Early in 2020 the Victoria & Albert Museum in London opened the sartorially elegant exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, timed to coincide with the Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo later in the year, but due to the global pandemic COVID-19, this has had to be postponed to a future date.
In the meantime, a magnificent coffee table book created in line with the exhibition has been launched; a book which is elegant, sumptuous, rich in the glory and magnificent photography of garments on display.
Anna Jackson curator and Keeper of the Asian Department at the V&A has a gathered together 250 Kimono’s and Kimono inspired garments, to present more than just a garment collection. The history of these simple, elegant and inspiring garments has been thoroughly researched, along with the impact they have had on the international fashion scene for more than 150 years, but this impact to a lesser degree, can be traced back much further.
The Kimono in the traditional sense has its own fascinating history as a garment of social and cultural significance, but in reality, the name, derived from “kasode”, meaning a garment with small sleeves, which depending on the period, also signified the style or fashion of the garment, simply referred to a simple, plain garment. Over the various periods, the garments or Kimono’s came to represent many differing things; from the wealth of the owner, to their social standing, significance and so much more.
Throughout the pages of this fascinating documentary, the history of Japan, as well as the fraught relationship Japan has held with the world over many centuries, has also been included, adding a depth to the work which is as fascinating as the history of the garments.
Consisting of more than 300 pages, most of these have either a full colour plate or smaller picture displayed and, in some instances, the fascinating and perfectly crafted items considered as essentials to be worn or carried with the wearing of the garment, are also shown.
Many of the garments which have remained intact down through the years are those of immense beauty and rich tapestry, created only to be worn once or on ceremonial occasions, certainly not to be worn in everyday use. Amongst the items on display is the garment worn by Freddie Mercury as a challenge to gender and sexuality. David Bowie designed his signature white flowing outfit after a visit to Japan where he met Bando Tamasburo, who taught him how to apply traditional Kabuki makeup. Boy George and Bjork also used the kimono style in their costuming, along with many others.
One of the more significant periods in 20th century fashion is that of the Art Deco period of early the 1920’s – 1930’s, which saw the relaxed, luxurious style introduced into women’s fashion in Europe, until the post-World War II era, when all things Japanese were considerably frowned upon. It was not until much later when fashion once again, on the search for something different, something unique, saw the loose flowing stylish garment return.
Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk traces this journey beautifully, in great detail and splendour, creating a book which will be treasured by anyone who is at all artistically inclined, lovers of fashion, history aficionados or students of fashion and design.
Not just a book for the elite within an industry, or exhibition attendee, this is a seriously constructed work based on the exhibition, and one of permanence and history which will live on long after the exhibition has finally been dismantled.