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V&A launches curator tour of Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

21 May 2020


The V&A museum has launched a series of five films on YouTube that takes viewers on a personal, 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour of its Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition, which is currently closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Curator Anna Jackson guides viewers through the exhibition spaces, providing a personal insight into the making of the show, sharing exhibition highlights, as well as the fascinating history of the iconic garment.

The exhibition, which closed just two weeks into its exhibition run, marks the first major exhibition devoted to kimono in Europe, showcasing rare 17th and 18th-century kimono alongside creations designed John Galliano for Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Thom Browne, Rei Kawakubo and Jean Paul Gaultier, as well as kimono worn by Freddie Mercury and Björk, and original Star Wars costumes modelled on the kimono by John Mollo and Trisha Biggar and Oscar-winning costumes from Memoirs of a Geisha.

In total, more than 300 works are featured in the exhibition, with paintings, prints, films, dress accessories and other objects featured alongside the garment to showcase the fascinating story of the style, appeal and influence of the kimono, as well as special kimonos that have been especially made for the show. These pieces have been half drawn from the V&A’s superlative collections and the rest generously lent by museums and private collections in Britain, Europe, America and Japan.

Anna Jackson, curator of Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk at the V&A, said in a statement: “Having closed the exhibition early, I am so pleased that we can share the kimono experience with viewers around the world. Many of you will be at home in lockdown, so I hope you will enjoy the opportunity to escape on a journey that will take us from the sophisticated culture of 17th century Japan to the creativity of the contemporary catwalk.

“We look forward to welcoming you to the V&A again soon, so you can encounter these sumptuous garments and exciting displays for yourself.”

V&A releases five behind-the-scenes videos touring its Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition

The first film in the series looks kimono as fashion, how it is constructed, including pattern, colour and techniques such as dyeing and embroidery, and how the kimono as haute couture of its day.

The second film looks at the Edo period, how merchant class affluence and taste saw changes in patterns and motifs, as well as looking at wedding kimono, men’s kimono and the relationship between courtesans and kimono.

The third film explores the Dutch trade with Japan, the introduction of foreign fabrics in Japan, as well as the impact of the first kimono in Europe and foreigners wearing kimono.

The fourth instalment looks at Kimono and early 20th-century western fashions, the new kimono designs in Japan, as well as the impact of chemical dyes and new department stores selling the kimono.

The final curated tour talks about Kimono fashion today, the codification of kimono, the renaissance of the garment, as well as how Kimono has influenced international fashion designers and has been utilised as film costumes and by music performers.

Image: courtesy of the V&A Museum

V&A Museum