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THE Orient cannot lay claim to being an entirely new source of inspiration for designers - Christian Dior was fascinated with the secrets of the Far East and spun many of his early haute couture collections from its mystique, and ever since, designers consistently have romanced and reinterpreted the traditional dress codes of ancient Asia.
But this time around, it was Japan specifically that enraptured, with interpretations falling into two distinct camps; the decorative, and the discreet. The former, which included Emilio Pucci, Carolina Herrera and Altuzarra, borrowed traditional techniques such as knotting, embroidery and fringing, but the overall effect was less of the seductive costumes from Wong Kar-wai`s In The Mood For Love, and more concerned with updated trouser suits, shirt dresses and streamlined evening slips. The second camp relied heavily on architectural kimono shapes cut from technical couture-level fabrics that crisply held their shape when obi-belted at the waist. Etro, Stella McCartney, Marni and Osman all showed razor-cut block-coloured kimono suits without a hint of surface decoration. At Mugler, Nicola Formichetti expertly crafted a version from the smoothest tan leather that stayed wrapped around the body without even being fastened.
You need only invest in one or two elements here to bring a touch of the eastern promise to your wardrobe - just filter your choices with a reality check; there is no room for cheongsam dresses adorned with fanciful dragons here. A colour-block kimono jacket - in duchess satin or neoprene - should be your key purchase, or a delicately embroidered evening blouse.