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Paris exhibition explores kimono, from Japanese icons to global trends

From samurai warriors and geisha to pop stars and haute couture designers, the kimono is more than just a traditional dress, it’s a dynamic fashion. It focuses on what has transcended categories and cultures.

The kimono exhibition, held for the first time at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2020, aims to revisit the history of costume.

“I think there is a lack of understanding of what a kimono is, especially in the West. Curator Anna Jackson said: she told RFI.

“In fact, the kimono has always been a very dynamic fashion item.”

“what to wear”

The kimono, literally named ‘thing to wear’, first appeared in Japan over a thousand years ago.

By the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868), it was worn nationwide.

The merchant class contributed to the increase in production, while the samurai class wore the most extravagant.

“The history of kimono in Japan is quite long, but since the 17th century, it has been the basic dress for all Japanese people, regardless of gender or social status.

“Western aesthetics tend to think of clothing for men as it is for women to hide or emphasize certain parts of the body. […] It doesn’t matter with the kimono.

“Kimono doesn’t care about the body, it’s the flat side of the kimono that counts. Colors, patterns and techniques show status and taste.”

Japan’s first fashion icon

During the Edo period, entertainers such as kabuki actors and geisha became the first Japanese fashion icons.

“When we think about fashion, we still tend to think of it as a European invention,” says Jackson.

“We especially wanted to show that fashion has flourished elsewhere in the world, especially in Japan, since the 17th century.”

Over the past 400 years, the kimono has had a significant influence on dress styles around the world, especially in Europe.

“We tend to think of global fashion and global exchanges as recent, but they’ve been around for centuries,” Jackson explains.

new export

When Japan opened to foreign trade in the 1850s, kimonos were exported to the West, and shoppers marveled at the “exotic” costumes.

In the early 20th century, wearing kimonos became a global trend, and textile technology introduced from Europe sped up production and lowered costs.

According to Jackson, “The Japanese knew what they were doing when they exported kimonos in the late 19th century because they realized there was an emerging market, an emerging economy. was being exported.”

“Japan has always been subjective in how it has exported dresses and how it speaks in foreign contexts,” she says.

Japan could not sell its heavy industry, so in order to survive in the global world, it found something to sell, such as kimonos and textiles.

revival and reinvention

After World War II, most Japanese started wearing western clothes. The kimono has become a more structured outfit worn on special occasions such as graduation ceremonies, weddings, and tea ceremonies.

However, the real revival of Japanese kimono culture in the last 15 years is one of the motivations for this exhibition.

“It really started on the streets, where the younger generation of Japan was fed up with global fashion,” says Jackson.

“Every store in the world sells the same kind of clothes and thinks more about sustainability than fake fashion, so I encourage new Japanese designers to find vintage clothes and style them in new ways. became.”

Since the 1950s, fashion designers around the world have transformed the kimono. Yohji Yamamoto from Japan, John Galliano from England, and designer Serge Muanghe from Cameroon.

Pop stars like Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, and Björk all wore kimonos, which inspired the Star Wars costume designers.

However, in some cases, the adoption of this kimono has led to accusations of cultural appropriation.

cross cultural boundaries

“Obviously, there’s a fine line between cultural appreciation and appropriation,” Jackson told RFI, adding that she and her fellow curators considered such issues when designing the exhibition. said.

“But I think the argument that kimonos should only be worn in a certain way essentially denies them their very dynamic fashion history. [and] Kimono has shown us 400 years of crossing cultural boundaries,” she told RFI.

As part of collecting kimonos for the exhibition, Jackson met with a young Japanese designer and asked him how Westerners feel about wearing costumes.

Far from being offended, “Of course they want their industry to survive, so that’s what they celebrate,” she says.

“And it survives, really, [the kimono] It becomes an item of fashion, not something that is worshiped and restricted. “

► Kimono will be on display at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris until May 28, 2023.

First published in RFI

http://www.unitedkingdomnews.net/news/273188831/paris-exhibition-explores-kimono-from-japanese-icon-to-global-trend Paris exhibition explores kimono, from Japanese icons to global trends

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