INDONESIA: Kimono Meets Batik

    A project called "One World in Kimono" is underway to design new kimonos representing all countries and regions by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

    Among the kimonos completed so far is an especially vivid one influenced by Indonesian tradition.

    There are centuries of craftsmanship behind the piece, designed by Shigeo Okajima. He's president of Okaju, one of the oldest kimono companies in Japan.

    Kyoto kimonos are known for their soft colors, shading and fine lines. But nowadays, vivid colors have more appeal to youngsters.

    Okajima searched through his company's art collection for inspiration for this project.

    He found it in a rare antique batik that was made in Java. Its powerful colors haven't faded over the centuries.

    "I cannot forget the excitement I felt when I first saw those textiles. Their vibrant colors have remained in my mind ever since, and I've always dreamt of visiting the country," he says.

    The town of Pekalongan has a long history as an international port. It is also known for the quality of its batik.

    Okajima visited the town to meet a renowned batik craftsman, Iman.

    Iman warmly invited him to the studio.

    Batik is made by drawing patterns with molten wax. The lines are used to separate the dyes.

    It's usually done on cotton, and Iman says it was a challenge to adapt the technique to kimono silk. "You need to be constantly careful about the conditions of the wax when you apply it to the silk."

    Iman says slight differences of heat and maturity of the wax affect the quality of the garment, especially in the process of dyeing kimono.

    The two master designers work together on new ideas.

    "The quality of the kimono all depends on you!" Okajima tells Iman jokingly.

    Iman leaves the dyeing for Okajima's team.

    The traditional Kyoto colors come out with a new vividness.

    After half a year of intense work, the "Indonesia" kimono is finally complete. The intricate batik patterns created by Iman cover the entire fabric. The result is a powerful contrast caused by the 2 techniques: Japanese-style gradation and vibrant colors set off by batik lines.

    Women viewing the kimono are excited. "I want to try it," "The designs and colors around the neck are cute," they say.

    Okajima is proud of his success.

    "We always pursue innovation. It will be wonderful if this creation will lead to a new tradition. That's what I've sought in my career," he says.

    Okajima says he will continue trying to expand the horizons of kimono-making, and keep working with Iman to bring kimonos to the world.