Project Runway… or Nah?

By Zoe Pham

Forget Project Runway or the overwhelming flash of the American catwalk; we stood in silence for 10 minutes watching a kimono fashion show. 

I was excited to see any fashion, however traditional, in Japan. Although the kimonos would look nothing like the glamorous fashion of the Harajuku district, the kimono as a template allowed for elegant, yet simple designs. 

The textile factory we visited created traditional Japanese kimonos using manually operated looms. We fawned over the shops on the second level filled with artisanal souvenirs and trinkets, and impressive kimonos of various gorgeous colors, patterns, and materials. But on the third level, we all met up to a room half-filled with milling shoppers and a stage filled with lights to watch the kimono fashion show.
Each model had their own theme, with colored lights and music to match. The models would walk out to the front and sides of the stage, pose, and turn around. The one male model didn’t pose or smile like the women; he just swaggered along the stage with a weirdly neutral expression and an almost smile. Maybe he was in pain from being forced to do this? Maybe he was trying to keep his cool, or he somehow got talked into doing it, or that’s just how male models are taught to walk in Japan. 

My favorite part was how one model in platform sandals slowly turned to show off her pink, wave-patterned kimono and flowered bow along to a samba version of “Smells like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Our whole group kind of looked at each other, thinking “this sounds very familiar…” and I almost laughed when I realized where the song came from. 

The whole time, the audience took pictures and videos in silence. In the end, no one made a sound. I don’t know if everyone felt awkward or unsure if they should clap, or if it was a cultural thing. Ms. Chapman and Ms. Newton both liked the black kimono, adorned with a peacock that shone silver in the light. My personal favorite was the “gaudiest” of them all, a sparkling kimono with green and white swirls, accessorized with a bright white flower in the model’s hair. 

It was cool to see how different this fashion show was from the televised flashy catwalks from the U.S., and the most interesting part was that no one clapped at the end.


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