On 29 February, the V&A Museum in Kensington opens Europe’s first major exhibition on kimono. The ultimate symbol of Japan, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk presents the garment as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion.
The exhibition reveals the sartorial and social significance of the kimono from the 1660s to the present day, both in Japan and in the rest of the world.
Rare 17th and 18th century kimono are displayed for the first time in the UK, together with fashions by major designers and iconic film and performance costumes in a stunning collection which any fashion fan will be truly absorbed by.
The kimono’s recent reinvention on the streets of Japan is also explored through work by an exciting new wave of contemporary designers and stylists.
Highlights of the exhibition include the dress designed for Björk by Alexander McQueen and worn on the album cover Homogenic, and original Star Wars costumes modelled on kimono by John Mollo and Trisha Biggar.
Designs by Yves Saint Laurent, Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and John Galliano reveal the kimono’s role as a constant source of inspiration for fashion designers.
Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk begins in the mid-17th century when a vibrant fashion culture emerged in Japan. The increasingly wealthy merchant classes demanded the latest styles to express their affluence, confidence and taste, while leading actors and famous courtesans were the trend-setters of the day. The simple structure of the kimono focused attention on the surface, allowing for the creation of sumptuous patterns using sophisticated techniques. The first section of the exhibition explores these designs and shines a light on a fashion-conscious society not dissimilar to today’s, in which desire for the latest look was fed by a cult of celebrity and encouraged by makers, sellers and publishers.
Kimono were first exported to Europe in the mid-17th century, where they had an immediate impact on clothing styles. Seamstresses began to replicate their own versions in Europe while European fabrics were exported to Japan in a cross cultural exchange. In the 19th century the Liberty store was a prime importer of the Kimono in London and in the 20th and 21st centuries catwalk designers continue to find inspiration in this simple but lavishly adorned garment.
Kimono : Kyoto to Catwalk runs from Feb 29th to June 21st 2020. The exhibition sponsors are MUFG, GRoW @Annenberg, Shiseido and Yoshikimono.
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