Duncan Bartlett for JAPAN Forward

A major new exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum celebrates the kimono’s elegant history. It also displays its dynamic renaissance, through works by modern designers, such Alexander McQueen, John Gallianio, and Rei Kawakubo.

Europe’s first major exhibition of the kimono is a celebration of the garment’s unique place in the story of global fashion.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is showing more than 350 creations in Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, which opened to the public on Saturday, February 29.

“We want our visitors to gain an appreciation of the significance and the sheer beauty of the kimono, and we want to show that fashion is able to transcend geographic borders,” said Anna Jackson, the exhibition’s curator and the keeper of the V&A’s Asia Department.

The exhibition includes many treasures, such as an 18th-century summer kimono, which is yuzen-dyed and embroidered with golden-hued cherry blossoms. It is valued at around ¥2 million JPY (about £14,000 GBP or $18,000 USD) and it is too delicate to wear.

Despite being seen as uniquely Japanese, the kimono has had an influence on international clothing styles for nearly 400 years.

The Director of the V&A, Dr. Tristram Hunt, believes its allure stems from a simple structure and the invitation to create intricate designs on its surface.

“When we talk about kimonos, we often think of a beautiful and remote garment, a long way from ordinary people. This exhibition challenges that perception and it reveals that the kimono is highly dynamic. It’s been the focus of a vibrant fashion culture which has existed in Japan since the 1660s,” said Dr. Hunt.

By - Ben K.