Special dialogue between Keisuke Kanda, and Takayuki Yajima

At the end of summer in 2020, Kimono Dress was created in a collaborative project between KIMONO by NADESHIKO and keisuke kanda.
The second collection, which is better than the first one, is going to be launched.

Brand’s original yukata fabrics are used for Kimono Dress. The products that look like remade garments with a dress-like silhouette with gathers unique to keisuke kanda can be styled in various ways and make the kimono a more familiar item.
The second collection includes not only new textiles but also short-length types that can be used more easily in daily life.

Keisuke Kanda, the designer of keisuke kanda, says, “I hope Kimono Dress attracts people’s interest in the kimono.”
We interviewed Mr. Kanda (hereinafter referred to as Kanda) and Takayuki Yajima, President and Representative Director of Yamato Co., Ltd., who looks up to him and calls him “bro,” about their commitment to manufacturing while they dialogued with each other.

The relationship between the two men who used to see each other every week.

――First of all, how did you two meet?

YajimaI kept asking people around me to introduce me to him because I wanted to meet him...
KandaWe first met over drinks with a few other people before Takayuki became the president of Yamato. Since then, we have been very close. I used to go for a drink every week for a certain moment before the outbreak of the COVID-19.
YajimaLike we were in a relationship (laughs)!
KandaTalking with Takayuki reminds me of the mindset I had during my university days when I started to design clothes. It is a pure passion. And I think he is a rare executive who has a creator mindset.
YajimaTalking with Keisuke makes me think like a challenger again. It also happens when I talk with Akira Minagawa (the designer of minä perhonen/ outside director of Yamato). It’s like it takes me back to my old days...
KandaI feel so humbled because you compared me to Mr. Minagawa... He is one of the few great designers to whom I look up. I’m jealous of you, Takayuki, because you are in the same boat with him and you take on new challenges together. Takayuki is really a challenger and he is all about his work (laughs). I think he is really passionate.

――What do you two usually talk about?

KandaWe both are very serious guys at heart (laughs), so we always talk about work. About the future of clothing and the kimono.
YajimaThat’s right. We always talk about what kind of society we would like to build and our dreams.
KandaThere are some obstacles we have to overcome to make our dreams come true. As you are having a difficult time now, I hope you will figure it out somehow. I think you are having various conflicts, but at the same time you are shining bright. The efforts I made in my 20s when I was struggling are the basis of my current activities. In that sense, as you feel troubled and conflicted right now, you are kind of precious.
YajimaBut I think it’s because, as an entrepreneur, I didn’t want to take ownership without knowing how hard people in the field were working. I became the president but I don’t want to tell people, “Just do it.” I would like to stay this way.
KandaYou visit the field so frequently for a president (laughs).
YajimaBut visiting the field too frequently is not a good thing, right (laughs)?
KandaIn the project in which I was involved, you were always present for meetings and photoshoots and things went smoothly because you made judgments on the spot. Other presidents wouldn’t do that.
YajimaI think it’s both good and bad. I know I shouldn’t keep doing it. I think I should stop visiting the field like this at some point.
KandaI see. If you visit the field looking ahead to the future, it must make your employees even more motivated.
YajimaThank you for saying that.

Meeting with the old teacher Mr. Kanda, and in retrospect on his university days during which he focused his time and energy on fashion and films

YajimaKeisuke, did you originally plan to enter the fashion industry?
KandaI wasn’t interested in fashion at all and didn’t have any dream for the future before I entered university. I went to a prestigious high school but I didn’t really study until I became a junior, even though I didn’t belong to any club (laughs).
YajimaWhat!? (laughs) But you went to Waseda University before entering Bunka Fashion College, didn’t you? Did you start to study for the entrance examination in your junior year?
KandaYes. I took a winter pre-exam intensive course of Yoyogi Seminar during the winter vacation when I was a junior and was deeply impressed by the English teacher I met there, Shoji Nishitani (Yoyogi Seminar). Everything I had built in my 17 years of life was destroyed when I came to know his perspective, and I found a new me. I studied like crazy for several months after that. For the first time in my life, I worked hard to achieve my goal.

――How did you spend your university years after that?

