What inspired you to start a fashion brand specializing in silk kimonos, particularly in the UAE?
I was primarily inspired by craftsmanship and art during my life and studies in Asian countries such as China, and Japan. With a master’s degree in Asian Studies, focusing on Chinese and Japanese cultures and their relations, I developed a deep appreciation for the artistry, history and symbolism of traditional garments, like silk kimonos. Moreover, my passion for photography played a significant role. Initially, my brand began as an art and photography project several years ago, aimed at showcasing the beauty of silk kimonos, elucidating the meanings behind the intricate patterns, and exploring modern styling techniques. This fusion of cultural immersion, academic knowledge, and artistic expression led me to the establishment of my brand, specializing in silk kimonos, specially carefully chosen to resonate with the tastes of the Gulf market.”

Silk kimonos are often associated with Japanese culture. How do you blend traditional Japanese styles with the fashion tastes of the Dubai market? 

These days, if you search the word “kimono” online, you’ll likely come across various designs, such as front-open cardigans, kaftans, and robes. While they’re labeled as kimonos, they often look quite different from the traditional garment. The term “kimono” has indeed transformed to include a wide range of styles beyond its original Japanese roots. But authentic silk kimonos can be seamlessly blended into various modern styles. If you enjoy wearing modern kimono garments, having an authentic one is a good option. This allows you to style it according to your taste, ensuring that your outfit reflects your unique personality and preferences. 

I’m not trying to rediscover something already known; Japanese kimonos made their way to Europe in the 19th century through trade with Western countries. Paintings from that time often depict wealthy ladies wearing silk kimonos, inspiring artists with Japanese motifs. Wearing these loose and ‘exotic’ garments with accessories in a style of that era made the kimono a symbol of risqué or bohemian fashion. Artists like Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, William Merritt Chase, Anders Leonard Zorn, and many others drew inspiration from Japanese art in their work.

When it comes to fitting into the Dubai market’s preferences, the growing variety of styles and cuts for abayas has made it easier to introduce new fashion concepts to Arab customers. Perhaps 15 years ago, this would have been challenging, but nowadays, more and more people are open to trying out fresh fashion ideas. I noticed fast growing local brands suddenly turned towards Asian aesthetics in their abaya ideas, including introducing details like pankou knots which are a key element of the traditional Chinese qipao dress, or doing kimono cuts with materials from local markets. Though I genuinely believe that experiencing an authentic kimono is an unparalleled indulgence that everyone should try at least once.

I hope that every woman will indulge in the timeless allure of elegance, artistry and proven quality by experiencing the wearing of silk-touch kimonos. – Yuliana Magdych

Why have you selected silk? What makes it suitable for the weather in the UAE? 

Silk holds a unique place as one of the most ancient materials known to mankind. Its history stretches back thousands of years. The process of silk production, known as sericulture, was closely guarded by the Chinese for centuries, making silk a symbol of luxury, wealth, and prestige. Firstly, even a garment made of several layers of silk remains incredibly breathable. Its natural fibers allow air to circulate freely, preventing heat from getting trapped against the skin. This breathability helps to regulate body temperature, keeping the wearer cool even in sweltering heat. Moreover, silk possesses excellent moisture-wicking properties. This means that it can absorb moisture, such as sweat, from the skin and quickly evaporate it, helping to keep the body dry and comfortable. Unlike synthetic fabrics, which can trap moisture and lead to discomfort, silk actively works to manage sweat and maintain a fresh feeling. Additionally, silk’s texture contributes to its comfort in hot weather. It feels soft and gentle against the skin, reducing friction and irritation, which can be especially beneficial when temperatures rise.

Do you think kimonos are a perfect blend of modest fashion and sophistication? 

Definitely. The word “kimono” originates from the Japanese words “ki” (meaning “wear”) and “mono” (meaning “thing”), collectively translating to “a thing to wear.”The word “abaya” refers to a loose, robe-like garment worn by women. Both words have the same basic definition:  a loose, wide-sleeved robe. Same comes to the kaftan definition which typically have a relaxed silhouette, with wide sleeves and a loose, flowing fit, with embellishments like embroidery, beads, or sequins and can be worn for various occasions, from casual to formal, like a kimono.  As I mentioned above, nowadays across the Gulf you may see women wearing so-called “open abayas” in a variety of colors , patterns and designs. Blending these ideas lead us to the creation of “kimono abayas” and “kimono kaftans. By adapting the kimono in this way, we create a modern and sophisticated interpretation of the abaya style, suitable for the Gulf region. The kimono has enchanted the West with its beauty, inspiring designers and artists. Now, it’s time to share its elegance with art and design lovers in the Middle East. 

Where can fashionistas wear kimonos? Are they reserved for special occasions, or can they be worn every day as well?

The kimono is indeed a versatile garment that transcends cultural boundaries and occasions. Its adaptability allows it to serve various purposes, from everyday wear to formal events, making it a truly universal piece of clothing. For everyday use, a modest and plain-colored kimono can offer comfort and elegance, providing a simple yet stylish look. For special occasions and evening gatherings, a luxurious kimono embellished with intricate embroidery or even 24k gold hand-paintings can make a bold and striking statement. These lavish designs transform the kimono into a stunning work of wearable art. And here’s the fascinating aspect: since kimonos are often regarded as works of art in their own right, they’re ideal attire for visiting art exhibitions or attending art talks.It’s like wearing a masterpiece while appreciating other artworks! Kimonos bring timeless elegance through the centuries, with their versatility and understated sophistication cementing their status as iconic fashion staples. It’s much like Coco Chanel’s “the little black dress”, which enduring charm ensures its place in the fashion world for centuries to come.

