Secondhand Kimono Recycled into New Clothing

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A suit jacket is displayed with other articles of clothing made from secondhand kimono in Fukuoka City.

KITAKYUSHU — Old kimono with vivid colors and various designs are getting a second life by being crafted into men’s suit jackets, shirts and other articles of clothing. The clothes were on display for a limited time at a department store in Fukuoka City.

Far East Fabric is a Kitakyushu-based startup that was established in 2020. It’s tackling the task of expanding sales channels of products at home and abroad that are manually recycled from secondhand kimono by craftsmen.

The fabric of secondhand kimono is made using Oshima-tsumugi silk, a kind of fabric produced with traditional craft techniques in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The establishment of the company was triggered by a used goods auction. The company’s founder noticed that there was a large number of kimono that nobody wanted to buy. The founder wondered how to utilize the unsold ones. As they were pondering this problem, they became inspired by aloha shirts seen in a magazine and came up with the idea of converting them into men’s jackets.

The fabric used in kimono is known for being inelastic, and thus recycling them was not easy.

But the company’s craftsmen carefully sewed the collar and other curved parts, and as a result succeeded in producing unique products from secondhand kimono.

Far East Fabric sells products mainly via the internet, but also at its store and during department store events in Kitakyushu. Currently, it has more than 1,300 clients.

The company said that the range of clients has expanded to include people in traditional entertainment worlds, such as rakugo and kabuki.

“It is believed that nationwide, there are 800 million unused kimono,” said Hideaki Niijima, a board director of Far East Fabric. “We want to boost the recycled goods markets and convey the significance of kimono to the rest of the world.”