KandaAfter I entered Waseda University, I met various types of people that I had never met before in my life. There were people who were in a band, people who made films on their own, and people who were crazy about fashion. I made friends with them and got impressed by them. And then I felt like doing something to express myself. I came to like fashion around that time. Back then, I watched one film a day and took notes. I think I was trying to find myself. I joined a famous film club at the university. In my sophomore year, I started to go to a scenario-writing school in Aoyama and make films on my own. Though I made my films, there was no opportunity to show them to anyone (laughs). Getting no reaction, I gradually lost my enthusiasm for films.
YajimaBut you didn’t completely give up making films, did you?
KandaNo. I got into fashion while keeping films at the back of my mind. Around the time I became a junior, I started buying a lot of clothes and became friends with people who loved fashion at the university. Though I hadn’t been popular among girls at all, some girls came and talked to me about the clothes I wore. For better or worse, that made me motivated. I thought I could date the girl I liked if I made clothes for her. That’s a huge leap in logic (laughs).
YajimaI think I’ve heard that somewhere (laughs).
KandaThat’s why I started to make clothes on my own. Around the time everyone else started looking for a job, I bought a sewing machine and kept sewing garments. At that time, some members of the fashion club based in Waseda University called Sen-i approached me and I held a large-scale fashion show by setting up a runway on the university campus. That was a successful experience. After that, I started to plan and hold fashion shows at clubs and live music bars and realized that I could show my films at my fashion shows!
YajimaOh that’s how films and fashion were connected!
KandaYes. Back then, there were some people who had their own brands and made music that suited the concept of their clothes for their shows, but there were few people who made films for their clothes. I focused my time and energy on fashion and films back in university.

――You entered Bunka Fashion College after graduating from Waseda University, didn’t you?

KandaYes. I felt like learning how to make clothes from basics. As I focused my time and energy back in my university days on holding fashion shows, I wanted to learn the basics such as patterns, sewing, and materials. Yoko Omori (stylist and DOUBLE MAISON director) discovered me around that time. Ms. Omori used my piece as the main item on the feature page at the beginning of the magazine for which she worked as a stylist. It was the first time that I saw how the professional in the fashion industry showcased garments in a visually-appealing manner, and something changed within me. I felt like focusing more on clothing. Since then, I have stopped holding fashion shows and making films.
YajimaThen you haven’t made films for a long time.
KandaThat’s right. As I have held exhibitions to showcase my clothes, I think most of the customers of keisuke kanda don’t know that I used to make films. Recently I have started to make films again for the sake of fashion for the first time in a long time.

――Kimono Dress is beautifully styled in the music video of GOD SAVE THE WORLD by Ging Nang Boyz directed by Mr. Kanda.

KandaI originally hoped that Kimono Dress would be used in TikTok and YouTube videos. Twirling, running, and dancing....When I was developing a plot for this music video, I thought Kimono Dress was perfect for the outfits for the video.
YajimaThank you!

――What made you start making films again?

KandaIt’s the COVID-19 pandemic. As I couldn’t hold exhibitions for a while, I had some time to spare. I think that’s a big reason.
YajimaI know, you closed your store in April 2020.
KandaYes. I made that decision right after the first declaration of a state of emergency. Looking back, I think it was a right decision to make. I closed my store in a positive way to take on new challenges. Even if it was difficult to run the store during the state of emergency, I could make films.

The creation of Kimono Dress that the two hope makes people dance and twirl.

――When did you start working on Kimono Dress?

KandaIt was before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, wasn’t it? We initially discussed that we should make nagajuban (full-length undergarments worn under a kimono). I thought the concept was like nagajuban that can be worn outside.
YajimaI think it was around November 2019. A lot of things had happened before it was finalized like this, right? It took us such a long time to finalize it. We struggled a lot and then decided to go back to square one. We thought we had to be level-headed. We discussed to what degree we could change the shape of the kimono in the first place.
KandaAs keisuke kanda is a remade clothing brand, I proposed that we should take advantage of that and consider remaking the kimono. So, we decided to try creating something by remaking the yukata of KIMONO by NADESHIKO.

――How did you design it?

KandaFirst I pictured a girl in that kimono twirling and dancing. The image of a skirt flaring lightly unlike the traditional kimono.
YajimaWhen we had a great time discussing, we decided we should just try and create it once. Then the prototype of Kimono Dress was created. I would like products like Kimono Dress to make people take interest in the kimono. If we would like people to use the kimono in daily life first, we don’t have to maintain the traditional shape of the kimono. That’s what we discussed.
KandaAs I always tell the customers of my brand, it’s not like I want to create clothes that suit their stature and look good on them. I always would like to create clothes that enable people who wear them to try something new. The business in the apparel industry revolves around marketing and I hate it. I have always shown a new world to my customers and involved them in it instead of doing marketing. As young people today do not wear the kimono in daily life, I would like to make them feel like trying it by showing them a new world. It is consistent with the essence of the brand keisuke kanda.
YajimaAnd I told Keisuke, “I believe designs are made to solve problems.” There are so many people who have never worn the kimono. So I asked him to solve that problem with his design and make them wear the kimono. Then he presented Kimono Dress, as if saying, “This is my answer!” I think we needed the power of design to solve the challenge of making something that makes people feel like wearing.
KandaI couldn’t be happier if the designs of Kimono Dress could solve the problem. I think Kimono Dress was created because you believed in the power of design, Takayuki. And I would like to talk about the potential of Kimono Dress. Today, anyone can post anything using a smartphone. I would like to create something that girls can use as their weapon to express themselves and post it. It’s like I support them by giving them a weapon. In that sense, I believe the kimono has a great potential. When it comes to differentiation from other products, it is more than acceptable. I hope we could do something together with the mindset of supporting the young generation by giving the kimono as their weapon rather than preserving the tradition of the kimono.

