Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk at the V&A

Only a few days left (until Sunday 25 October 2020) to visit the spectacular exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk presented at the V&A in London. It is one of the most impressive exhibitions staged at the moment.

The kimono is often interpreted as the epitome of Japanese culture, mixing traditions, timelessness, craft and society ranking. It also embodies sensibility and luxury. The exhibition presents this iconic garment as fluid and fashionable, both in Japan and internationally.

Anna Jackson, curator, said: ‘I hope you will enjoy the opportunity to escape lockdown on a journey that will take us from the sophisticated culture of 17th century Japan to the creativity of the contemporary catwalk.’

This fantastic exhibition reveals the social significance of the kimono, from the 1660s to today. Kimono fashion flourished in the Edo period (1615-1868), an era of unprecedented political stability, economic growth and urban expansion, from Kyoto, textile production capital in the 17th century to European courts. It evolved throughout history to achieve one of the highest statuses in fashion, as a garment commanding respect and authority.

Spanning its history and influence on culture as a whole, from painting, advertising, set design, to cinema, the exhibition vibrantly brings together fashion from Japanese and international designers (Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Akira Isogawa, Thom Browne, Hanae Mori, and Jean Paul Gaultier among others) to reflect the many facets of this traditional garment. The kimono’s recent reinvention on the streets of Japan is also explored through modern-day photographs.

Particularly stunning are the kimono created by Living National Treasure Kunihiko Moriguchi, Akira Isogawa’s jacket and shorts for men, and the Alexander McQueen dress designed for Björk and worn on the cover of her album Homogenic. McQueen’s interest in Japan is also evident in a black short brocade jacket, with broad sleeves and a cross-over collar that curves away from the back of the neck. The jacket was part of McQueen’s elaborate Scanners collection.

Louis Ferdinand Elle’s painting of a “Young Man” features a French nobleman wearing a kimono-like robe with bold floral pattern revealing his wealth and style refinement. Another strong highlight of the show. Jean Paul Gaultier’s design for Madonna’s Nothing Really Matters stunning video also features towards the end of the show.

Almost 300 works are on view in total, including kimono specially made for the exhibition, with half being drawn from the V&A’s impressive collections and others on loans from museums and private collections in Britain, Europe, America and Japan. 

Central to the exhibition, is John Galliano’s green, yellow, orange and pink interpretation of the luxurious garment, Haute Couture-style for Dior, when the British-Spanish designer was at the absolute apogee of his talent. While the exhibition opens with a purple kimono also by Galliano, this remarkable piece closes the show with brio.