HEADER Musings and Monsters

Musings and Monsters: An Interview with Cardamon

I recently attended an annual fashion show by the Toledo School of the Arts (TSA) called Interwoven Musings, as we were contacted by Cardamon, a senior attending TSA that would be showing a collection that included a Japanese-inspired piece. After graduating in mid-May, we chatted about the fashion show, their collection, and their interest in Japanese culture and fashion.

Traeonna: How did you find Kimono Kitsune? What made you decide to contact us?

Cardamon: Well, when I was sewing my yukata, I wanted to reach out and ask for some suggestions from someone more knowledgeable on the subject. I also currently take ASL classes from UT and heard about a “girl who came in a kimono,” so I thought maybe it was you [Traeonna]! Weird small world we live in.

Traeonna: Yes, I am that girl who attends Deaf Coffee wearing kimono. It’s just my everyday clothes nowadays, so I don’t think much about it until someone comments on it. I find it interesting, the intersections of my interests…it is indeed a very small world.

Traeonna: I was very excited when you contacted Kimono Kitsune about your project. I was heavily into Lolita fashion in my teens and 20s, which is how I discovered kimono when I started wearing a fusion of Lolita and kimono (Wa-Lolita). Later, I wore quite a bit of kimono fusion, so I’m always excited when people want to incorporate kimono into any other fashion style! Your project sounded interesting, and I couldn’t wait to see what you came up with.

Traeonna: Speaking of which, recently, you had a collection featured at your school’s fashion show, Interwoven Musings. What inspired this collection, and would you share more about the theme behind the collection?

Cardamon: Well, as you know, Interwoven Musings is the annual fashion show held by Toledo School for the Arts fashion department. Being a senior at the time, we were privileged to have a whole collection in the show. My collection was originally based on my personal taste in fashion in hopes of making clothes I could wear in the future.

Cardamon: On a regular school day, I’d show up with whatever color hair I had that month, bright eyeshadow, thick eyeliner, my crystal necklace, rainbow cardigan, pastel blue My Little Pony dress, white fishnets, and my sparkly white six-inch platform boots. I like to describe myself as a “rainbow alternative,” most of my fashion inspiration comes from Decora fashion, fairy kei, general alternative, and goth fashion. However, as much as I loved goth fashion, I refused to wear black for a long time because it didn’t fit the “aesthetic” I put myself into. About halfway through the year, I realized fashion is more than just sticking with a single style and that I can dress however I’d like! I now dress both rainbow and goth, which I translated into my collection. Half was pastel, the other half edgy.

Cardamon: My collection was called “Fashion Monsters.” A ferocious teeth mask accompanied each outfit! The mask represented the suppressed feelings I had while finding my one style. When there was a transition between pastel and alternative fashion, I decided to rip off my mask to symbolize my realization that fashion is my self-expression, not just 2D. At the end of my line, we all did a final walk with all of our masks off to reinforce the concept.

Cardamon is holding a mask to their face and is wearing a purple dress of their design.
Cardamon with short blond hair wearing a purple dress of their design is slightly crouched down with a mask breaking in the foreground and they are screaming.
Several models in a fashion show walking down the runway.

Photos by John Ashley

Traeonna: What do you like about Japanese street style? What inspired you to include a kimono-inspired piece in your collection? What got you interested in Japanese culture?

Cardamon: I love Japanese culture as a whole, but I especially love the fashion. I appreciate Japanese streetwear because a large portion is taking these traditional ancient practices and making something new out of them! Fashion innovation is so cool to me, and I wanted to take a go at it myself.

Cardamon: As for the yukata, we actually had a project in our Humanity class. The assignment was to take your main culture of influence and subcultures of significance and make anything. Literally, do whatever you wanted, food, arts, write a paper, anything. My main culture was Japanese culture, obviously, and my subcultures were fashion and trans culture. I then sewed this yukata!

Traeonna: I love how this humanities class assignment ended up in your fashion show collection!

A street-styled yukata-dressed model walking down the runway wearing a mask.

Photos by John Ashley

Cardamon: I think the Japanese and fashion aspects show well, but the trans aspect not so much. I’m a trans male who still presents feminine. I believe that fashion doesn’t define someone’s gender expression, and clothes are for everyone! Even though I identify as a male, I still consciously choose to make a female-styled yukata.

Traeonna: I find it fascinating how fluid fashion can be and I think there’s a lot of freedom in playing with gender concepts. Kimono is referred to as gendered (female or male) when we speak of tailoring. Still, many kimono enthusiasts dress in either or both, and it isn’t necessarily dependent on their gender identity. Especially when I look at some of the street styles in Japan, I see a lot of fluidity…men wearing female-tailored kimono and visa-versa. Certain pieces may be selected to wear non-traditionally and the tailoring doesn’t really matter at that point because it’s just a piece of clothing being added to a coordination. I’ve seen several photos of men wearing kurotomesode (a formal female-tailored kimono), almost like one would wear a trench coat! People have always experimented with freestyle (gender-neutral, gender-fluid, or mix-gendered) fashion. Still, I feel it has become more popular as the world becomes more accepting of the gender spectrum and how people express such.

Traeonna: Switching gears a bit, how long have you been at TSA? What was your focus of study? What drew you to studying fashion design/construction, etc.?

