Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk - An in-depth look at the exhibition and chat with the curator 必見、イギリス着物特別展ヴィクトリア&アルバート博物館の感想、キューレータさんへのインタビュー


On the 29th of February 2020 the world famous Victoria & Albert Museum in London opened its doors to a new exciting exhibition.

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk” does not only display historical kimono – the visitor will learn about kimono history and evolution throughout the centuries as well as how this traditional garment changed the world of fashion outside of Japan.

As of July, 2020, the V&A announced an extension and re-opening of the exhibition after the initial Coronavirus lockdown.
From August 27th to October 25th 2020 the exhibition is scheduled to welcome visitors, however please check the V&A website again in case of changes.

こんにちは。お元気されてますか? コロナのことで、心配な日々が続きます。早く、この世界から、コロナの問題が去るように願っています。




Since I have been working closely with many exhibited kimono brands, I flew to London to view and experience the exhibition first hand, as well as have a chat with curator Josephine Rout who worked alongside Anna Jackson on to bring this installation to life. 

今回展示され、永久保存される着物ブランドの方々とお仕事をさせて頂いていることもあり、「いざロンドンへ!」とあいなりました。また、今回の着物特別展のキューレータであるお二人の内の一人Josephine Routさんに話を伺いました。

For the visit on the first day, I wore a jersey kimono and tabi by Jotaro Saito paired with my Union Jack obi (the best place to wear it imho) by Modern Antenna. 
Zouri are my own design for SALZ Tokyo (those and the obi are available in my shop btw.)

I also went back another day for the interview – so you will see pictures of me in Western clothing mixed into this article as well. (To my defense I have to say that in that morning I had to move with 2 large suitcases and run some errands, so kimono wearing wasn’t possible..) 

展示初日は、Jotaro Saitoのジャージ着物と足袋、そして、モダンアンテナのユニオンジャック帯で訪問しました。ユニオンジャック帯は、この日が来るのを待っていたかのような、最高のタイミングでした。
草履は、SALZ Tokyoのオリジナルです(ウェブショップから購入可能です。広告w)。


Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk キモノ:京都からキャットウォークまで

©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

The visitor is greeted in a matcha-tea colored room with display of what will represent the core of the exhibition: An outer kimono for a woman dated back to 1800-1830 reassembling Japan’s tradition and various crafts of kimono making, in the back a kimono inspired dress by John Galliano for Christian Dior SS 2017 collection which shows how kimono has affected and inspired the fashion world until today, as well as a Japanese kimono ensemble of kimono designer Jotaro Saito specially designed for the V&A, showing kimono of today. 

着物特別展示は、事前に、訪問日・時間を予約する必要があります。会場に入ると、まずは、抹茶色のお部屋です。そこには、1800-1830年ごろの女性用のお着物(下の写真、左)、クリスチャン・ディオールのJohn Gallianoによる2017年コレクションからの着物にインスパイアされたドレス、そして、V&Aの為にデザインされたJotaro Saitoの現代の着物がお出迎えしてくれます。


The following displays show examples of the kimono making process, designs as well as the construction of kimono in the Edo period and how they had been worn by samurai and other members of the household. These pieces of art will actually change during the exhibition. 


©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

Josephine Rout was so kind to give us a personal tour, to provide more insights on the exhibition.
We prepared some questions to include alongside this report 

今回のスペシャルゲストは、Josephine Rout(ジョセフィン)さんです。着物展示会のキューレータであり、まことにお忙しい中、展示会場の隅々まで丁寧にご説明いただいてしまいました。ありがたいです。:

SALZ: Thank you so much for taking time, for us Josephine!
First of all we are curious to hear why you and Anna picked up the topic “Kimono”?

Josephine: “Well, first of all the V&A has been collecting Japanese art since its founding in 1852 and now holds one of the worlds most significant collection. This exhibition is the latest one in a series of fashion related exhibitions which have shown works of Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, Mary Quant and more. A long friendship with Japan as well as the upcoming 2020 Japan Olympics this Summer seemed like a good timing.” 

Josephine: 「V&Aは、1852年の創設から、日本の美術品を蒐集してきており、世界でも数えるほどのコレクションを有しています。今回の展示は、Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, Mary Quant等の作品をショーケースしてきた一連のファッションの展示シリーズの最新のものです。長年にわたる日本との友好関係と2020年の東京オリンピックに鑑みて、最良のタイミングだと考えたからです。」

©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

SALZ: What was your vision/goal for this exhibition? 

