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Playing With the Classics: When Tradition Meets Modernization


Fashion is said to define a generation, and with numerous inspirations coming from every corner of the globe, a lot of young talents are beginning to assemble their own closets to showcase their unique style. But with vintage, classic, and traditional styles making a comeback, finding one’s personality in era-defining clothing can be quite tricky. Interestingly enough, the young crowds in Japan and Korea are putting their traditional garments to the test by creating looks that clearly let them break away from the everyday mold. 

The Modern Kimono of Harajuku Street Fashion 

asian kimono tokyo fashion on you tubeIn the traditional sense, Japanese kimonos are used for special occasions, like festivals. But on the streets of Harajuku, the young crowd has taken this iconic silk fabric and integrated it with fantastic elements to create something that has never been seen before. On July 2015, TokyoFashion.com’s YouTube channel (still pictured right) Tokyo Fashion released a video entitled ’15 Amazing Kimono Inspired Japanese Street Fashion Looks’. In this video, you can see how new, futuristic, and fantasy-inspired elements have been melded together with traditional styles – creating something truly out of this world. 

For example, there are men who try to create a 21st century samurai look by combining the kimono coat, the top-knot hairstyle, and chokers studded with spikes. Another inspired look is the kimono raver where the wearer strides around town with a winged kimono and strikingly coloured hair that falls past the shoulders, balancing each step on her 10cm platform shoes. Each kimono-inspired look is completed when the model starts playing with Japanese beauty cosmetics. Unlike your typical red lipsticks and pink blush powders, Harajuku fashion is outrageous, wild, and experimental. Most of them are not afraid to play with green, yellow, or bright pink mascara to bring out their eyes, or place tiny heart-shaped stickers around their face and eyelashes. 

asian etro archive

Etro pictured above inspired by the East

The Korean Hanbok Casual 

asian hanbok inspired christian diorIf you imagine a hanbok, you would think of a long sleeved garment with a large wrap around skirt. It looks heavy and difficult to wear, but designer Hwang Yi-seul (a.k.a Dew Wang) is revamping her nation’s traditional garment to make it more appealing to everyday Korean women. An article written by Jessica Kwen in iamkorem.com states that Hwang Yi-seul took the empire and A-line silhouettes of the traditional look and utilized quality fabrics, such as cotton, denim, and linen, to create casual styles. This lighter version of the hanbok comes in different soft colors, patterns and designs, and varying lengths, and even features buttons and zippers. Best of all, it can be easily matched with any kind of shoes, handbag, or accessory. Combined with the use of Korean cosmetics, the modern hanbok is sure to make its wearer stand out from the crowd. 

(Image right: Christian Dior inspired by the Korean Hanbok silhouette)

One can learn from the current trends of Korean and Japanese fashion, especially when tradition is involved. Although a traditional garment does encapsulate the culture of its people, the patronage of the current generation can add to the history and meaning of the clothes. It can be said that by integrating the old with the new, the past is not truly forgotten, but reimagined in a colorful, outspoken, and unique form.

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