by Hoai Nam
Yoko Ishikawa and her husband first visited Hoi An in 2006, but it wasn't until five years later that they decided to settle in the central tourism hub.
|Try it on: Ishikawa plans to make traditional Vietnamese ao dai with special silk usually used to make kimonos.
The Japanese woman, who owns a collection of 100 antique kimono in Tokyo, opened a kimono gallery called Ki-nu near the Japanese Bridge, which is home to the latest designs fashioned from old kimono.
The 40-year-old woman, who studied international relations at Syracuse University in New York, creates vintage fashion that has a practical day-to-day use.
"I've collected nearly 100 antique kimono from all over my country, the oldest of which is over 200 years old. However, today's modern lifestyle in Japan prevents young people from wearing traditional dress on a daily basis, and young Japanese only wear the kimono on special occasions," Ishikawa explained.
"Although I'm not a professional designer, I dismantle vintage kimono to create items for daily use such as wallets, handbags, scarves and t-shirts," she said.
Yoko designs women's clothing from old kimono and employs tailors in Hoi An to produce fashionable outfits.
She also transforms yukata, a cotton kimono, into shirts.
"Yoko designs the majority of items on display in the gallery, but she also displays original kimono. Wallets, handbags and scarves made from silk and cotton are a favourite among tourists," said staff-member Duong Thi Thao.
"She also transforms obi (kimono belts) into colourful handbags or handkerchiefs, and the embroidery is used for T-shirts."
Yoko said she didn't open the gallery for profit alone, but to make a cultural bridge linking Hoi An and Japan.
|Building bridges: Yoko Ishikawa has opened a kimono gallery called Ki-nu near the Japanese Bridge in Hoi An.— VNS Photos Hoai Nam
She said she hoped more Japanese people would visit Hoi An because the city still retained some Japanese culture and architecture from a few hundred years ago.
Ishikawa also participates in cultural activities such as the annual Japanese and Vietnamese Cultural Day.
Last year, she organised various events such as a kimono fashion show, a yukata try on, and a charity concert for people from northern Japan who suffered from the earthquake and tsunami.
Ishikawa plans to make the traditional Vietnamese ao dai (traditional long dress) using the same silk as the kimono.
"It's one for the future. I'm still thinking about it. The kimono is quite different to the ao dai in terms of design and technique. It would be amazing if I successfully transform kimono into ao dai," Ishikawa speculated.
She said she would like to hold a street fashion show with ao dai made from kimono silk in Hoi An one day.
The Japanese woman, who married a Frenchman, said her family enjoyed a happy life in their home away home.
"My two-year-old son listens to four languages – Japanese, French, English and Vietnamese. My husband and I speak in English, while my babysitter talks to him in Vietnamese," she explained.
She said her son was happy in his new home.
"He is very curious. He also loves to eat rice. My husband and I take him to cultural performances in Hoi An each week," Ishikawa said.
She said she would call for help from international organisations to improve a section of the Hoai River near the Japanese Bridge which has been heavily polluted. — VNS