Fukuoka: Controversial Colorful Attire Makes Splash at N.Y. Fashion Week

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Miyabi Ikeda, the manager of Miyabi’s Kokura main store, speaks while flanked by costumes she presented at a fashion show in New York in Kitakyushu on Aug. 28.

KITAKYUSHU — Flamboyant attire, commonly worn by young people attending an annual coming-of-age ceremony in Kitakyushu, is a topic of conversation in the nation every year, but recently it made a splash at a fashion show in New York.

Miyabi’s Kokura main store, a rental costume shop in Kitakyushu, initially focused on bridal costumes, but about 20 years ago, it began producing distinctively designed traditional Japanese clothing for coming-of-age ceremonies such as leopard-print furisode long-sleeved kimono, haori robes and hakama pants.

Quite a few Japanese believe that coming-of-age ceremonies should be held solemnly and do not like to see clothes with such ostentatious colors and eccentric patterns and shapes in the ceremonies. The store sometimes received phone calls criticizing its clothes with such comments as “They tarnish the image of Kitakyushu” and “They are embarrassing.” However, Miyabi Ikeda, the store’s manager, has continued to design such clothes.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Young people wear attire with flamboyant designs in Kitakyushu in January 2018.

“It’s rewarding to see young people’s joyful faces,” she said.

The reputation of Miyabi’s unique attire has now spread overseas. Last December, the store received an email from a Canadian management company inviting it to showcase its attire in New York Fashion Week, one of the world’s five major fashion showcases.

In mid-September, 12 items that Ikeda designed hit the stage in New York. The items included an oiran costume — a flashy furisode and high geta worn by high-ranking courtesans in the past — and glittering haori and hakama with red and yellow sequins. When Ikeda appeared on the stage at the end of the show, she waved to the audience and bowed with tears in her eyes.

The Japan News

“My heart was almost broken many times because of the criticism, but I was trained by the young people’s expectant orders, and that led me to create my works today,” Ikeda said.

Kitakyushu sees some of the flashiest costumes in the country at its coming-of-age ceremonies, and the outfits have received negative coverage on the news. For the ceremony in 2016, the city government had asked those planning to attend the ceremony to attend “in proper attire” on its website.

But now, Kitakyushu Mayor Kazuhisa Takeuchi has taken notice of locally created flamboyant attire, which has drawn international attention, and expressed his intention to take advantage of such clothes to promote the city.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kitakyushu Mayor Kazuhisa Takeuchi wears one of Miyabi Ikeda’s costumes at the Kitakyushu City Hall on Sept. 26.

Takeuchi received a visit from Ikeda, following the designer’s return to Japan. He tried on a costume worn by a model in the show and told her: “I feel that the spirit of Kitakyushu’s diversity and rebelliousness is embodied in the costumes. I hope you continue to amaze the world.”