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"Wa" Is with the Latest Fashion?

Traditional Materials and Techniques Take a Modern Turn

Fashion items that use Japanese motifs and traditional techniques are enjoying newfound attention. Wa (Japanese) taste items are modern products that appeal to a contemporary sensibility while incorporating traditional elements, such as Japanese materials, decorations, or fabrication techniques. Wa touches are finding their way into various fashion products, from jeans and T-shirts to shoes and jewelry.


Cherry-blossom-patterned jeans.
(C)Kyoto Denim

Jeans with a Japanese Twist
Kyoto Denim is a brand that offers domestically designed and manufactured jeans for women. Its lineup includes jeans with cherry-blossom patterns and jeans that have been dyed by Kyo yuzen, one of Japan's foremost dyeing techniques, which dates back to the seventeenth century. The brand has created a buzz not only in Japan but also overseas, and in August 2008 it was invited to exhibit at Margin London, a fashion trade exhibition held in London.

Wa-style item srange far and wide. There are dresses and shawls featuring Kyo yuzen or indigo dyeing, kimono-inspired wrap cardigans, and stickers for decorating cell phones featuring makie, the Japanese art of depicting designs on lacquerware with gold, silver, and pigment dust that dates from the Nara period (710-794). On T-shirts, sneakers, and caps and hats can be found prints of various Japanese motifs, such as sho-chiku-bai (pine, bamboo, and Japanese apricot), a combination that is considered auspicious; tsuru-kame (crane and tortoise), which are often employed at celebrations as symbols of longevity; and ocean waves right out of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Pendants and other jewelry with wa designs are also popular.

Growing Interest at Home and Abroad
A growing number of overseas designers are taking an interest in elements of wa as well. Touches of wa are no longer unusual on the runway, with famous designers introducing belts inspired by kimono sashes in their collections. French designer Marie Bouvero, meanwhile, set her eyes on furoshiki, square cloths that are traditionally used to wrap objects and are enjoying renewed popularity due to their environmentally friendly nature. With their flexibility, Bouvero sensed the roots of bags in furoshiki and decided to tap their potential to transcend the limitations of bags. Her take on the ancient tradition is the mimi pinson fu-ro-shi-ki, a series of colorful furoshiki with humorous and graphic illustrations.


mimi pinson fu-ro-shi-ki. (C)BIRDIE

Today a wealth of information from across the world is within quick reach via the Internet. But while it has become easy to learn about styles and tastes hailing from other cultures, young Japanese people are not just following overseas fashion trends; they are also looking with renewed interest upon things Japanese. Elements of wa evidently make young generations of Japanese, who grew up wearing Western attire, feel not so much nostalgic as excited by the discovery of something new.

Recent years have seen the appearance of lights and other home decor products with a taste of wa, as well as Western-style sweets that use ingredients typically associated with Japanese confectionery. Spreading beyond fashion, the wa trend is driving the fusion of Western and Japanese elements in diverse genres. (March 2009)