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V&A explores kimono’s influence on fashion in new exhibition

Published
today Oct 10, 2019
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After hosting exhibitions on shoes, underwear, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum looks east as it announces Europe’s largest exhibition focusing on the kimono.


Christian Dior, Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2007 - V&A, Getty Images


Rare 17th century kimono; costume designs by Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent and dramatic creations from Rei Kawakubo and John Galliano will reveal kimono’s influence on fashion throughout the years in the new ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ exhibition opening at the museum in February 2020.

Long before becoming a source of inspiration for countless of fashion designers, the kimono was a traditional Japanese garment worn by wealthy merchants in the mid-17th century. 

Instantly recognisable for its simple structure and sumptuous patterns, it quickly became a hit in a fashion-conscious society, seducing European exporters and the high classes in the Netherlands, France and the UK.

In the late 19th century, kimono filled the shelves of department stores such as Liberty & Co and were embraced by the creatively-inclined. European textile technology and chemical dyes allowed the garment to evolve, paving the way for its rise as an icon of fashion in the early 20th century, when designers such as Paul Poiret, Mariano Fortuny and Madeleine Vionnet abandoned tightly corseted styles in favour of drapey silhouettes.

Kimono continues to inspire fashion designers today, with couturiers around the world reinterpreting its famous shape and timeless quality into new pieces by Thom Browne, Duro Olowu and Yohji Yamamoto.

Finally, the exhibition will feature costume kimono such as the Jean Paul Gautier outfit worn by Madonna in her video ‘Nothing Really Matters’.

Anna Jackson, curator of ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ at the V&A, 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.”

‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ opens at the Victoria & Albert Museum on 29 February 2020 for four months until 21 June.

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