Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Kiwi twist on kimonos

Noriko Collins (centre) with Yoshiko Taylor and her daughter Aiya Taylor. Photo / Greg Bowker
Noriko Collins (centre) with Yoshiko Taylor and her daughter Aiya Taylor. Photo / Greg Bowker

An Auckland woman with a trove of slightly damaged vintage Japanese kimonos is looking for ways to revive them.

Noriko Collins, originally from Tokyo, moved to Auckland last year after spending 18 years in Singapore where she ran a project called "Kimono Kollab" with fashion designers there to repurpose old kimono fabric into clothing and accessories.

With more than 100 handcrafted kimonos at her Remuera home, Ms Collins, 52, is now looking to connect with local designers to do the same.

"Kimono represents Japan in so many ways, from the art, colours, craftsmanship, and what this aims to do is preserving and reviving this," she said.

"I want to pass them on to designers who can use their imagination and turn them into fashion garments that are both uniquely Kiwi and also uniquely Japanese."

Ms Collins hopes to showcase the cross-cultural designs at New Zealand Fashion Week, but needs to raise $25,000 to take part.

The project started about five years ago when she was told by a friend in Osaka who collects kimonos that damaged examples often sat in storage and many were discarded.

"I couldn't bear the thought of them being tossed away like so many pieces of worthless trash," said Mrs Collins.

"They were pieces of history, once proudly worn and cherished, each with an intricate story woven into its fabric."

In Japan, she said, kimono re-makers would not dare to cut up the fabrics or deviate from traditional designs.

Yoshiko Taylor, a neighbour and project partner, remembers dressing in kimonos when she grew up in Japan.

"The kimono is worn for special and very formal occasions like weddings and tea ceremonies, and I always felt very special when I put one on," she said.

"It is our hope that the designers will turn the fabrics into items that would give the wearer that same special feeling."

Masa Sekikawa, adviser to the Japan Society in Auckland, said the kimono is a traditional garment worn mainly by women, but sometimes also by Japanese men.

They are T-shaped, straight-lined robes, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves.

However, Mr Sekikawa said an increasing number of people were coming up with alternatives to "modernise" the kimono.

"Some old ladies still wear them on a daily basis, but more and more, many are using them as a fashion statement," he said.

"For younger Japanese, including many J-Pop singers, they modify the design and turn the kimono into short and funky wear."

- NZ Herald

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