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“Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk” Exhibition at the V&A Museum

Frances has many years' experience writing about exhibitions in art galleries and museums.

Kimono on Display at V&A Museum

Kimono on Display at V&A "Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk" Exhibition. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

Kimono on Display at V&A "Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk" Exhibition. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

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). Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

Kimono for a Woman (Kosode). Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

Kimono for a Woman (Kosode) Detail

Kimono for a Woman (Kosode). Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

Kimono for a Woman (Kosode). Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

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. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

"Homogenic" Alexander McQueen. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

“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

Kimono "Beyond" by Moriguchi Kunihiko. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

Kimono "Beyond" by Moriguchi Kunihiko. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

‘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

Star Wars Costumes. Images by Frances Spiegel with permission from the V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

Star Wars Costumes. Images by Frances Spiegel with permission from the V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

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" Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from the V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

"Fuji Heartbreak" Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from the V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

“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

"Fuji Heartbreak" Detail. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from the V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

"Fuji Heartbreak" Detail. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from the V&A Museum. All rights reserved.

"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.

V&A Museum

© 2020 Frances Spiegel

Comments

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.