Earl of Lonsdale
293 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2QA
Europe’s first authentic Japanese kimono, accessories and matcha tea retailer, Wasokan comes to London!
Wasokan is London and Europe’s first authentic Japanese kimono, accessories and matcha tea retailer, passionate about spreading “wa no kokoro”, the spirit of Japanese harmony to the world. In opening its doors to the public at 293 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill on Tuesday 19 January 2016.
Wasokan founder Noriyuki Ikeda chose London as his brand’s first base outside Japan following visits to London and Paris in the autumn of 2013 when he discovered that Londoners’ interest in both kimono and all things Japan were higher than he expected, especially in London. After this the idea of a Wasokan London store was born.
“We expect to be frequented by Japanese as well as locals and tourists who are interested in Japanese culture, or simply our beautiful kimono cloth and the way we cut and style it”, says Noriyuki Ikeda. “In addition to offering the very traditional kimono we sell in Japan, we have also created two unique products specifically for the European market. These are our new generation kimono and kimono separates which we are confident will help Japanophiles build up the confidence to wear full kimono” Ikeda continues.
Traditional silk kimono are at the heart of Wasokan’s offering which for women spans 10 different styles and an almost endless variety of beautiful patterned silks. There is something for every conceivable occasion and three different sleeve styles. Wasokan’s team of highly trained staff help customers select the kimono that is just right for them, both in appearance and personality, thanks to an extensive one-on-one fitting experience. Prices for women’s silk kimono start from £1,000.
Wasokan is currently offering a small selection of men’s and children’s kimono, and will be increasing these ranges from Spring 2016.
Wasokan has also created two unique products specifically for the European market; new generation kimono and kimono separates. The new generation kimono differs from the traditional in both how it is worn and the fabrics used. Designed for regular use, unlike their silk counterparts new generation kimono are washable, and are available in significantly more modern and lightweight materials which can be shortened for ease of movement.
“I love my pinstriped new gen kimono because it enables me to do everything I need to do as a busy woman working in London. The best thing about wearing it is that there are no rules! ” says Chiaki Tanaka, London store manager. Prices for new generation kimono start from £500.
Wasokan is particularly excited to launch its kimono separates to the European market. Currently the range comprises 40 silk jackets and skirts. “Not only are our separates a great gateway product for full kimono, they are also strong fashion pieces in their own right for people of every culture. We can’t wait to see Europeans wearing our silk jackets with cigarette pants and heels to the office and fashionstas wearing our long silk skirts with a blouse and leather jacket at the weekend”, says Ikeda. Prices start from £800 for both a silk jacket and a long silk skirt.
All Wasokan kimono will be available to rent as well as buy from Spring 2016. This is the ideal option for people attending special Japanese events such as weddings or who want to try out what wearing kimono feels like.
A kimono couture service will also become available in the next few months.
Teaching Europeans the art of kitsuke
In addition to selling kimono, Wasokan holds in-store “kitsuke” lessons to teach people how to wear both traditional kimono and to share innovative styling tips for new generation kimono. Monthly “kimono de odekake” day trips for guests to wear kimono out and about are also available.
Kitsuke lessons are offered across three sessions and cost £50. The first sessions will take place between 11am and 1pm or 3pm and 5pm on Wednesday 10 February, and every Wednesday after that. Kimono de odekake day trips will begin in the Spring.
In addition to kimono, Wasokan sells all of the accessories required for full kimono dress, from “zori” (traditional embroidered wooden clog) and “tabi” (traditional ankle-high socks with the large and remaining toes separated to accommodate “zori”); to “obiage” (the under-obi), “obi” (broad fabric sash worn with beautiful embroidery to compliment your kimono) and “obizime” (additional obi ties). Stunning wooden carved and pearl embossed broaches and hair pins are also available. Prices start from £5.00.
Accessories for the home include beautiful carved wooden bowls from Kyoto for serving tea Japanese style (from £50.00); more than 20 styles of “furoshiki” (from £17), a delicately detailed wrapping cloth for everything from your lunchbox to gifts; and cute little Japanese dolls (£38).
“Currently our tabi socks are selling very well, but as the weather starts to warm up I expect that this will transition towards zori as a novel take on European flip-flops and clogs,” says Chiaki Tanaka, London store manager.
Matcha and Monaka
As well as selling stunning kimono and accessories, Wasokan also has a Japanese café and runs tea ceremonies in-store. Wasokan’s plain wood café counter (“shiraki”) is unique in London in that it is designed for drinking green teas while standing (think Italian espresso culture).
Green teas are whisked at the counter by a skilled matcha barista (“teishu”) and the options include matcha; iced matcha; matcha au lait; iced matcha au lait; homare tea, which is a Japanese green tea produced from Rokucha leaves that are steamed and dried but not fermented; and houji tea, which is low in caffeine and tannins and is made by roasting Bancha green tea leaves over charcoal.
The Wasokan café also serves a delicious selection of Wagashi (Japanese confectionery) including Monaka (Japanese wafer cakes filled with red or white bean jam). Prices start from £4.50 for a pot of homare tea, £5.50 for a cup of matcha and £7.50 for a selection of monaka.
The spirit of Japanese harmony
Noriyuki Ikeda is much more than just the head of a kimono retailer. Over the years Ikeda has developed his own philosophy based on “wa no kokoro”, the spirit of Japanese harmony between people and nature that is necessary for people to coexist with nature. He pledged to himself that he would contribute to peace in the world by spreading the importance of the harmonious connection between all things human and natural through selling kimono.
As part of this, Ikeda will hold regular talks on Japanese culture from the London store on “wa” and his insights into how to have a happy life. These sessions will also include him hosting Japanese tea ceremonies, for which he has gained instructor level. Bookings for the first of these sessions in London will open shortly.