The kimono: Just slip it on

A model clad in a traditional kimono performs during the 'Embracing the Japanese aesthetic' event in Tokyo November 5, 2009. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao (JAPAN FASHION IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTXQDGZ
Kimono by Frida Giannini for Gucci. Photo: Reuters
The easy-to-wear Japanese robe is more casual than casual but still makes a fashion statement
Published: 4:05 AM, July 4, 2014
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NEW YORK — Glamour is a slippery concept, defined one season by a neoprene minidress and the next by a gown cut from stiffened brocade. However, in one of those pendulum swings as regular as rent hikes, it is encapsulated this summer in the loose, and louche, kimono, the casual uniform of music-festival pilgrims traipsing through Coachella, South by Southwest or Bonnaroo. A stand-in for the trusty jeans jacket or cardigan, the look is being embraced this year by self-styled free spirits of every persuasion.

“The kimono is definitely the must-have cover-up of the season,” said Sheila Aimette, a vice-president at trend-forecasting company WGSN. It was taken up a year ago by a handful of early adopters, Aimette said, and went on to become a wardrobe mainstay of the festival circuit.

Star power has played as vital a role in propelling this evergreen from a fluid loungewear staple to an emblem of faintly indecent allure. If the image of Rihanna wrapped in a pink houndstooth kimono coat in the Balmain spring ad campaign wasn’t compelling enough, consider the draw of Kate Moss flitting around London in a Topshop kimono of her design.

The runways, too, have done their part, spawning permutations of the classic Japanese straight-seamed, wrap-and-tie robe or the shorter traditional Happi coat. Catwalk variations include a filmy, glitter-accented kimono by Frida Giannini for Gucci, a deeply fringed version by Roberto Cavalli, a palm-patterned kimono jacket at Fausto Puglisi and a lustrous black gown ending in a ripple of pleats at Givenchy.

The trend has now penetrated the marketplace, including Nordstrom, Anthropologie and ASOS, the Internet shopping site, as well as Neiman Marcus and Net-a-Porter, a recent WGSN data search showed. Prices vary from about US$30 (S$38) to US$3,000, this last for a Saint Laurent kimono coat for fall.

On or off the runways, the prevalence of the kimono may be read as an early indication of a move away from the robotically rigid futurism of recent seasons towards a looser, more liquid look, one captured by Dries Van Noten in a spring collection filled with semi-sheer flower-patterned styles and, even in his men’s show last week, in which the kimono was shown as an opulent alternative to the dressing gown.

By no means exclusive to coltishly slender festival followers, this boxy shape can be draped and tied to fit most body types.

“You can make it do what you need it to do,” said Glorif Simon, editor of online magazine Magnolia. She said that on the streets, the kimono is being worn mostly over tank tops, T-shirts, shorts and jeans.

“But I’m starting to see it in the corporate world as well,” she added, stating that as an office cover-up, it gives “a more feminine feel than a blazer”.

Inevitably, this beach and apres-sun favourite will make the transfer to fall. A capelike, raccoon-trimmed variation by L.G.B. and a cashmere interpretation by Denis Colomb will be sold at Patron of the New in New York City. Kirna Zabte, an outpost for progressive style, will offer an Altuzarra kimono robe coat in navy and cobalt. Designers tweaking the look in sombre tones include Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen of The Row and Giambattista Valli, who has fashioned a spotted kimono coat sheared at the knees.

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