Interview- Takafumi Tsuruta, for a more inclusive fashion

Vanishing frontiers, sources of inspiration and identification, are – just to name a few –  overused references making headlines in the name of fashion; in times when the industry claims to be more diverse than ever, there’s still a lot of stigma about what’s fashionable and what’s not, what’s worthy of attention or not, and more importantly who are the new role models representing those who not long ago had little or no representation at all by the exclusive fashion industry. We see this with the rise of the plus size fashion or transgender models hitting the runway for example…

But is the industry putting on the table topics few people still dare to approach? While most labels out there preach “fashion is for everyone”, it’s not enough with redundant versions of the once controversial Benetton ads, truth is we often forget that people with disabilities and survivors of severe illness need a voice of inclusion apart from been seen as a niche market. Fortunately, there are young voices exploring new ways to channel fashion with a purpose and a significative message.

Last year while in Tokyo covering fashion week in that city, I had the pleasure of meeting a talented designer whose remarkable work makes him one of Japan’s new agents of change. In between shows, I ran into Takafumi Tsuruta; at first glance his bold sense of fashion made him stand out and was great material for my street style coverage,  however it was his gentle and polite attitude which made me want to chat a bit more.

His brand TENBO is all about celebrating everyone and truly embracing diversity – his muses aren’t mannequins but everyday people, everyday survivors; his concept is quirky yet fashionable and indeed inclusive, and today I’m happy to share his brief  interview….

What was the motivation to create your brand Tenbo?

To all the people of the world…Tenbo offers fashion with zero prejudice—clothing that warms people’s hearts and puts smiles on their faces regardless of age, nationality or gender. I’ve noticed that in our society, there is surprisingly little clothing that is both “fashionable” and “functional.” Clothing like that for care workers and people with physical disabilities puts functionality first. It isn’t fashionable and doesn’t seem to include many options in terms of design. Tenbo is based on the concept that “Fashion should be something that everyone can enjoy.” I take this to be my mission as a designer. I also really want to promote clothing that anyone can wear to feel stylish, and that’s why I launched the Tenbo brand.

Tenbo debuted its collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week TOKYO in March 2015. Along with professional models, we featured people with disabilities as models to show off designs that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of physical ability. Our runway show made a big splash, not just at the event, but worldwide. Tenbo aims to be a brand that uses fashion to spread smiles and happiness around the world.


What are your key elements of interest in your creation process?

There are lots of hints for people with disabilities. For example, there are no clothes that can be worn fashionable even in a wheelchair! The elderly want clothes that can easily detach the buttons. Everyone’s opinion and need is an element of design, and that inspires me!

Tokyo fashion designer

What does TENBO stand for?

Tenbo is a Swahili word meaning “elephant.” Like the elephant, Tenbo aspires to be a brand that is gentle and kind, yet can take a brave stand when needed and has the strength to protect others. The Brand icon is a character called Yomi-chan. Skull motif. This skull is a symbol of death, death is intended to be welcomed beautifully and gently rather than feared. 


The ever-present elements of your brand

Fashionability, functionality, happy, fun, strong, beautiful. There are a lot of possibilities that can make fashion a happier experience.


It might sound cliché, but how do you approach the importance of inclusive fashion?

Fashion brands around the world are targeted only to selected people. Fashion usually is focused on women in their 20s and 30s. I think it is important from a business standpoint, however I would like to everyone to enjoy fashion, regardless of age, nationality, gender, or disability. I want my concepts and designs to be for the world, I think that my idea is natural, I want to be in an era when inclusive is said to be reasonable.

Your approach is global, but being a Japanese brand how much of that DNA can we find in TENBO?

Japanese elements are in all our designs, this is the constant in Tenbo. I always incorporate elements of kimono. Kimono can look very elegant. I mix Japanese clothing and elements of other eastern and western clothes.


In these days of the so-called fashion forward, how do you keep things interesting and now? 

Rather than seeing clothes, there is an answer if you look at the heart of the model. There are no two exact people, so there are as many different designs and concepts in my drawers as there are different people, well maybe not quite so many, we evolve the brand just like so many aspects of life evolve.

 Last but not least, what’s your message to other new designers?

