Saturday, January 15, 2011

Kimonos–are they dying out?


When i think about Japanese clothing kimonos are one of the first garments that come to mind. The kimono is a garment steeped in history and is a traditional attire worn by all genders. Kimono translates to ‘thing to wear’. Its a T shape item with long sleeves and a floor sweeping length. They are usually gathered around the waist with an obi belt.

Kimonos have long been admired by the West for their luxurious fabric and exquisite designs. But the traditional kimono making industry in Japan is in peril. A lot of this is down to a decline in popularity. Previously the whole of Japan wore kimonos but this is no longer the case, now its mostly worn for special occasions. Is feared that within the next 10 years the art of traditional kimono making will have died out. The industry is having trouble passing on the skills needed to the next generation. There are actually thousands of stages involved in kimono creation and a whole host of different craftspeople are needed and they all possess different areas of expertise. It can take 10+ years to develop the expertise needed for a single stage. Many of the last remaining kimono artisans are now elderly and its feared that the kimono industry will die with them.

The kimono used to be the preferred garment for everyone from samurai to aristocrats but its hardly worn by todays youth who have become very Americanised in style terms. These days they only wear them on certain occasions and even then they’re more likely to opt for a Chinese produced machine made kimono. It costs £1400 + for a traditional kimono whereas Chinese ones are less than 10% of that price.


The kimono industry has taken note of the decline in sales and are trying to attract younger consumers with modernist designs but so far its not proving a success. Kimono sales are at an all time low. This isn’t helped by globalisation and a rapidly changing target audience within Japan.

This is all very disappointing especially as the Japanese economy is thriving. Sadly the new generation are more likely to purchase the latest Louis Vuitton or Chanel bag than a hand crafted lovingly made traditional kimono. This lull in demand is forcing even some of the premier kimono artisans to use lower quality foreign silk rather than the much more expensive but superior quality Japanese silk. Now its almost impossible to buy 100% Japanese kimonos.


Another factor in its demise is fewer Japanese are getting wed and alot of the ones that do are going for western style wedding dresses instead of traditional wedding attire of traditional kimonos. Add to this the decrease in the birth rate and with it the need  for kimonos to wear for coming of age rites.

In the past 10 years kimono sales have almost halved and the number of kimono factories has sunk to under 500 (from 1000+ in 1980).

Japanese kimonos aren’t just an item of clothing they are a sign of ritual, history and culture. The death of the industry would be a travesty.


  1. Isn't kimono wearing very segmented? Not well travelled in Japan, but in Tokyo and Kyoto I saw many women in full kimono with traditional makeup walking amongst the Western dressed. I remember being surprised at how very, very, very expensive kimonos were, seeing entire wedding parties at a few hotels in Tokyo in formal kimono. Very, very sad.

  2. This is very disturbing to read. I have always thought Kimonos are so beautiful and would always try to get an inspired look to wear. I remember my Aunt bring back I think from China a Kimono Jacket for me when I was little.

    Do you have any links for further reading?

  3. I love the kimono, and all the dreamy style about them. Perphaps the industry has only a hiccup like it happened with the flamenco dresses in Spain that has now flourished.
    Have a wonderful Sunday my dear friend.

  4. Oh, this is so sad, I know Japanese Kimonos are definitely prized, even the vintage ones cost a fortune, we'll see what will happen with the kimono industry, food for thought indeed my dear...


  5. IMO it'll be a tragedy if these kimono skills die out. kimonos are apart of japanese heritage.

  6. I think time is running out as the last remaining kimono making artisans are nearing the end of their lives if they dont pass on their skills the industry will end :/

  7. yes they're very expensive but alot of young japanese have a high level of disposable income which is why luxury brands are so popular there.

  8. It's a bit of a shame, one thing I love about the Japanese is the attention to detail and the craft and skill that is involved in actually creating things like Kimonos. I remember watching a documentary on how they make samurai swords which is a lengthy and really intricate process.

    I think it would definitely be a travesty if something that is a part of what makes Japanese culture so unique dies out.

  9. Wow, the artistry behind the kimono is incredible! What a great, inspired read!


  10. If I could move to Japan to study how to make the textiles and make kimono's I would. I don't think you should underestimate the influence of that part of your culture overseas. It seems we are just trading certain aspects of my cultures. I have been in many apartments and homes where they display kimono's prominently - non-Japanese households at that. I suppose this is globalization at it's best.

  11. i certainly agree i think that if this industry dies out it will be a huge loss xx

  12. [...] Fuyume The demise of the kimono industry. [...]


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