Obis — the Japanese belts that usually accompany traditional kimonos — are set to make a comeback. But for Sunhee Moon on 16th Street, they’ve never gone out of style.
Since summer, I would see a different color obi belt (called Tomo belts in the store) accessorizing the outfit in the store window, and it got me excited. I was inspired to pull my (imitation, more or less) obi belts out of the closet and breathe new fashion life into them. But I also began to wonder, is Sunhee Moon throwing trend to the wind and doing whatever she wants with fashion, or is the obi belt set to make a huge comeback over the next few seasons?
Obi means sash, and was traditionally tied in different ways according to the occasion. Formal obis were generally worn wider, and tied into a fancy knot. Casual wear of obis (and kimonos) has become highly popular in the West. A few years ago you couldn’t walk the streets of Manhattan without seeing a woman sporting one. Like all trends, it eventually died.
But Alessandro Dell’Acqua featured obis on the runway last fall, and — just like that — they’re back.
Eileen Fisher, who recently revamped her line to appeal to younger crowds, now offers leather obi belts. In the Macy’s Challenge on this season of Project Runway, contestant Carol Hannah Whitfield made a black leather obi to cinch the blue tunic she created. While the tunic was the focus of the look, the belt really completed it and added a little something to the entire silhouette. And in the “Lights, Camera, Sew” episode of the show, contestant Althea Gibson wore a metallic obi belt over a T-shirt and jeans.
This was all inspiration enough for me to try to pull off a Japanese-inspired look on Friday. I got my short kimono I bought in Tokyo during Fall 2009 fashion week, and tied my red “leather” obi — purchased at one of my favorite boutiques in New York — around it. I even went as far as tying my hair back into a tight chignon — mostly worn by older geishas, but also credited to France. Not only did I love the look, but so did many others. My friend Krystal said she’d wish she hadn’t worn a belt that day because mine put hers to shame.
So I decided to peek into Sunhee Moon and look into maybe getting another belt. Trish, the salesclerk, said belts are a part of the Sunhee Moon line, made locally, not distributed through a vendor.
Korean-American Sunhee Moon is a world traveler and gets inspiration from her own culture as well as what she sees in her travels. So the reversible belts (one side suede, one side satin — ooh la la) that she’s featured for the past two or three years come from many design ideas. The belts come in nine colors and fit anyone from extra small to large. There is also a tutorial on Sunhee Moon’s blog on different ways to tie the belt.
Trish said all the store’s regulars have bought at least one belt recently. Perhaps I’ll be joining them.