Josephine: “The Japanese kimono is a highly fashionable garment. We wanted to show that fashion was not just born in Europe and that kimono isn’t just a traditional garment. Japanese crafts and designs had a large impact on the fashion in the West as well. 

In most occasions kimono are displayed flat, like an artwork. I want to show that kimono is much more than art. It is wearable – that’s why you see many kimono dressed on mannequins in this exhibition.” 

Josephine: 「日本の着物は、高度なファッション着です。私たちは、ファッションは、ヨーロッパだけで生まれたものでなく、また、着物はただに伝統衣装ではないということを見せたかったのです。日本の工芸及びデザイン性は、西洋のファッションに多大な絵今日を与えているのです。


the Kimono gang in Lon!

SALZ: How long did you work on bringing this exhibition to life? And how did you go around curating for it? 

Josephine: “It took about 2 years to plan and curate it!
Half of the kimono and artworks exhibited are from the collection of the V&A, other garments and artworks have been kindly lent to us by other museums and private collectors. 

We created a “wishlist” of items we wanted to exhibit and during the planning process we had to constantly alter and cut down on our list to finally reach the perfect balance for this exhibition.”

Josephine: 「計画段階から、キューレーションで約2年かかりました。半分の着物及び美術品は、V&Aのコレクションからです。それ以外の衣服、美術品は、様々な博物館及び個人のコレクターさんたちがお貸しくださったものです。

©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

Fashion leaders of Edo 江戸のファッションリーダー

The next room is dedicated to the fashion leaders of the Edo period. Kabuki actors, geishas, courtesans… you name it. 



Colorful ukiyoe (wood block prints) were perhaps comparable to the Vogue magazine of today. Artworks portraying the lives of the fashionable – and mostly famous (apart from daily scenes of course) which were also used to advertise newest trends.

Josephine also tells us that the mannequins as well as many kimono and obi have been specially made in the same shade of gray to not distract from the exhibited piece and let it stand out more. 


The Nihongami inspired hair pieces worn by the female mannequins have been created with fabrics in collaboration with Yoshimura Kouka from Tokyo’s Bunka University.  

The center of attention in this room certainly is this amazing embroidered uchikake kimono. 



Kimono in the world 世界におけるキモノ

Next we enter rooms tinted in a deep red (loving it!!) and a shy welcome from Anna Elizabeth van Reede sporting a silk robe similar to a kimono. Actually it only is a painting from 1678, showing the mistress of Slot Zuylen near Utrecht (the Netherlands). 

次のお部屋は真紅が美しい壁紙に目を惹かれます。そこには、まず、 Anna Elizabeth van Reede(Slot Zuylen(お城)の貴婦人、オランダ・ユーテリヒト近くです)が着物を模したドレスを着た絵が飾られています。この油絵は、なんと、1678年のものなのです。

Anna Elizabeth van Reede

The Dutch were the first to do trade with Japan, which ultimately led to an admiration of kimono and its crafts. Japan made special kimono gowns for export with more tubular sleeves and other alterations. However some items were also imitated and made locally using Chinese silks (like the one the lady in the painting is wearing). 

かつて、オランダは日本と盛んに貿易した数少ない国でした。その当時から、日本の着物や工芸品は重宝されていたようです。その頃、日本は輸出のため袖を丸くしたものや、様々な変更を加えたキモノ風のガウンを作りました。オランダ国内でも、中国の絹を用いて、着物をモチーフにした衣装が作られるほどでした。 絵画の女性が着ているものもその一例です。

©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

In the Meiji period, more and more crossovers between East and West could be encountered. Kimono started to be used not only as fancy gowns around the house, Western dresses received some Japanese makeover as well. 


©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

Soon the exchange flourished between the nations.
Fabrics made in Britain or France were exported to Japan, which were also used to make kimono items.
Western gowns and kimono for export were made in Yokohama (which kimono being often with less superior craftsmanship than for the Japanese market, tells us Josephine.) Japanese kimono could be purchased at Liberty (department store) in London in 1850 as if it was the most natural thing. 


