Frances has many years' experience writing about exhibitions in art galleries and museums.
Kimono on Display at V&A Museum
The Kimono – Traditional, Timeless, Unchanging?
The kimono is often thought of as traditional, timeless and unchanging. However, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk challenges this idea, showing how the garment has become an exciting, versatile and ever-changing fashion icon, not only in Japan but also in the rest of the world.
The Thing to Wear
The word ‘kimono’ means very simply ‘the thing to wear’. Its history goes back more than a thousand years and or the Japanese it represents national culture and sensibility. For others, the garment is an exotic costume.
By the being of the Edo period, (1615), everyone wore a kimono regardless of their gender or social position. By the middle of the 18th century kimono were popular in Europe where they had an immediate impact on dress styles. That global influence is still seen on fashion catwalks around the world today.
The exhibition has been curated for the V&A by Anna Jackson and Josephine Rout. Speaking recently, Anna Jackson said “From the sophisticated culture of 17th-century Kyoto to the creativity of the contemporary catwalk, the kimono is unique in its aesthetic importance and cultural impact giving it a fascinating place within the story of fashion.”
The V&A is grateful to MUFG, GRoW @ Annenberg, Shiseido, Japan Centre and Yoshikimono for their generous support.
Kimono for a Woman (Kosode).
Kimono for a Woman (Kosode) Detail
Highlights of the Exhibition
The display features more than three hundred items including paintings, prints, film, dress accessories and other objects. Rare 17th and 18th century kimono are shown alongside costumes created for film and performance as well as garments and accessories by contemporary designers.
One such item – Kimono for a woman (kosode) – dates from 1750-1800. It is patterned with a curving maple tree and bold embroidered characters taken from a 9th-century poem:
It is cold in the yellow autumn forest
And there are autumn leaves
Lapis lazuli blue water is clear
And there is no wind
By electing to have characters on her garment the woman who wore it was showing her taste and literary discernment.
"Homogenic" Alexander McQueen
“Homogenic” – Alexander McQueen
The exhibition also showcases the kimono-style dress created for Björk by Alexander McQueen and worn on the album cover Homogenic. Björk’s hair was inspired by the fashions of Native American tribes but also paid homage to the styles of Edo-period courtesans.
Kimono "Beyond" by Moriguchi Kunihiko
‘Beyond’ by Moriguchi Kunihiko
Also on display is Beyond by renowned Japanese artist Moriguchi Kunihiko.
Moriguchi said “We have to answer the challenge of modernity: What is a kimono, or what will it become, if it ceases to be a thing worn?”
One of the most innovative designers working today, he originally trained as a graphic designer. He creates kimono patterns on paper with mathematical precision and applies these to fabric surfaces using rice paste. Moriguchi was named a Living National Treasure in 2007.
Costumes Created for Star Wars Films
The Kimono in Film
Included in the exhibition is the costume for Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) in the 1977 film Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. John Mollo designed a kimono-style light brown robe of threadbare plain weave pongee silk.
Mollo’s design is shown together with the kimono designed by Trisha Biggar for Queen Apailana (Keisha Castle-Hughes) in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. The garment is made of beautiful brocade silk, crepe silk, feathers and embroidery in metallic threads.
"Fuji Heartbreak" Made Specially for the Exhibition
“Fuji Heartbreak Kimono” – Made Specially for the Exhibition
This exquisite and very colourful item was made specially for Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk by Milligan Beaumont (b. 1992).
Beaumont combines her passion for kimono with skateboarding style. The T-shape and straight lines of the kimono offer a three-dimensional base for detailed storytelling. This garment shows the importance of friendship when suffering a broken heart. It is richly embellished and hand-painted with a landscape inspired by Japanese prints. The garment features Swarovski crystals, antique jewels, trinkets and applique pieces from vintage silk and cotton kimono.
"Fuji Heartbreak" Detail
"Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk" at the V&A Museum
Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, which can be seen at the V&A Museum from 29th February – 21st June 2020, is accompanied by a major V&A publication.
The show will travel to the following destinations:
- Museum of World Culture, Gothenburg, Sweden: 19th September 2020 to 10th January 2021
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam: 12th February – 9th May 2021
- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal: 12th June – 17th October 2021
Tickets and further details can be obtained from the V&A.
© 2020 Frances Spiegel
Liz Westwood from UK on February 27, 2020:
This article gives a great insight into this interesting exhibition. The mix of information and illustrations is excellent.