iStyle: Japanese whispers

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Keep cool and covered with a kimono-style wrap at the beach this summer, says Naomi Attwood

Without wanting to sideline centuries of Japanese heritage, it’s undeniable that kimonos are having a fashion moment. Early adopters have been hunting down silken robes in vintage shops and on eBay, and wearing them as colourful counterpoints to sawn-off denim shorts and T-shirts for a few seasons now – such as Parisian stylist Catherine Baba, who has been snapped cycling between fashion shows in Japanese robes.

The two major reference points for kimonos are wildly divergent. One,  the ethereal, bohemian-styled singer, like Florence Welch or Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac are on the road again), an on-stage whirlwind of long hair, printed fabric and fringing; and two, actual Japanese people or that iconic 1974 album cover, Kimono My House, by Sparks.

In fact, the kimono suit – as worn in its native country – is an extremely formal option, comprised of many parts including sandals and the obi belt – which can require a qualified kimono-dresser to assemble and cost thousands. Whether vintage or new, the current incarnation would more accurately be described as a kimono jacket: something billowy, brightly printed and boasting voluminous sleeves.

But those seeking to invest in something a little more unique can turn to Koro Kimono, a new company, which counts Welch herself among its clientele, that upcycles fabric from around the world. It sells ready-made versions as well as accepting bespoke commissions, working with “cottons and silks from the Tropics via Africa, Holland, India, Japan and Peckham”, as the company itself puts it.

Versatility is key to this garment, it can be adapted for smart or relaxed occasions, with the tiniest amount of styling nous necessary. Cool silk feels blissful on hot skin, making kimonos the perfect cover-up for the beach or poolside when pulling a dress on over your head seems far too much effort. But choose wisely and the same robe can be used to add another dimension to jeans and a jumper come November.

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