Day dream of foreign travel (L). The female student with western heels (R). 着物と洋服の組み合わせ。着物とハイヒールとか。昔からあったんですよ。

During our tour, Josephine points out that the European fashion started changing drastically in the early 20th century – to a more tubular silhouette as people labelled the Western dress as unhealthy.
Designers started creating more and more Japan inspired shapes in their garments. 


©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

Also the Japanese kimono itself underwent some changes in design and manufacturing. The trade with the West led to exchange of machinery and manufacturing know-how. Now fabrics could be woven at much higher speeds and with less effort, making them ultimately more affordable. With the influx of Western fashion in Japan, kimono also adapt to fun and colorful designs as widely seen in Meisen kimono. 


Josephine who lived in Japan before, used to wear kimono a lot during her stay. As a fan of Meisen kimono we were excited to see so many of these kimono displayed.
She responds “Meisen kimono were the first ready to wear fashion items” to us asking what inspired her to showcase them. 


©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

Kimono Reformed 変わり行く着物

Lastly we enter a bright large hall with an array of flowing pedestals showcasing more recent kimono fashion. “From the 1950’s kimono became highly conservative and mostly formal wear. Magazines illustrated rules how the devoted woman had to behave, move and how the kimono had to be put on.” notes Josephine. 



Until nowadays the kimono is mostly seen as something fancy, only to be worn for special celebrations such as “coming of age”, graduation and weddings. An item which often seems intimidating due to all its rules and the difficulty of putting it on. 


©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

Many kimono designers are working for years on changing the image of kimono, trying to appeal to a younger or fashion forward audience with different designs and taste. Some achieve these results while honoring the traditional crafts of dye and stencil cutting, others make use of modern fibers and technology such as digital printing. 


©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

These leading kimono brands: Moriguchi Kunihiko, Rumi Rock, Jotaro Saito, Modern Antenna, Hirocoledge, Yoshikimono, Robe Japonica, Iroca, Tamao Shigemune, Fujikiya (… just to name a few) are exhibited alongside kimono inspired creations from European designers such as Thom Browne, Duro Olowu etc. 

森口邦彦、ルミロック、斉藤上太郎、モダンアンテナ、ローブジャポニカ、ヒロコレッジ、イロカ、重宗玉緒、藤木屋などなど名前を挙げたらきりがないのですが、これらのブランドがThorm BrowneやDuro Olowuといったヨーロッパのデザイナの着物からインスパイアされた作品と展示されています。

“Fashion is fluid!” 「ファッションとは流動性」

– Josephine Rout

Kimono Performance ステージでの着物

The kimono has been a popular inspiration for movie and stage costumes.
In this exhibition you can see the costumes from Star Wars movies, a kimono owned by Freddie Mercury as well as the famous red ensemble by Jean Paul Gaultier for Madonna’s music video ‘Nothing really matters’ (1998).
Madonna said to have been inspired by the book ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’.

着物は、映画や舞台のコスチュームのベースとしても人気を誇ります。例えば、スターウォーズの衣装やクイーンのフレディ・マーキュリーの衣装、マドンナの「Nothing really matters」のPVで使われたJean Paul Gaultierの赤い衣装など飾られていますよ。マドンナは、(チャン・ツツィー主演で映画化された)「さゆり」からインスパイアされたと言われています。

©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

The kimono style dress by Alexander McQueen for Björks 1997 album ‘Homogenic’ cover picture is another famous garment. Combined with the Masai neck rings and the hair inspired by the styles of Native American tribes as well the Edo period, this collaboration was drawing from non-western ideals of power and beauty. 

ビョークの1997年アルバム「Homogenic」の表紙は、Alexander McQueenによる衣装ですが、そちらも実物を見ることができます。マサイ族の首輪とアメリカインディアンのスタイルと江戸のスタイルを融合させた髪型は、西洋とはことなる、力と美しさを感じさせます。

Cultural appropriation 所謂、文化の盗用について

SALZ: As kimono wearer we are often confronted with questions from US-Americans about “cultural appropriation”. People sometimes are confused if it is okay for a white person to wear kimono. We already have some thoughts on the topic, but how do you feel about the topic, Josephine? 

Josephine: “The kimono itself isn’t a sacred garment. While there are many cases of quite clear cultural appropriation, whereby elements of a marginalised culture are exploited by a dominant one (often the very power that suppressed that culture in the first place), the wearing of kimono and kimono-inspired garments is not quite so straightforward.
It is important to recognize that Japan has mostly had agency in the way in which it presents itself to the world and has profited from the fashion for kimono, as seen with those created for export, and has long been an active part of global fashion.
So in my opinion, cultural appropriation can’t be applied to kimono wearing.”