Fashion should make an impression, be true to your ideas and concepts, aim to create what you believe in.

 For more info and updates about Tenbo follow via Instagram or visit their website

Thanks for your visit!

Images via Tenbo

Kimono – Between Tradition and Fashion

In its evolution fashion has gone through countless transitions, and at times as an industry the race is on to find new horizons, parallel to this, other ancient aesthetics transcend time, prevailing in the current scenario in pure form or as inspiration: the kimono, a japanese icon, is one of those legendary garments that beyond its traditional context shows its fashion potential is not fully explored yet.

From the western perspective it is easy to have limited ideas about it as purely cultural japanese attire, almost as if it is no longer in use, just something worn by the few geishas Japan still has, but in my recent visit to Tokyo I got a closer look not just into its contemporary fashion, but this conspicuous dressing element and its relevance in Japan’s modern society.

En su evolución  la moda ha atravesado por innumerables transiciones y en tiempos en que como industria cursa una afanosa cacería por nuevos horizontes, paralelamente algunos esquemas de estética secular trascienden el discurrir del tiempo, filtrandose o prevaleciendo en el escenario actual, en forma pura o como inspiracion; el Kimono, ícono del vestir japonés es una de ellas. Una legendaria prenda que mas allá de su contexto tradicional muestra que su potencial como recurso de moda aún no ha sido agotado.

Desde la perspectiva occidental es apenas entendible dar limitadas asociaciones al Kimono, como que si bien es un elemento del vestir tradicional en Japón, esta en desuso, o que es solo el ajuar llevado por las escasas geishas que aún se cuentan en dicho país. En mi reciente visita a Tokyo pude dar una mirada cercana no solo a su moda y usos contemporaneos, sino a este conspicuo referente del vestir y su relevancia en la sociedad moderna

A  bit of history…

Originally the word “kimono” refered to clothing in general but recently this word more specifically refers to traditional Japanese clothing, the Kimono as we know it today came into being in the Heian period, from the 8th to 12th centuries. As Kimonos gradually became more popular Japanese people began paying closer attention to colours and colour combinations, these often representing seasons and political classes. From the Kamakura (1192-1338) and Muromachi (1338-1573) periods brightly coloured kimonos became the norm amongst men and women. The Edo period (1603-1868) saw Japan ruled by the Tokugawa warrior clan with different parts of the country ruled by different lords and samurais with rivals identified by the colours and patterns of their uniforms, consisiting of three parts, a kimono, a sleeveless garment called a kamishimo worn over the kimono and a hakama, a trouser like split skirt.

Un poco de historia

Originalmente la palabra “kimono” se refería a la ropa en general pero reciente y mas especificamente se refiere a la ropa tradicional japonesa: como lo conocemos hoy surge en el período Hehian del siglo VIII al XII. Al hacerse mas populares los kimonos, los japoneses comenzaron a prestar mas atención a los colores y combinaciones, que a menudo representaba las estaciones y las clases sociales y políticas. Desde el Kamakura (1192 – 1338) y Muromachi (1338 – 1868) los kimonos en intensidad cromatica fueron la regla entre hombres y mujeres. Durante el período Edo (1603-1868) Japón estuvo regido por el clan guerrero Tokugawa con diferentes partes del pais bajo el mando de diferentes “lords” y samurais cuyos rivales se identificaban por los colores y patrones de los uniformes, consistentes de tres partes, el kimono, una pieza sin mangas llamada kamishimo llevada debajo del kimono y un hakama, o especie de falda con abertura.


The art of wearing a Kimono..

Considered a piece of art (if made by skillful hands and exquisite materials), the nature of kimono undoubtedly played its part in shaping the mannerisms of japanese women in past times, and even now it embodies reverence and modesty yet an enchanting mysticism that demands mastery and finesse from oneself in this constrictive garment.


Is the use of the kimono still popular? Although locals embraced western influences the Kimono kept its status and remains the ultimate dress at important events: Tokyo Fashion Week was an epicentre where progessive trends on the runway contrasted with the use of the kimono, especially among the young crowd which presents a positive forecast in regards to its perpetuation.

