From samurais to Jedi knights, kimono stars in London show

London – Freddie Mercury, Yves Saint Laurent and George
Lucas were all seduced by the charms of the kimono, whose evolution from
medieval times in Japan will be on show at a major exhibition in London.

The kimono has been worn by Jedi knights in Lucas’s “Star Wars”
movie saga,
and David Bowie in his futuristic alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

“It’s very fluidity is, I think, what makes it such an iconic
said Anna Jackson, curator of the “Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk” exhibition at
Victoria and Albert Museum, which opens on Saturday.

V and A director Tristram Hunt said: “When we think about fashion,
kimono might not be the first item that comes to mind.”
The exhibition, which runs to June 21, “challenges this perception”.

Elegance and show

A triptych consisting of a garment from 1800, a modern one by
designer Jotaro Saito and a third from 2007 by Britain’s John Galliano for
Dior “shows how the fashion of the kimono has been translated beyond
and geographic boundaries”, said Hunt.

The kimono influence has even reached space, with the plain robes
worn by
Alec Guinness as “Star Wars” Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi forming part of the

More than 100 items show off the contrasting variations on what was
once a
simple robe.
The oldest, dating from around 1660 to 1680, has sober maple leaves
embroidered on water motifs.
The most recent is a skateboarder-style long, hooded coat made in 2019 by
the young designer Milligan Beaumont.

“The very simplicity of (the) kimono’s shape means that it can be
apart and reconstructed in a myriad of ways,” Jackson told AFP, explaining
enduring fascination with kimonos across the centuries and continents.

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“For many people it’s the sense of the drape from the shoulders. For
others, it’s the sash in the middle.

“For others, it’s about the sumptuous surfaces, the amazing patterns
how they’re combined in unusual ways.”

‘Genderless garment’

The kimono, worn by both men and women, began to appear in Europe
thanks to
the Dutch East India Company, which was allowed to trade with Japan despite
the isolationist policy of its Edo period (1615-1868) that restricted
with foreigners.

In the 19th century, Japan began making kimonos with French silk, and
Europe began making kimonos from Japanese fabrics.
Since then, it has not stopped influencing international fashion.

Over time, the traditional embroidery depicting reeds, cherry
trees, water
lilies, birds or dragons became sophisticated geometric or even psychedelic

French designer Jean Paul Gaultier shortened the robes to Bermuda
length in a fiery red 1998 creation for pop star Madonna.

Alexander McQueen widened the neck and shortened the sleeves in 1997
Bjork — a look as experimental and avant-garde as the Icelandic singer

In 1958, Saint Laurent transformed it into a cocktail dress with a
voluminous skirt and a bolero jacket.

And in 2005 Yohji Yamamoto reinterpreted it in silk crepe to
capture the
garment’s gender ambiguity, as Queen frontman Mercury did in the 1970s,
wearing kimonos on stage during the British rock band’s tours of Japan.

“It is a genderless garment. Fundamentally, that shape doesn’t change
whether you are a man or a woman,” said Jackson.

“It seems very elegant and has that sense of performance.
“All fashion is performance in some way, but somehow, in a kimono, it’s
very easy to do it elegantly.”(AFP)

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Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP


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