It’s certainly not the first time the West has borrowed Eastern styles — the obi belt that was all over the runways a year ago — but a number of the fashion and beauty looks inspired by the new film “Memoirs of a Geisha” are quite literal in their translation.
Banana Republic launched a line of kimono-style, sash-tie tops and dresses. Fresh, a skin-care and cosmetics company, has its own “Geisha” line that touts rice- and sake-based products. Icon, an accessories manufacturer, printed actual film scenes onto purses and cosmetic bags.
It won’t take long for moviegoers to see why U.S. companies are eager to bring the luxurious and lush looks to these shores: The outfits that play a major role in “Geisha” are stunning, and the actresses who wear them even more so.
“Geisha” costume designer Colleen Atwood explains that the prints, patterns and colors on the kimonos she used were bigger and bolder than the typical, more subtle Japanese aesthetic, but the 250 hand-finished costumes captured the richness of the garments and the important tradition they represent.
As soon as she was hired, she made a “cultural trip” to Japan with director Rob Marshall, whom she also collaborated with on 2002’s “Chicago.” She visited the University of Tokyo’s fashion school; the city of Kyoto, where “Geisha” takes place; and with kimono makers themselves, who are upholding 500-year family traditions.
Among her observations:
—A kimono’s V-neck is very flattering. “It is such a pretty type of clothing. I can imagine people liking it and it’s very wearable.”
—The palette is basically foreign to the West, embracing colors that big fashion companies typically shy away from, including orange and purple. “The perception of color in Japan is amazing.”
—Very few people wore the platform wooden sandals known as getas. But, notes Atwood, they’re not as hard to wear as one might think. The movie’s stars first practiced in flatter versions and then stepped up to higher platforms when needed to complement the elongated silhouette of the fanciest kimonos.
“I’ve noticed a definite presence and interest in Japanese fashion in the West but nothing overt yet — but I think there will be. I’m waiting to see it,” Atwood says.
She adds: “I think the silhouette of the kimono costume will become engraved in people’s minds. ... I do think there’ll be lots of red accents in the near future.”