A curveball thrown by creating something inefficient

――Does it mean you placed importance on how Kimono Dress would look when people post something wearing it?

KandaThat’s right. Maybe we shouldn’t change the shape of the kimono like that, but I wanted people to feel like using it for their Instagram or TikTok posts by making the kimono flare out at the hem and look strange in a good way and attractive. I put particular emphasis on enabling people to run and dance in it. It is something quite difficult to do in the ordinary kimono. I thought it would look impressive and powerful if people ran and danced in it in their videos.
YajimaIt is considered unacceptable if the kimono flares out at the hem. However, the shape of the traditional kimono was created as a result of making the most of the shape of the kimono fabrics and creating it efficiently. It’ okay, but I believe fashion is something inefficient in the first place. If we pursue efficiency, I think we will end up with fast fashion.
KandaYou are right. It’s all about how we create useless thigs. In that sense, Kimono Dress is inefficient and useless if we look at the extreme volume of the skirt (laughs). That is fashion.
YajimaIn addition, I think it helped a lot when you said you liked the idea of OUTDOOR KIMONO. However, OUTDOOR KIMONO is not something women can casually try. So we decided not to add an obi belt to Kimono Dress. We wanted women to style Kimono Dress with the items they had as they liked. As we have to throw a curveball to make a change while thinking about the existing kimono, I think you have given us a powerful way to do so.
KandaI think curveballs such as Kimono Dress and OUTDOOR KIMONO are no longer considered curveballs today. They are rather fastballs.
YajimaMaybe curveballs play a key role today. Diversity is important.

――Did you take diversity into consideration when you created the phrase “KIMONO DRESS with no definite answer”?

KandaHow to wear the kimono represents diversity in the first place. Western-style clothes have buttons, so the left side and the right side are joined at a fixed position. It’s like Western rationalism. But you can wear the kimono as you like. Though Western-style clothes come in various sizes such as small, medium, and large, the kimono doesn’t. I secretly think that the kimono actually suits the age of diversity.
YajimaActually, I consider the design of the kimono universal. People can wear the kimono while standing without bending over or bending their knees. That means the kimono is friendly to people whose back and legs have become weak. I think that’s the area we should work on to make a breakthrough.
KandaI see. When it comes to universal design, we men realize it feels drafty in skirts when we wear the yukata (laughs). We find it airy and highly functional. That sensation may be addictive. I’m sure we can revolutionize men’s kimono.
YajimaMost women have a fixed image of the kimono imprinted in their subconscious mind. Unlike women, men don’t. So it was easier for us to develop the men’s kimono market. It’s because they don’t feel hesitant. I would like to free women from ohashori (a fold at the waist created by tucking the excess fabric) someday.

The future they aim to create with Kimono Dress

――How do you want people to wear Kimono Dress?

KandaIt’s best for people to wear it as they like. But I think it looks cute if it is worn over a T-shirt or a blouse with a big round collar.
YajimaNon wears Kimono Dress like that in the music video. She looked cute.
KandaAnd I would like them to wear it at an outdoor music festival. I like it if a girl wears a cap and Kimono Dress over a band T-shirt.
YajimaWhat’s interesting about us Japanese people is that we update the cultures introduced from overseas. We make them into our own versions and share them to the world, and people around the world thinks, “Japan is cool.” However, we are not good at updating our own culture. We tend to think our culture is something we must preserve. It’s like we are not allowed to change what has been there all along. Everyone believes that protecting a culture is to preserve it. But I think we can protect our culture by updating it.
KandaWe both are good at updating things, so I hope we could work on something together.
YajimaLet’s do it.
KandaGirls who have already graduated from high school go to Disneyland in their high school uniforms and post some photos on Instagram. I think the kimono or yukata can be used like that.
YajimaWe’re not done yet.
KandaThat’s right. I think our journey begins from now.

Kimono Dress Product lineup

ー Gathered ー

ー Flared ー

ー Short-length flared ー