The Kimono – Exhibited at the V&A and Japan House
tudio 104 was introduced to the rich heritage of the kimono whilst developing uniform collections for the Hakkasan Group’s luxury Japanese restaurants as well as Japan House London, a cultural centre with exhibits on art and design. Notably our dress designs for Hakkasan have the structured shaping of the kimono complete with an obi inspired belt. This autumn the team was delighted to be able to learn even more at the exhibition ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ at the Victoria and Albert.
The exhibition, Europe’s first major exhibition on kimonos, revealed 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. Though this ultimate symbol of Japan is often perceived as traditional, timeless and unchanging, this exhibition presented the kimono as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion with over 315 works featured in the expertly curated experience.
The V&A show exhibited rare and exquisite 17th-century Japanese garments on display for the first time in the UK. The antique kimonos are presented on bespoke mannequins, showing off the rich fashion history of the garment in all its three-dimensional glory.
Also in the exhibition are various interpretations of the Japanese garment through international haute couture, film and performance. In fashion there is a stunning mustard Mantle, designed by Paul Poiret from 1913 and film, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s threadbare brown kimono from Star Wars. Also there is the extravagant Björk, floating in the high-collared brocade, kimono-inspired dress created by Alexander McQueen and Madonna in Jean-Paul Gaultier’s strident ox-blood combo of cropped kimono, shorts and PVC obi.
The kimono’s recent reinvention on the streets of Japan was also explored through work by an exciting new wave of contemporary designers and stylists. The display featured a kimono from Takahashi Hiroko a contemporary textile artist, and founder of the HIROCOLEDGE brand - also featured on display at Japan House. Fusing fashion and art, Takahashi Hiroko innovates the kimono tradition with her signature geometric patterns made up of circles and straight lines. As part of this display Studio 104 partnered in developing a HIROCOLEDGE facemask for Japan House’s uniform and shop.
The artist’s project ‘RENOVATION’ is inspired by the sustainable aspects of kimono - tailored from straight lines, the same kimono can be adapted to any body type, male or female, without having to cut the fabric. This adaptable nature of the garment meant that in the past, when kimono was everyday wear in Japan, old silk kimono could be re-dyed and re-tailored by families to pass on to future generations. Project ‘RENOVATION’ was born out of this tradition, where old kimono is unstitched, de-colourised, re-dyed in Takahashi’s signature patterns, and re-tailored.
The exhibition is now over at the V&A but it is available online, with a behind-the-scenes curator tour of the exhibition on the V&A’s YouTube channel. Five videos with curator Anna Jackson guide the viewer through the exhibition spaces, showing the preparation behind the show and the techniques that crafted the breath-taking garments on display.
The Japanese word kimono means “the thing to wear”, this is emphasised throughout the exhibition with the adaptions and reinventions of the garment and how they are constantly changing and evolving with the times.
Written by Bethan - Product Development Assistant