SHOP THE LOOK | Tancho Japanese Kimono
by Lucy Dayman
It may be an oversimplification to describe Cherry Jerrera as a refreshing bundle of juxtapositions, but the calligraphy artist, writer, model, and kimono lover is just that.
Growing up in Japan and splitting her time between here and Spain, she’s lived what feels like more than two lifetimes in one already, but speak to Jerrera and the first thing you’ll notice is that she’s incredibly poised. She carries herself like a person who’s managed to capture that ever elusive essence of what it means to be balanced.
With an aura of laidback elegance, it’s hard at times to believe that Jerrera is a product of the fast-paced lifestyle of inner-city Tokyo. But between Spain and Japan, she’s found the perfect balance and is able to see the merit in both locations.
“Tokyo is so hectic, while in Spain I slow it down.”
In Spain, Mallorca is Jerrera’s home. As well as boasting a magazine-perfect landscape, the small island community offers her something she had never really experienced before: in Mallorca “time passes very slowly,” she says. “I was born and raised in Tokyo, so experiencing how time can pass so slowly in Spain really helps my personality. The contrast helps me actually. Tokyo is so hectic, while in Spain I slow it down.”
Wherever she finds herself though, the world of Japanese traditional art will always be part of Cherry’s educational and cultural DNA. “I used to make poetry and haiku when I was nine, I won prizes. I was writing with a pen and pencil, but I think calligraphy is like the final format. After high school, I combined the mediums.
“With calligraphy, you have to adjust the tension of the paper and ink flow, and with poetry and haiku it’s more conceptual, it felt like a natural combination. The two coming together was the final format of my expression of poetry.”
The word of calligraphy can be as experimental as you want it to be, but becoming more familiar with its origins was something Jerrera took quite seriously. Her personal Japanese-history pilgrimage is what introduced her to the kimono, by way of dance.
“I started when I was 22,” she retraces. “I was already doing calligraphy, but as a way to level up I wanted to have more motion in calligraphy, so for that, I started to learn Japanese dance. Usually, in the first year, they never let you dance, it’s about how to sit, how to walk, how to open the door, pass the items, how to use the fan. I think you can show elegance without words.
“I started by wearing kimono as pajamas”
“Also for kimono and yukata, they have really long sleeves, so naturally how you move your arm is going to be elegant. You can’t be so clumsy with the kimono, so for women especially, if you try to incorporate it into your daily life it will naturally make your movement more elegant.”
Deeper into the rabbit hole, she uncovered a new artform she felt ready to immerse herself in: kimono collecting. “From that [dance], I became more interested in how to put on the obi, how to match color combinations. More and more I started traveling inside Japan. When you go to the countryside, you can buy kimono so much cheaper because they don't need it any longer.
“I started by wearing kimono as pajamas,” she confesses. It’s easy when you see photos of Cherry as a Tokyo style icon, to imagine her floating elegantly around her apartment in a perfectly fitted kimono. In reality, however, she’s more pragmatic. “Tokyo apartments are so cold,” she laughs, “so I started to layer up, and the neck part is so warm. From then I was collecting a lot and taking some to Spain.”
Wearing kimono outside the house is something she’s starting to experiment with more recently. Retelling an experience at a glamorous fashion party, she realized that the kimono is something she really wants to encourage others to try. “I think people are starting to appreciate the kimono a lot more. It’s a nice way to show it off at an event. It’s very elegant.” There’s an added layer - excuse the pun - to wearing the kimono, that most regular dresses don’t have: “learning the color combinations and how to fit it all is really fun.”
A tradition-loving anti-traditionalist, Jerrera’s ideologies about the kimono and her love for Japanese arts are so refreshing in their progressive enthusiasm. She’s eager to show the world another face of Japanese art, one of effortless coolness, creative freedom, but an educated understanding of its origins. She wraps up our chat with a few insightful words of advice for those interested in the form.
“I think people shouldn't be uptight about traditionalism because then traditions will die”
“My recommendation would be to try and wear them as pajamas first; try it how you would wear a T-shirt. Don’t overthink it too much, don’t try to be too traditional, just get used to it first, then go the next step and the next step. That way you can get into the kimono more naturally.
“Start casually. If you start with a super expensive kimono, you can only wear it for a special occasion. So, I recommend that on a more daily basis, you add a little more yukata or kimono in your life. That would be more natural.”
When quizzed about what she’d say to those who want to try wearing a kimono but are feeling apprehensive, she responds without hesitation “When I go traveling, I don't do things in a perfectly traditional way, but I try them because I want to experience the culture. So for that matter, I think any way you want to experience the kimono is great. I think people shouldn't be uptight about traditionalism because then traditions will die,” she says with a smile. “If you’re interested in kimono, you should try it on. Go ahead it could change your life.”