Arina Real Japan, antiquarian, Kimonostyle.ae brand curator, based in Japan. Arina chooses her knowledge to select the most exquisite top quality kimonos

What makes your brand different?

We have a professional team based in Japan. They assist us in selecting the most exquisite silks, brocades, and other silk blend materials in kimonos. This direct access to authentic Japanese textiles ensures that our products are of the highest quality and truly embody the essence of traditional craftsmanship. Moreover, we have antiquarian and curator Arina, who is based in Japan and carefully curates our selection of kimonos not only for their style but also for their artistic value, ensuring that each piece is a work of wearable art. Among our kimonos, you will find historically unique specimens in perfect condition, some of which are over 100 years old. This is not just clothing; these are valuable artifacts, each carrying a unique history and the beauty of centuries-old craftsmanship. There are significant differences between modern synthetic kimonos and the authentic premium vintage pieces we deal with. All of our kimonos are handcrafted by Japanese designers mostly from Tokyo and Kyoto.  They infuse their expertise and creativity into every stitch. The intricate design details, such as hand-painted motifs, delicate embroidery, and traditional dyeing techniques, ensure that each kimono is one-of-a-kind. Each piece is unique, making it impossible to find identical items.

How do you recommend styling kimonos? 

For those opting to wear a kimono as an abaya, I recommend selecting one that is sufficiently long for adequate coverage, akin to the length of a traditional abaya. Opt for colors such as black, brown, dark green, or dark purple for a modest and elegant look. Another stylish option is to wear the kimono open over a modest lighter shade dress. This creates a chic layered look while still maintaining modesty and elegance. Definitely you can go for the option of wrap-around style. Traditionally Obi sash is used as the belt but the modern way to wear it, but in abaya style – use only thin obijime silk belt for more elegant look. Depending on the preferences it can be combined with corsets, leather belts, skirt belts, metal belts. It will create a more fitted and structured look. 

Accessorize: Consider adding a headscarf (hijab) and modest accessories to complete the look and maintain modesty according to personal or cultural preferences. Plain color and floral motif kimonos are ideal choices for wearing a scarf or hijab.  If you go to an evening event don’t forget to add to your look exquisite accessories like silk brocade kimono bags. Crafted  in Japan from luxurious silk brocade fabric, these bags feature intricate patterns and motifs inspired by Japanese craftsmanship and designs such as cherry blossoms, cranes, and waves. Whether paired with a silk kimono or worn as a statement piece with modern attire, silk brocade kimono bags add a touch of elegance and charm to any ensemble, making them coveted accessories for fashion enthusiasts and admirers.

For ladies who prefer a more Western style, the kimono offers endless possibilities for modern and trendy outfits. In places like modern Tokyo, it’s common to see young women rocking the kimono in creative ways that blend traditional and contemporary fashion. One popular trend is to pair the kimono with leggings, tops, t-shirts, or even shorts underneath. By mixing and matching different pieces, women can express their individuality and create unique ensembles that reflect their personal style. It also can be a part of boudoir look for the special evenings. Whether it’s layering a kimono over casual streetwear for a day out with friends or dressing it up for a night on the town, the versatility of the kimono was, is and always will be a beloved fashion attire for the modern woman. 

Who is your client? Describe the woman who wears your kimonos. 

Regardless of her background or lifestyle, the woman who wears my kimonos is someone who appreciates the artistry and craftsmanship behind each garment. She understands that wearing a kimono is more than just putting on clothing – it’s a way of embracing diversity, and expressing oneself through fashion. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in retro and vintage styles in the fashion world. As part of this trend, more and more people are drawn to the timeless elegance of silk kimonos. We have both western and Arab admirers for kimonos from UAE, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. We have cases for styling kimonos for Emirati milcha parties or Eid celebrations, as well as public meetings and private events. While many clients have a clear vision of what they’re looking for and the occasions they need a kimono for, there are also those who appreciate guidance in choosing the perfect piece. Artists, painters, public figures, bloggers, and models are among those who often find themselves falling in love with silk kimonos. In my view, every woman deserves to indulge in the luxurious sensation of wearing a genuine silk kimono. It’s not just about clothing; it’s about experiencing a blend of luxury, sophistication, and artistic expression that is truly unparalleled.

What is the process of your photo shoots? Do you do your own photography?

Yes, I also handle photography and styling. If I have ideas in mind, and I select models who perfectly fit the vision I have for my shots. Some models are seasoned professionals, while others are just starting their careers in Dubai. Sometimes, inspiration strikes unexpectedly; I might encounter a hostess at a restaurant, and instantly know how she would complement my art project. But I have a reliable team of models and makeup artists who collaborate with me on photoshoots for new collections.

For my brand, I specialize in casual glamour, offering trending ideas that appeal to those who appreciate this style. Additionally, I frequently engage in fashion shoots and collaborate with other brands, always remaining open to new opportunities and conversations.

What is your goal for 2024 for your brand?

Of course its expanding market reach, launching new kimono collections, strengthening brand recognition, enhancing sustainability awareness as well as fostering collaborations with magazines, exhibitions and creative people. 

Discover the wearable art by following Yuliana on IG @kimonostyle.ae