Women seeking more freedom, relaxation in fashion

Courtesy of Five Foxes Co.

An elastic waist skirt by the Onigiri brand

By Akira Miura / Soecial to The Japan NewsThe #MeToo movement aimed at eliminating sexual harassment from society has spread widely, and the phrase has even become a buzzword.

As if to follow the example, the hashtag #KuToo has been used by many Japanese internet users, attracting attention. The word is a pun on the Japanese word kutsu, which means “shoe,” and “pain” when the second syllable is prolonged. Women forced to wear pumps at work have stood up to say wearing those shoes can cause health problems, such as bunions and ingrown toenails. They demand such practices of sexual discrimination be abolished.

The media started covering the #KuToo movement after actress-writer Yumi Ishikawa submitted a petition with 18,800 signatures to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The issue was discussed in the Diet as well, although Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto only made an equivocal comment, saying, “It’s not that I tolerate the situation in which women are forced to wear high heels and pumps, but at the moment I am not thinking of a ban on such a rule.”

Women who tend to suffer from the expectation to wear high heels at work include receptionists, secretaries and flight attendants. Here is an interesting story from Norway. Norwegian Air used to make it obligatory for female cabin attendants to wear makeup and high heels unless they submitted a doctor’s certificate saying they could not do so. Effective from May, the company decided its female employees no longer have to wear makeup and can wear flat shoes all the time. Moreover, the airline reportedly granted male employees permission to wear makeup. It seems they were banned from doing so.

For about five years from 2008, the influence of the U.S. TV drama “Sex and the City” created a movement for women to enjoy luxurious footwear, wearing the equivalent of ¥100,000 in fashionable high heels by Jimmy Choo, Sergio Rossi, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin and other brands.

Following this short-lived trend, women’s footwear all of a sudden entered the era of sneakers. As a result, women started to coordinate their fashion using a pair of sneakers as the basis. Pundits say such styling is an expression of street or sports style, but I think it is not a matter of taste but a decisive change in women’s lifetyles.

It was about 10 years ago when fashion magazines were leisurely asking the question, “Can’t we wear jeans while commuting and at the office?” And gaucho pants, which became extremely popular in the spring of 2015 thanks to the GU brand, are already a thing of the past.

Women’s pants these days are even looser and more relaxed. The key is the elastic waist that requires no belt. Similarly relaxed skirts are often seen in town, and many of them also have elastic waists. Such skirts from the Onigiri brand by Five Foxes Co. are proving very popular.

In the old days, elastic-waisted skirts and pants were meant for middle-aged women whose figures had changed and who found it a struggle to wear a belt. In today’s Japan, however, such fashion has won the overwhelming support of young women. It is not far-fetched to say these loose skirts and pants are the main thing in bottoms. I can feel that women are determined to no longer have time for how men look at them.

Yet many such skirts are pleated to look a little special because otherwise they may look like old women’s clothes. And of course, these young women wear sneakers. I wonder where this relaxed fashion movement in Japan will lead.

Miura is the editor at large of WWD Japan.Speech

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