Photo: Anji Salz

Throwing away the kimono-wearing rule book

By Kathryn Wortley

An aircraft mechanic by trade, Anji Salz was an unlikely entrant in the conventional world of kimono. And her part in defying expectations didn’t stop there. Five years ago, the Tokyo-based German set up Salz Tokyo, a kimono styling, design and sales business offering fresh, alternative ways to enjoy Japan’s traditional garment.

Savvy Tokyo sat down with her to uncover her passion and find out how and why she wants to breathe new life into kimono wearing.

Your business is so multi-faceted. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

It’s about inspiring people to wear kimono, both in Japan and abroad. I do things that are out of the box: kimono styling and design, collaborations with other young artists, and kimono makers. Last year, we put embroidery on kimono to make it funky. I also occasionally sew kimono—using skills from a kimono tailoring class—but it’s really hard work and takes a long time. Aside from those hands-on elements, I offer kimono-related tours, write about kimono for Mainichi Weekly, and a German magazine and sell vintage kimono in my online shop.

What got you interested in kimono?

When I first holidayed here, I admired the feminine silhouette of kimono, as well as its traditional aspects and history. I received a yukata from a Japanese friend and started wearing it when I returned home. It had me wanting more. Many years later, after I’d moved to Japan, I did a kimono rental in Kyoto. Just walking around the city in kimono really had me hooked. A couple of years later, I asked my mother-in-law who has some kimono if we could wear them together to a relative’s wedding in Tokyo. After wearing kimono again, I knew I had to do something with it for work.

Photo: Anji Salz

What do you most love about kimono?

It changes your posture and your movements, although it limits your movements a little as well. It makes me feel more feminine and like a better version of myself. If I’m wearing Western clothing, I feel kind of rough sometimes, in a hurry. If I go out in kimono, I take a lot more time to appreciate details and feel more generous to other people, more ladylike. 

At what point did you think you could make a business out of your love of kimono?

Around the same time that I experienced wearing kimono in Tokyo, I had what felt like a quarter-life crisis. I wondered what I should do with my life and felt that kimono was what I had been looking for. At that time, there wasn’t so much English information on kimono available. There was just a handful of Japanese people working with kimono, and people living abroad had a hard time trying to buy kimono from Japan. I thought there might be an opportunity, so I dove right into starting my business.

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© Savvy Tokyo

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The symbol of the British Empire defacing a beautiful magnificent Kimono. Very sad.

-9 ( +7 / -16 )

You won’t be buying one then Charlie...

5 ( +8 / -3 )

I’m sure this is going to create an “uprising”

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

I think the Union Jack is a great design, but the version on that obi is terrible, laughably unbalanced.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Well this lady get 10/10 from me, she's trying to revitalise the wearing of the kimono, her modern design will bring them into the 21 century and make them more wearable, but I think the union jack design needs a bit of a rethink.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The kimono just doesn't work in a modern context. It's restricting, difficult to wear, emphasizes women as ornaments, etc. The Union Jack, by contrast, has always looked cool, trendy and relevant.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The Victorian and Albert Museum is famous for its textile collections. I’ve spent much time there. I have made several hand painted silk kimonos and hand sewed them. For me it’s like wearing a painting with many meters of fabric.

There are those who only adhere to whatever is considered traditional like kimono making, or ink painting or Japanese Nihonga painting.

But their are many young artists bringing new life and meaning to those solid traditions. Art isn’t about just repeating the past, it’s also about discovering the new.

I have also made kimonos with batik, taking the traditions of two countries, two cultures and making something new.

The kimono and the belt or Obi are two different objects. I prefer the hand woven silk Obi. But again, modern patterns can also be applied.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The Union flag used there looks bold and cool, and she even got it the right way round!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

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