By  on October 22, 2007

For Josie Natori, marking 30 years in business means honoring the past to consider the future.

In May, Natori opened her archives to five young designers and commissioned them to reinterpret her signature kimono. The result: five one-of-a-kind couture kimonos designed by Vena Cava, Erin Fetherston, Sari Gueron, Jenni Kayne and Brian Reyes that will be auctioned to benefit the Council of Fashion Designers of America Scholarship Fund. The kimonos represent a blending of the designers' own style with the Natori signature tradition.

"I never designed a kimono before, so we had to do a little research at the Natori office; it was so cool," said Lisa Mayock, co-designer with Sophie Buhai at Vena Cava, a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist. "She let us peek at her archives, her fabrics, her old garments. She has tons of stuff. We interpreted her kimono as a boudoir kimono to lounge around the house, like a robe. A lot of women like to wear kimonos over lingerie or something they're wearing to bed. We tried to use signatures of Vena Cava, too.

"The colors are navy and black and there's a panel along the hem that has a collage of hardware — rings, buttons and sequins,'' she said. "The idea of found objects and collages is a consistent theme in our work. Josie's workers did all the beading. It was great to connect with Josie and realize how much she helps small designers."

The effort was also Reyes' first attempt at a kimono. "It was kind of a fun treat," he said. "We used one of Josie's existing kimono shapes and manipulated it to make it a little larger and longer and more dramatic, but the face of it was taken from her signature kimonos. We sent her a rendering and she was really into the idea."

Reyes created an ecru blossom kimono with pina elements in the embroidery and marquisette and organza appliqués lined in silk with a grosgrain obi. Natori workers in the Philippines did the pina embroidery for a traditional Filipino touch. The hand appliqué was done by Reyes' people in New York.

"It was a marriage of our collection with the Natori signature," Reyes said.Gueron created a pleated sequined striped kimono with pearl satin trim and handmade flowers. Kayne made a kimono in black wool lined in silk charmeuse with ikat embroidery and black bugle beads. Erin Fetherston, another CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, produced an ecru silk kimono with handmade silk flower appliqué.

The kimonos will be auctioned Nov. 5 to Nov. 27 at saks.com/kimono, and are in the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship.

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