000 yen (about $530) and 95,000 yen (about $840) minimum for the basic model. Then, all you have to do is choose the fabric and enter your measurements. For more information, visit: .

Christelle Pellissier

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