From Kitakyushu to the Catwalk: Miyabi

Before their NYC debut, Miyabi was known in Kitakyushu and throughout Japan for their vibrant and edgy kimono ensembles that started a cultural phenomenon in their home city characterized by unique, daring designs that blend both traditional and very modern, individualized aesthetic.


Miyabi’s New York City debut took place in the November of 2022, at Globus Washitsu. The event was called Kimono Rebellion; an exhibition of some of her most elaborate, striking and rebellious designs hosted by Stephen Globus and curated by costume historian Spree Kingyo. As a long time admirer or their work, I was thrilled when I was given the chance to assist and see the space transform into a jaw-dropping experience of fashion forward thinking and ingenuity first hand. For me, it was like meeting the rock stars of the kimono world.

Back in university, I examined trends in the development of kimono and what it takes for traditional garments to stand the test of time. One factor is this; it must resonate with the spirit and aesthetic of modern wearers, while maintaining the elements that have solidified it is place in tradition. Miyabi’s designs do just this, by not only creating eye popping designs you won’t find anywhere else, but by making local artisans an integral part of the process. For this reason, you can expect the highest level of quality and garments which maintain what one might call the spirit of kimono. Her brand embraces change while celebrating and honoring tradition – and the hands that built that tradition. Her blend of classic and tradition moves kimono forward into a new era; helping to encourage the survival of traditional industries into the next generation by reviving interest.

Part of what makes Miyabi’s brand so unique, is the ability to allow the wearer to share and celebrate their own personal, modern identity through these garments. Kimono Rebellion heavily emphasized a trend amongst today’s youth, which challenges gender norms typically associated with the strict culture of kimono. This trend, in the context of the kimono world, has become almost synonymous with Miyabi. We see men in striking colors and floral patterns and women in montsuki, adorned with rhinestone, fur and feathers.

Miyabi states: I think it’s natural for this day and age. I think it’s very interesting when women take masculine elements and men take feminine elements. I think the mixing of the two can create a very good thing. 

Spree Kingyo comments: I really do hope it will help get young people, more young people engaged with kimono because kimono has this kind of stuffy image of motherly, outdated, stiff, strict rules and many modern Japanese people do not feel it represents what they are, who they are or their tastes and their style. So they aren’t really interested in wearing kimono. But if they see that kimono can really be a rebellious outfit, it can portray their individual existence and image gender role, for example, too… that’s a very important aspect of identify I think. And if young people, especially, see that kimono can do all that, and it isn’t stuffy and outdated… I think it will help kimono culture to keep evolving and keep changing and staying alive… and that’s I think a really really important aspect of this brand and these outfits. Especially also these gender expressions, because the way the genes indicators are mixed in these outfits; it’s pretty outstanding to see and read for a Japanese person with a Japanese background who knows what all of these things actually mean, then you will see that they are not just male or female. They create a very nuanced persona and they represent the individual wearer in a way that is well, possible, if you use them in a non-traditional way. Usually you would only see one or the other on one wearer, but here you see they are just freely mixed and they create an absolutely individual identity. That’s just so fantastic to se that done so brazenly, and openly with so much joy. 

Spree and Miyabi comment, in depth, regarding the brand’s inspiration, their commitment to tradition in the wake of changing tastes and the brand’s impact on kimono culture for artisans and wearers in the video above.

As we all packed away the exhibition, Stephen Globus closed it with these words to Miyabi: My message to Miyabi is to really keep doing what you are doing. Be creative, but don’t listen to the rules. As proof of this, you have achieved great success in sales and rentals, especially among the younger generation who are your customers. I am very happy that your brand, which started with one small store in Kyushu, now has stores all over Japan, including Honshu, Chiba, Osaka, and Ginza. So please continue to show your creativity. Also, my message to her is “Thank you so much for supporting traditional textile artists’ business. Many of them would not be in business if it were not for all of you who have made such wonderful clothes.


But the end of Kimono Rebellion was not the end of Miyabi’s story here in NYC, for just this past November she was honored with the privilege of showcasing her pieces in New York Fashion Week with the Global Fashion Collective. She spent over 6 months, tirelessly creating new garments and even collaborating with the famous compose Yoshihiro Ike to create scores to accompany the models down the runway. The show was met with resounding praise and global recognition, reaching audiences in countries all across the world through international news outlets. I was so excited to assist backstage, as a helping hand and interpreter. I am so grateful, not only for the experience, but for their faith in me in that role. 

I always dreamed of being backstage at New York Fashion Week, but I never dreamed I would be backstage with one of my favorite designers. She and her team accomplished something nothing short of extraordinary and I can think of no one more deserving of this success in the fashion industry. So from this point in this article, I would like to link back to some of the news features and articles featuring Miyabi’s triumphant show!

Elle Features Miyabi: Global Fashion Collective Primavera Estate 2024 [View Webpage]

Article from Nishi Nihon Shinbun


Upon returning, Miyabi was welcomed and interviewed by the mayor of Kitakyushu, who donned one of her stunning pieces as they discussed her experience in New York Fashion Week, which Miyabi describes as being “… like a dream.” From their inception to this day, the road to success has been marked with triumph and challenges alike.

Recalling the rebellious nature of Miyabi’s garments and the wearers that we explored at Kimono Rebellion, the brand and city have on occasion come under scrutiny for their unorthodox coming of age ceremonies that some believe reflect poorly on the city. Contrasting these criticisms, they reflect upon and emphasize the reception of New Yorkers, who clearly recognized, admired and understood Miyabi’s vision to add modern sensibility and style to an otherwise very strict and orthodox garment. The mayor himself agreeing, that the phenomenon that Miyabi and the people of Kitakyushu gave rise to is a genuine art – praised and recognized around the world. He believes that by doing what she believes in, Miyabi is changing the world and giving courage to today’s youth.

Their home city and of course, their second home of New York, raise a glass to Miyabi – a brand whose vision transcends boundaries and shouts a voice of rebellion for all to hear.

Fun fact: The tiger head the mayor is holding was made in collaboration with traditional craftsman; who, moved by Miyabi’s passion, helped her make it a reality.

NHK Presents: Designer Reports Back on Flashy Costumes Shown in NY [Read Article] [Watch]



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