Life in London is chaotic, but step inside the V&A and you will find an oasis of tranquillity in their new major exhibition ‘Kimono’. Just as you were wondering if the V&A could top their recent exhibition successes, they bring us Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk.

John Galliano’s kimono inspired gown for Christian Dior

What to expect at Kyoto to Catwalk

This is the first major exhibition in Europe to celebrate the ultimate symbol of Japan. The exhibition highlights the beauty, tranquillity and influence of Japan, from the Kimono to paintings, prints, drawings, puppets and objects.

Kimono Kyoto to Catwalk

Kimono | The appeal

The Kimono is the traditional timeless costume of Japan that has inspired people for centuries. It means thing to wear and is a garment that has influenced cultures and countries around the world, inspiring costume and fashion designers alike.

Kimono Kyoto to Catwalk

As you walk through each room you see the layers of fabric peel away. You begin to understand what the appeal of kimono is, and how it has been used to express the affluence and taste of the Japanese.

Who wore Kimonos

Everyone wore kimonos, both men and women; Japanese society, samurai soldiers, geishas and theatre performers to name but a few. Distinguishing features of male kimonos are sleeve lengths, colour and sometimes hues between older and younger men. The leading trendsetters in the mid-17th century were actors and famous courtesans – nothing much has changed then!

Kimono Kyoto to Catwalk
The first Liberty print kimono

Kimonos are still worn today, especially when celebrating momentous occasions. It could be coming of age, getting married or a funeral, although now that kimonos are so expensive they are often hired.

Kimono Kyoto to Catwalk

Kyoto to Europe

Japan started exporting kimonos as far back as the 1660’s and they were especially loved by the Dutch. In France, the fashion houses created kimonos with french brocade.

Kimono Kyoto to Catwalk
French brocade kimono

Kyoto to Catwalk

The final room takes you to the catwalk and scenes from stage and screen. Reminiscent of the last room of the Alexander McQueen show, the V&A invokes the wow factor by recreating a colourful Japanese garden displaying simple, delicate modern kimonos and western designs inspired by the traditional kimono.

Kimono Kyoto to Catwalk

One of the most famous kimonos in cinema history was worn by Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.

Obi-Wan Konebi
Obi-Wan Kenobi wore a kimono in Star Wars

Pop stars have also been fascinated by the kimono. Bjork wore a stunning Alexander McQueen kimono, as did Freddie Mercury. Madonna also strikes a pose in her red inspired kimono designed by Jean Paul Gaultier.

That wonderful film, Memoirs of a Geisha, which picked up the Oscar for Best Costume also features.

Kimono Kyoto to Catwalk
Oscar winning costumes from the film Memoirs of a Geisha

Verdict: Kimono | Kyoto to Catwalk

Kimonos have been worn for hundreds of years and it is easy to see why they continue to inspire. This exhibition is without doubt one to see, and its reputation will grow like a tsunami as people become enraptured by its exquisite beauty.

Kimono | Kyoto to Catwalk until 21 June 2020

Victoria & Albert Museum: Exhibition tickets
Events related to the exhibition: Kimono Event tickets
Little London Whispers South Kensington Day Out