With a mohawk and thick black beard, Akira doesn’t immediately come off as a proponent of the Kimono – the traditional Japanese garment worn for over a 1000 years. Then again, the 37-year old stylist isn’t exactly a purist either. Entirely self-taught, Akira blends elements of photography, graphic design, kitsuke, styling and make-up to create radical, neo-pop imagery, which he’s been posting online since 2008.
Using the moniker “Akira Times,” the artist is bent on reviving the kimono, which he says is being suffocated by the “Kyoto sickness” that emphasizes conservative formality. And his images manifest in the form of magazine covers, which take on different titles depending on the subject. The images began to gain traction online and “people began to look for the real magazine, but there is only the cover that he makes and posts online,” explains Sheila Cliffe, in her book The Social Life of Kimono. “He liked the idea that the internet can bring into reality something that did not exist before.”
Akira insists on working with normal people, instead of models, who travel from all over Japan to his studio in Yamagata in the Northeast part of the country. And now, for the first time, over 120 old and new images are being compiled into Kimono Times, a definitive collection that represents the best of Akira’s 10 years of work. The bilingual 144-page book is being released in October of 2017 and will retail for 5500 yen.