Firstly, I just want to ask you one simple question… how often do you see a person wearing kimono in Japan? You might say that you see a lot in Kyoto or at a coming of age ceremony, summer festivals or wedding receptions.
But you probably don’t really see a person wearing kimono on the train or at the supermarket so often, do you? Japanese people are now more likely to wear kimono only for special occasions. It means that Kimonos are no longer worn for everyday clothes. I personally don’t know anyone who wears kimono as everyday clothes.
How does this fact affect the current kimono industry?
Well, it might be easy to imagine that sales in the kimono industry are decreasing. According to the research by Yano Research Institute Ltd., total sales of retail market around 1980 were 1.8 trillion yen. In contrast, total sales in 2016 were only 278.5 billion yen. Through this data, you can clearly see that sales have decreased dramatically and it is expected to continue to decrease in 2017 and the future.
People, especially younger generations, don’t buy kimonos as often as in the past. For example, I (early 30s) own only 1 yukata (summer kimono). But my mother has more than 5 different kimonos for different occasions and my grandmother had even more kimonos than my mother. My family’s case actually confirmed the research result above as a perfect example of how the sales are decreasing year after year in the kimono industry. As a result of the economic slump in the kimono industry, many kimono retail shops are facing going out of business, forced out of business or closed down.
The Kimono industry shrinks by the minute. Especially the sales of formal kimonos such as homon-gi and furisode are decreasing dramatically because people don’t really have many opportunities to wear these formal kimonos nowadays. Thus, they rent them when they need to instead of purchasing. Renting formal kimono is actually cheaper than buying one if you just need to wear a few times. For example, rental furisode becomes mainstream for girls who attend at coming of age ceremony because more people think that furisode is just too expensive to buy only for this one ceremony. In addition, younger generations have more or less negative image of wearing kimono. They think that kimono is tight and uncomfortable to wear, expensive and hard to take care of. Some claim that they hesitate to wear kimono as there are many rules and taboos when wearing kimonos.
Due to such circumstances, some kimono shops are trying to understand younger generations’ needs and to capture their interests in wearing and buying kimonos. They are developing more fashionable and easy-to-wear kimonos for young people with respect to tradition. For example, chic and elegant neutral colour based kimonos, which give a modern feeling, are available now as well as kimonos made from denim fabric and organic cotton. Compared to kimono made from silk, they can be worn more casually and are easier to take care of.
Some kimonos are made from 100% polyester and can even be washed in a washing machine at home. Obi can be a factor for some to give up on wearing kimono because it is complicated to make by yourself. But there are easy-to-set obis or ready-to-wear-obis available so you don’t need to struggle anymore while dressing kimono by yourself. The kimono industry is also looking to overseas markets and sees its future potential. For example, ‘Fukusa’, established in 1995 in Ehime prefecture is approaching the overseas market by focusing on Muslim women, especially Indonesians from high income class. They produce fashionable clothes for these women using kimono fabrics.
The experience of wearing kimono is one of the popular activities among international tourists who visit Japan nowadays. Some will buy kimono or yukata as a souvenir and take them back their home countries. Zara released the new over-sized gown in 2017 called ‘kimono’ which is clearly inspired by Japanese kimono.
Do you think kimono has the potential to be accepted by overseas markets? Let us know your opinion!