Cardamon: I’ve been at TSA 6th-12th grade! I joined in 2016, and as of today [05.23.2023], graduated 3 days ago. Originally I went into the school as a visual art major. I did have an interest in fashion, but absolutely despised the thought of sewing. The design aspect was and still is my favorite part. Even though I was an art major, I also took dance and choir! However, after 8th grade, my dance teacher left, so I switched to costuming because a friend asked me to. {LOL}

Cardamon: Because COVID hit at the end of freshman year and ate all sophomore, I didn’t really have much time to get serious with sewing, but when we came back junior year, I started taking sewing seriously. Senior year I took an apprenticeship with our costuming teacher, Mrs. Patchett, and found myself sewing for about 15 hours in a school week. I only had two periods in the costuming room, but I’d find myself ditching my study hall and staying after school for a few hours every week…not to mention my weekends dedicated to sewing.

Traeonna: It sounds like you had an interesting journey getting to where you ended up. I think all the arts kind of are like that. I was in ballet from 4 years old until my 20s when I finally started trying other forms of dance. I was in choir 5th grade until 12th, but then didn’t do much beyond briefly being in a band in my late teens. But sewing, it’s always been a part of my life in some form or fashion, although not part of any school curriculum until I did costume design in college. Cosplay and Lolita fashion is what really got me designing and sewing more!

Traeonna: In the fashion process, which is your favorite stage: design, construction, and/or styling?

Cardamon: Like I said earlier, designing is definitely my favorite part. I have a lot of really cool ideas I want to make, but budgeting gets tough. Materials aren’t cheap at all, so I have to work with what I can get my hands on a good portion of the time. Shout out to my grandparents for funding my crazy sewing projects though; they’ve been a huge help in making my designs possible. Although I dislike sewing, I definitely like the reward of finishing projects.

Traeonna: It’s funny because designing is actually my bane! I’m great at construction, but I sometimes get a bit stuck on the design parts. It does not come easily to me, but with practice, it’s not quite as painful…just very slow.

Traeonna: I’ve gotten creative with sourcing material for projects because of budget constraints. This is part of the reason I love upcycled fashion, especially kimono. Something that may have lasted generations and been worn by many people will eventually wear out, but that’s not the end of its life. It is common to see worn-out kimono, obi, and other such garments, taken apart and remade into things like other garments or even accessories such as bags.

Traeonna: Describe your design “flavor.”

Cardamon: I’m not sure if this answers the question, but I’d describe my outfit style as “My Little Pony threw up on 3/4 of my closet.” The 1/4 is all-black alternative clothes.

Traeonna: {LOL} I love it! I can certainly see that from both your collection and some of your coordinations I’ve seen you wearing. Until I started wearing Lolita (well, outside of GothLoli) and kimono, most of my wardrobe was black or darker colors…my closet never entirely left my 1990s goth years behind, but it certainly has more variety now.

Traeonna: In regards to your own personal fashion, what are your favorite colors, designs/motifs, styles, etc.?

Cardamon: THAT’S SUCH A HARD QUESTION! I really love all kinds of fashion! Mod, fairy grunge, decades, goth, Y2K, rave gear, drag, kawaii, streetwear, etc… I really enjoy clothes that are super expressive and unique in style and possibilities. Layering is my favorite thing ever.

Traeonna: These days, I pretty much only wear kimono…traditional, fusion, or freestyle, but mostly traditional and fusion styles. I wish I could pull off more freestyle fashion, but I don’t think it really fits my current presentation. I think had I found this back in my youth, I would have probably really glommed onto it. I dressed a lot less femme in my past, but rediscovered such when I started wearing Lolita. I kind of rediscovered the “girl” part of me and decided to embrace it for a while. Who knows what the future holds…I may sway back the other direction. I’m most drawn to darker colors…deep greens, purples, blues, reds…jewel tones I suppose, although I’m experimenting with all sorts of colors these days…just not pastels so much. {LOL}

Traeonna: I love following people on Instagram that have a unique or diverse style because it inspires me to try new things with my own style and discovering new pieces of my own identity.

Traeonna: Where do you see your path in fashion heading? What mark would you like to make on the fashion world?

Cardamon: I hope to go to PRATT next year and get my bachelors in fashion! I’m not sure what area of focus I’ll be in, but I plan on transferring next year. After getting my bachelor’s, I want to work in doll design and maybe open my own small business selling clothes I make! Although I definitely would be interested in working in the fashion world, I just haven’t seen what they have to offer yet!

Traeonna: I was super excited when you said you’d be interested in interning with Kimono Kitsune. What do you hope to learn through interning with us?

Cardamon: I hope to continue working in fashion, and I want to learn more about Japanese clothing! I want to join the community surrounding the culture here in Toledo while also gaining new knowledge. I think this will be another important step in my fashion journey!

Traeonna: We cannot wait to see where you will go with things! All of us at Kimono Kitsune are happy you have decided to join us on this kimono journey!

Kimono Kitsune would like to welcome Cardamon as our new intern! Many amazing things are in store in the coming months, so keep checking out our blog and social media! Better yet! Become a VIP Club Member to gain exclusive access to VIP-only giveaways, special offers, early access to new products, and tips for your journey into the transformative world of kimono.


Photo by John Ashley

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