To the Japanese, kimono have a life of their own. For thousands of years men, women and children have worn the garment with few changes to the basic design. Today, they are usually saved for formal occasions, like weddings, funerals and holidays.
However, once the original owner is finished with it, the kimono is often donated to a Shinto temple. The Japanese don't traditionally wear used clothing, unless they were familiar with the previous owner.
"They believe that natural fibers absorb the wearer's energy, so there really is no market for used kimono in Japan," says local designer and business owner Judith Daley, who has dedicated the last four years of her life to the study of kimono.
It's from Shinto temple sales, and her connections in the overseas market, that the 68-year-old Daley and her business colleague, Veronique Loggins, obtain the most authentic of fabrics for their Wabi Sabi Wares clothing brand. On Saturday, you'll be able to see their work at the sixth annual Earth Month Fashion Show, benefiting the Rocky Mountain Field Institute. Not onstage, where the focus is on wearable recycled goods created by five salons, along with the Greenie Awards and music and dance performances. Instead, ushers, presenters and other ancillary personnel will don Wabi Sabi's refabbed kimono.
If you go, don't expect to see anything from, say, Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado. Once Daley and Loggins import the garments to Daley's Old Colorado City home, they get to work dismantling them, thread by hand-stitched thread.
"What we've done is come up with a number of original designs for the modern woman," says Daley. "Veronique is amazing at being able to read fabric and how it will behave. So we basically rip it apart and suggest changes and play with it until we have something that we really love.
"I've always been really taken with the quality of Asian art," Daley goes on, "especially by the artisanship of things that are meant to be used by people in the practical sense. The amount of attention that goes into everything from things in the kitchen to clothing is just extraordinary."
Daley and Loggins' work has traveled all over the United States, and is available in museum gift shops like that at the Denver Art Museum. Soon, items will become available for online purchase at wabisabiwares.com.