By Kacie Yamamoto
When AKASHI KAMA founder Alec Nakashima sets out to create something, picturing a scenario around the piece is essential. For the brand’s new Haori shirt, it was the celebration and festivity surrounding traditional Japanese Obon garments that initially sparked inspiration.
Obon, a Japanese holiday traditionally held throughout the summer months of the year, is home to one of Japan’s largest festival seasons. Festivals with customs like lantern floating, Obon dances and fireworks are commonplace throughout the season to commemorate the ancestors. Attendees often wear traditional Japanese festival garments to these celebrations — pieces they may only break out of their closets once a year for these occasions.
The need for a garment inspired by Japanese festival wear, but with an increased sense of versatility outside of this event, was the idea Nakashima used to spark the AKASHI KAMA Haori shirt — a lightweight versatile garment constructed from linen that can be worn at any time of year and for any occasion.
Originally debuting late last year, the brand’s Haori shirts draw inspiration from three distinct festival garments — happi coats, hanten and haori. The shirt blends aspects of all three pieces, drawing heavily from their relaxed, roomy silhouettes. It follows the release of the brand’s signature Noragi Jacket, a blazeresque garment inspired by historical Japanese workwear clothing that’s been featured in GQ and other publications.
Each Haori shirt is made in Los Angeles from Japanese cotton. Produced from a mill outside of Osaka, this traditional fabric, called double gauze, has the softness of linen while simultaneously being able to hold each of the rich colors the garment comes in.
By nature of the occasions the Haori is designed around, the short-sleeve, breathable Haori shirts are inherently a more casual garment. Almost a cousin of the Noragi, the Haori fulfills a need in the brand’s collection — serving as the perfect piece for the hotter weather during the spring-summer pocket Obon sits in. Nakashima chuckles when describing how hot he got trying to wear one of the brand’s Noragi to Obon in past years. “A long-sleeve garment was not a great idea in July,” he said.
Designed by Nikkeijin, a Japanese word referring to people who are ethnically Japanese who emigrated to other countries, the Haori serves as another example of AKASHI KAMA’s expertise in blending traditional influences with American style to create pieces for anyone to wear.
“I think our audience really has done a great job of understanding and appreciating the symmetry of the two sides of our brand and our aesthetic,” Nakashima said. “I want us to continue to make that a focus.”
The Haori shirt will be restocked in spring 2023 on AKASHI KAMA’s website at akashi-kama.com/pages/haori-jacket-style.