El arte de vestir un Kimono

Considerado a una obra de arte ( si fabricado con excepcional destreza y materiales excelsos ) la esencia del Kimono indudablemente moldeó los manerismos de las mujeres japonesas en la antigüedad y aún a quienes engalana en la actualidad;   una investidura de reverencia y recato pero a la vez de un fascinante misticismo, que demanda destrezas y cierta actitud para conducirse con gracia en el constrictivo ajuar.


En la practica, aún son populares los kimonos? Aunque los locales adoptaron la indumentaria occidentalizada, el kimono ocupa un importante lugar en los afectos de muchos  y no ha perdido su estatus siendo la prenda por excelencia en eventos solemnes e importantes; Tokyo Fashion Week por ejemplo fue un epicentro en donde las progresivas tendencias contrastaron con el uso del kimono, especialmente entre las asistentes mas jóvenes lo que supone un panorama positivo para su permanencia como via de moda.

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With all its history and concept surrounding this attire, no wonder why Kimonos have devoted lovers around the globe who embrace it as a style statement or simply as a garment of cult.

Con toda su historia, linaje y ciertamente atractivo estetico, no resulta sorpresa que los Kimonos tengan devotos admiradores alrededor del mundo quienes los adoptan como declaracion de estilo o simplemente como ajuar de culto.

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But while in fashion week there is room for extravaganza, in the streets it was possible to see kimonos as a real choice of style. During one of my visits to places of interest in the city I could spot a considerable amount of women displaying style in this traditional attire.

 There are of course different variations depending on the weather, the layered in more complex textiles suitable during winter time while the more lightweight linen fabrics are common during summer. Also colour and prints are according to the season, as you see, the girls in the photos below are welcoming the beginning of spring (although it was still relatively cold).

The traditional kimono look is complemented by a distinctive footwear called zōri, similar to beach thongs but higher in centimeters, and in both formal and informal styles. Also socks called “Tabi” with a division to properly wear the zōri, in different fabrics, ranging from cotton for daytime or brocade silk for more special ocassions. Small hand bags and purses are key to carry small belongings.

Pero mientras en una semana de la moda hay espacio para la stravaganza, en las calles propiamente, es posible ver el kimono como una opción realista de estilo. En una de esas escapadas a algunos sitios de interés en la ciudad, pude advertir a un gran número de mujeres con la tradicional gala,

Por supuesto existen variantes dependiendo del clima, los de capas en textiles mas gruesos son necesarios durante el invierno, mientras que los mas ligeros en lino son comunes en verano. Ademas el color y los impresos son de especial cuidado para sincronizar con las estaciones, como ven en las fotos a continuación , las chicas de la foto dan la bienvenida a la primavera ( Aunque todavia se sentia como invierno)

El tradicional look del kimono se complementa a su vez con el calzado zōri, que se asemeja a una sandalia playera pero con mas altura, las hay formales e informales, y los calcetines tabi,  también  pueden ser de algodón e incluso en sedas brocadas para ocasiones especiales; mientras que los bolsos suelen ser pequeño y de mano 

Kimonos en Japon, zōri sandas

Kimono Japan

Designers keeping the tradition

One of the most remarkable shows during Tokyo Fashion Week was undoubtedly Jotaro Saito’s. Not a groundbreaking collection or unprecedented trend proposals, but by the perpetuation and reafirmation of the legendary garment, showing that Kimonos can be released from their traditional context to be seen as a fashion choice, “fashion belongs to everyone.” as the designer stated.

Diseñadores preservando el legado

Uno de los mas destacados eventos durante Tokyo Fashion Week fue sin lugar a dudas, el show de Jotaro Saito; no por una colección avant garde o por proponer una tendencia sin precedentes, sino por la perpetuación y reafirmación del  legendario ajuar, mostrando que el kimono puede ser liberado de su contexto tradicional para ser visto como una elección  de moda, y como bien expresara el diseñador ” La moda pertenece a todos ” . Saito sostiene que el kimono tiene potencial por explorar y que puede reinventarse, para competir como objeto de deseo frente a las marcas dominantes en occidente.

