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V&A hosts Europe’s first major exhibition on kimono

by Ace Damon
V&A hosts Europe's first major exhibition on kimono

A rare 17th-century Kyoto treasure, Alec Guinness's Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars costume and a John Galliano couture dress designed for Christian Dior will be among the exhibitions at Europe's first major kimono exhibition , the best symbol of Japan.

Featuring pieces from the Yves Saint Laurent and King Kawakubo catwalk and costumes from the Oscar-winning movie Memoirs of a Geisha, as well as a Jean Paul Gaultier kimono created for a Madonna-inspired video, curator Anna Jackson aims to “topple the idea of ​​the kimono as a static and atrophied object and to show it as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion. ”

The history of the kimono traces Japanese society from nineteenth-century Japanese celebrity culture, where kabuki actors and courtesans were, says Jackson, "the heartthrob and fashion icons of the day" to the disappearance of everyday life in Japan. postwar, where it became a coded costume, dull in nostalgia and unwrapped for special occasions only.

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, which opens at V&A in February, aims to challenge the tradition of the establishment in which fashion from Paris and London was considered art and accepted as a global rubric for taste, while clothing from non-western countries was. considered as exotic curiosities.

The kimono was at the center of a cultural appropriation dispute earlier this year when Kim Kardashian West renamed his shapewear brand from "Kimono" to "Skims" six days after the announcement of its release. The riff on his behalf sparked accusations of insensitivity and cultural appropriation with the kimono mayor of Kyoto, writing an open and critical letter. Kardashian West apologized for the crime, saying she "had really innocent intentions."

"Cultural appropriation is about who has the power to speak," Jackson said at the launch of the exhibition. Jackson, wearing a kimono over a white shirt, said he “considered whether it is appropriate to wear it. It's perfectly appropriate for my Japanese colleagues, but for me – is it different from 19th century orientalism? This is an important question. But there is a danger of being aware of the reverence in which the kimono is performed means that it gets stuck in the past and negates the impact it has had on global fashion and mimics its power to impact fashion in the future. "

The exhibition will explore the 21st century kimono revival among young people in Japan who reject Western industrialized trends and return to a timeless fashion.

The 17th century trade between Japan and the Netherlands led to a Dutch kimono fashion, adapted to the climate of northern Europe with warm padding. "There was already a tradition of clothing in Europe – think of Holbein's ambassadors – but suddenly you get all those rich and vibrant colors and everyone wants one," Jackson said. A portrait of 1678 Dutch aristocrat Anna Elizabeth van Reede will travel to the V&A for the exhibition, the first time he leaves the ancestral castle for which it was painted. In Edwardian England, kimono became fashionable in artistic circles as a marker of bohemian taste.

With its straight seams and straight edges, the kimono, unlike Western fashion, is cut to neither trace nor exaggerate the human form. It's because "the body is irrelevant" to the kimono, says Jackson, who is traditionally displayed in a T-frame rather than on a dummy.

Kimono's impact on Western fashion was explored in the accompanying book by the director of the Kyoto Costume Institute, which examines how Japanese clothing culture has drastically changed the course of Parisian fashion.

The show's exhibits will include a dress designed by Alexander McQueen for Björk, immortalized on the cover of his 1997 album Homogenic, and the iconic Star Wars Jedi costume that George Lucas, admirer of Akira Kurosawa's films, conceived as part of the Buddhist monk. and part samurai. Milligan Beaumont, a young designer whose graduate collection of "kimono hoodies" was purchased in full and taken on a world tour by Christina Aguilera, will also be presented.

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