Josephine: 「着物それ自体は神聖な衣装ではありません。また、日本にいる日本人は世界において基本的には不当な差別を受けてきておらず、寧ろ、文化の源であったと考えられます。この展示でご覧頂いたように、着物は海外の人々が楽しめ、着れるよう変化をしてきており、現在に至るまで世界のファッションに影響を与え続けています。私見ではありますが、文化の盗用は着物には簡単には適用できないと考えます。」


On this note we would like to add, that Japanese people aren’t aware of the term “cultural appropriation” as this issue seems to be a primarily American one. In general you will come across Japanese people trying to inspire more people (foreigners and Japanese alike) to wear kimono. They always encourage people to learn about the garments and try them, so please don’t be afraid to try out kimono wearing!! (If done respectfully of course.) 

この話題については、付言しますと、日本では「文化の盗用」という概念は強く認識されておらず、主に米国で意識、提唱されているように思われます。日本にいると感じると思いますが、多くの日本の人は、日本人以外の人にももっともっと着物を着てほしいとがんばっています。もちろん、日本の人や着物愛好家さんたちの気持ちを、わざと傷つけるような着方はだめですが、そうでなければ、日本の人々は、どんどん着物を試してみてほしいと思ってます。(間違っていたらご指摘願います 汗)

©︎ Victoria and Albert Museum

The finish of the exhibition is made by some more examples of dresses made of kimono fabric alongside the Issey Miyake x Ikko Tanaka dress and a specially made padded kimono by young designer Milligan Beaumont which shows tradition merged with today’s pop culture. 

展示の最後は、Issey MiyakeとIkko Tanakaのドレスと、Popカルチャーと伝統を融合したデザイナーMilligan Beaumontの作った綿入りの着物です。

SALZ: One last question to you, Josephine.
Do you think there is a future for kimono?

Josephine: “Definitely yes. But I also feel there is more support needed to make sure the traditional crafts don’t die out. We hear from many artists and craftsmen that the tools needed aren’t being produced anymore, as well as the wages are so low that young people can’t take over and make a living. Even if there is for example a dye artist, if nobody makes the brushes or sews the kimono, it cannot be completed. If the links are missing, the kimono ecosystem can collapse.” 

Josephine: 「もちろん、Yesです。伝統工芸については、まだまだ、支援が足りていないと感じます。芸術家や職人の方々から、つかっている道具はもう製造されていない、給料も低く、若者に教え伝えて継承してもらうこともできない、と聞きました。染めの職人さんも、もし、染めの刷毛を作らなくなったら、または、着物を縫う人がいなくなったら、作品は完成しません。様々な製造工程での、職人さんのつながりがひとつでも欠ければ、着物のエコシステムは機能しなくなっていってしまうのです。」


Summary まとめ

Kimono – Kyoto to Catwalk
The exhibition is extremely well curated and stays exciting throughout all rooms, no matter if you are new to kimono or already submerged in the topic.
A definite must see if you are in London!

Thank you very much again to the kind V&A team and for Josephine taking extra time to meet us, tour and explain the exhibition in detail!



Victoria and Albert Museum ヴィクトリア&アルバート博物館 ( V&Aは、1852年(明治天皇が誕生された年!)に開園した博物館で、最寄の駅はサウスケンジントン駅(South Kensington) から歩いて3分ほどです)
Kimono – Kyoto to Catwalk キモノ:京都からキャットウォークまで
29th February – 21st June 2020
Admission £16 (need to book your time slot in advance) 
入場料: 16ポンド(事前にオンラインで予約が必要です!)

The shop has so many kimono and Japan related goods. The exhibition is also available in "book form" with large pictures and a lot of explanation. The museum said the books are the best sellers there. I totally recommend it! 

Finally also met some lovely kimono people, some which I have virtually known for years. Hope to see you again soon! 

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, sponsored by MUFG,
at the V&A from 29 February – 21 June 2020,

キモノ:京都からキャットウォークまで (スポンサー MUFG)ヴィクトリア&アルバート博物館にて、2020年2月29日から、6月21日まで。

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