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The Obi (or distinctive sash) to tide up the kimono, worn in a fancy musubi knot. There are ten ways to tie an obi, and different knots are suited to different occasions and different kimono, also the obi of married and unmarried women are tied in different ways. Often the obi adjusts the formality and fanciness of the whole kimono outfit: the same kimono can be worn in very different situations depending on what kind of obi is worn with it

El Obi, faja o banda distintiva que acompana al Kimono, es llevada en un lujoso lazo, que puede llevarse en 10 formas de acuerdo a la ocasión y tipo de kimono, a su vez el Obi de una mujere casada es distinto al de una soltera. A menudo, el Obi en si mismo marca la formalidad y suntuosidad de todo el atuendo de kimono pudiendo llevarse el mismo kimono en diferentes situaciones dependiendo del obi con que se lleve.

Obi belt

Most common Obi knot is the Taiko Musubi or drum bow / La forma mas común del obi es el taiko musubi o lazo tambor

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A more formal obi style / Un estilo mas formal del Obi 


Kimono nicely complemented with a non traditional garment / Kimono armoniosamente  complementado con una pieza no tradicional

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Men style / Estilo masculino

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From Japan with love, the kimono is a referent of identidy and history yet with possibilities to explore as an fashionable icon.

De Japón con amor, el kimono es un referente de identidad e historia pero a su vez con muchos rumbos por explorar como ícono de moda


Thanks for your visit! / Gracias por visitar!

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MBFW Tokyo – Nguyen Cong Tri

For decades autochthonous elements in fashion were somewhat outcasted from the high end global scene, certain influences relying on other more mainstream elements than the aforementioned type to this day remain as the dominant market prefered options. However a new era has opened doors for the rise of fashion with cultural identidy.

Given that aside from other aspects, what transcends beyond the appeal and interest surrounding a proposal on stage is what it offers as a contribution to the fashion industry, whether a groundbreaking trend, a technology developement or as we’ll soon see – a cultural DNA in sync with trends.

Vietnam born, with fifteen years in the fashion industry and member of the Asian Couture FederationNguyen Cong Tri was such a example: as a tribute to these values he grew with and inspired in the female rice farmers of his country, presenting a collection where cultural references and vanguard coexist, combining outstanding craftmanship, tradition and progressive technique and aesthetics.

His most opulent garments display embroidery and applique treatments evoking the rice flowers; other features like braided, quilted and embellished fabrics and textures such as silk, velvet and leather enrich the “Made to Order collection”. But besides his stunning confection the source process is remarkable as well, taking him two years to gather the finest silk of the country sourced from just one village and seen in many of his designs. The following are some of the most relevant images of this show..

For more updates follow Nguyen Cong Tri via Facebook


Por mucho tiempo, los rasgos autóctonose en el vestir fueron desdeñados en la escena de moda global dándose prelacion a ciertas influencias que incluso hoy por hoy continúan dominando los apetitos del mercado; no obstante un nuevo ciclo ha abierto las puertas al resurgir de la moda con identidad cultural.

Ya que ademas de otros alcances, mas allá del atractivo visual e interés  suscitado por una colección en el escenario, su trascendencia como contribución a la moda puede radicar muchas veces en ser una propuesta sin precedentes, constituir un desarrollo tecnologico, o como lo veremos en poco, a promulgar un ADN cultural en sincronía  con las tendencias

Procedente de Vietnam, con quince años en el negocio de la moda y miembro de Asian Couture FederationNguyen Cong Tri es uno claro ejemplo de ello; en homenaje a los valores con los que creció e inspirándose en el vestuario de las granjeras de arroz de su pais natal, presenta una colección en la que coexisten elementos culturales y de vanguardia combinando magistral tradicion artesanal con tecnicas y estética progresista.

Sus  mas opulentas piezas exhiben tratamientos con apliques y bordados que evocan las plantas de arroz: otros rasgos como trenzados, acolchados y ornamentos en 3D sobre textiles y texturas de seda, terciopelo y cuero, enriquecen la coleccion ” Made to Order”. Pero además de su esplendida confección, la procedencia de sus insumos es también es meritoria, costandole al diseñador un proceso de dos años en acomular la mas excelsa seda proveniente de la única villa en su pais para tal efecto y empleada en muchas de sus creaciones;  a continuación las imágenes mas destacadas de su show.

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Nguyen Cong Tri, Tokyo Fashion Week



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