Thrive or Merely Survive? The Kimono Retail Industry in the 21st Century
Play • 1 hr 4 min
[Recorded 10 October 2018] The Japanese kimono is iconic – an instantly recognisable marker of Japanese aesthetics and nationhood throughout the world. Little is known however about the industry that makes and sells the kimono. How is the industry structured, and what challenges does it face in the 21st century? How has the economic crisis of the 1990s affected the industry? And what is the role of traditional industries in a modern, industrialised nation? This talk explores the ways in which the kimono retail industry in contemporary Japanese society is changing in response to the economic crisis of the 1990s and the declining popularity of the kimono as formal wear, leading to falling demand and sales. Based on doctoral research in anthropology and twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork in Aichi prefecture, Kyoto, Tokyo and Yamagata with kimono shop owners, wholesalers, craftspeople, writers, bloggers, designers, government officials and consumers, this talk will showcase how a small but influential group are aiming to change the industry from within by marketing the kimono as fashion and framing the kimono as a lifestyle choice. Their efforts have led to a shift in manufacturing, marketing and selling strategies that have effectively aligned the kimono with global discourses about fashion. This shift has split the kimono retail industry into two camps: those who sell kimono as ceremonial wear for key ritual occasions such as weddings, funerals, tea ceremonies, coming of age ceremonies, graduation and school entrance ceremonies, and those who increasingly turn to the discourse of fashion and lifestyle to market their wares.
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