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Predictions 2024: Kimono to See More Exciting Collaborations and Exposure in the World

The kimono industry suffered under COVID-19, but its impact on fashion gained unprecedented global attention this year, with the trend set to continue in 2024.



Happy New Year to JAPAN Forward readers. We are pleased to bring you "Predictions 2024," a special New Year's series sharing the foresight and expectations of selected contributors for the coming year in their fields of specialty, continuing with kimono influencer Sheila Cliffe.

Next in the Series

In order to make predictions about the future of kimono in 2024, it is necessary to look back and see what has been happening in the last few years. The Victoria and Albert Museum's "Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk" was four years in the making and opened in March 2020. It would have been a blockbuster exhibition had it not closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It then opened at the Varldskulter Museum in Gothenburg, Sweden 2022 and moved on to the musée du quai Branly, Paris in 2022-2023. The exhibition is now open at the Museum Rietberg in Zurich, Switzerland. 

Sheila Cliffe in a Christmas-themed kimono. (©Sheila Cliffe)

Significantly, the exhibition documents the interactions between different countries and the way that kimono and kimono textiles have influenced the West. It also explores how Western textiles have influenced kimono, including recent popular culture. As a result, the exhibition has drawn large crowds all over Europe. It has proven to be a very important tool for spreading knowledge about kimono. 

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York held "Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection" from June 2022 to February 2023. This exhibition also documented the international influences going east and west in the kimono and fashion industries. Other smaller kimono-related exhibitions have also taken place recently. 

Kimono's Global Impact

"The Kimono in Print: 300 Years of Japanese Design" was held at the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts in collaboration with Chiso kimono company in Japan. "Kimono — Reflections of Art between Japan and the West" is currently on at Museo del Tessuto in Prato, Italy. The Fine Art Museum of San Francisco is hosting "Zuan Cho: Kimono Design in Modern Japan 1868-1912." The Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, United Kingdom is hosting "KABUKI KIMONO: Costumes of Bandd Tamasaburo V" until January 2024. 

This amount of attention paid to kimono at one point in time is unprecedented. Japan's popular culture has made increasing inroads worldwide. Now aspects of Japanese design and the kimono influence on fashion are certainly getting a lot of attention. And it is unlikely that this will stop. Therefore, one prediction is that the attention paid to kimono outside of Japan and its recognition as a major influence on fashion and design will continue in 2024.

An obi with an auspicious design for the year of the dragon. (©Sheila Cliffe)

Domestically, there is also a sense that things are on the move. A new edition of the magazine Kimono Anne was released in November, targeting young and fashionable girls. The latest edition of Utsukushii Kimono has featured popular actress Yoh Yoshida wearing a very casual woven kimono. Yoshida has just released her own kimono book to popular acclaim. I will also release my latest style book Kimono Evolution in early 2024. 

Having noted these positive movements, however, it is important to note that during the pandemic, many craftspeople went out of business. Several zouri footwear makers have closed shop as have many weavers or dyers, who have called it a day. A decreasing number of craftspeople is not a good sign for kimono. 


International Collaborations

I predict that 2024 will be the year of collaboration. Many Japanese businesses are seeing possibilities in collaborations with businesses from abroad. A notable example is Jotaro Saito, who just opened a new shop in Nagoya in December, in addition to his flagship shop in Ginza 6 in Tokyo. His fabric is being used by luxury brand MCM, and he is looking forward to possibly collaborating on making various goods using kimono fabric. 

Some Tango and Nishijin weavers are also following similar paths. LVMH has started a collaboration with HOSOO of Nishijin, Kyoto. Other such ventures are also in the pipeline. I personally think that collaborations offer a way of keeping the textile culture alive and are therefore a positive thing. They also serve to bring new influences into the old businesses and offer a way to keep developing. However, some argue that they will take time away from weaving kimono and put it into weaving textiles for other purposes, which could be counter-productive. 

Christmas-themed half-width obi, an example of the versatility of kimono. (©Sheila Cliffe)

Nurturing Young Enthusiasts

A well-known zouri maker told me that although lots of people are becoming interested in kimono, they are not actually going out and buying them. The market has rebounded since the pandemic for most businesses, but it has not returned to where it was before. People can easily buy used kimono or polyester or cotton ones. However, craftsman-made silk kimono cannot easily be purchased by most young women. 

But this is natural. There should be a time lag between the growing interest in kimono and the increasing purchase of quality kimono. The expensive end of kimono may continue to shrink, as has the expensive end of fashion production in general. The hope is that increasingly young people will encounter kimono, like them, and be interested enough to buy them as they get older. More schools are teaching how to wear kimono and also using it as ceremonial dress for graduations. These early positive experiences with kimono will have an effect, but it will be several years down the line. 

I think it is certain that there will be a few more tough years for people working in the kimono industry. However, I am not convinced that the evidence points to kimono's demise. I am looking forward to seeing where increased exposure to kimono abroad will lead in 2024 and beyond. The collaborations in the industry within Japan and perhaps in Europe too, is something to look forward to. I wish everyone involved a happy, kimono-filled 2024.


Author: Sheila Cliffe

Read other columns on kimono by the author.

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