` Kimono Crossing the Sea - Its Power to Inspire Imagination and Creativity

Mrs George Smith (partial cropped version), Frederic William Burton. Private Collection. Image: National Gallery of Ireland

Kimono Crossing the Sea - Its Power to Inspire Imagination and Creativity

‘Kimono’ is a word that has long been synonymous with the image of Japan and Japanese culture. Though it was once cast aside by modern women who viewed it as old-fashioned and impractical to wear, much appreciation is now given to the kimono, especially among the younger generation and global fashion designers who believe it is expressive and on trend. It isn’t the first time, however, that the kimono is at the center of attention; in fact an enthusiastic admiration of the wardrobe piece was demonstrated in western Europe in the latter half of the 19th century when various Japanese products such as ukiyo-e had spread overseas, and the ‘Japonisme’ whirlwind had taken over. For progressive artists such as Manet and Whistler, as well as innovative fashion designers such as Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet, the kimono was not merely a beautiful garment invoking exoticism, but an inspirational source for their creativity and, as a result, we are able to perceive its significant influence in their pieces.

What was it about the kimono that mesmerized and captured the imagination of those artists?

Celebrating the UK’s first comprehensive exhibition about the kimono – Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk – at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (running until 25 October 2020), the Japan Foundation has invited renowned fashion historian and curator, FUKAI Akiko, to talk about kimono as it was depicted in the latter half of 19th century and the intriguing relationship between the kimono and artists. Reflecting on the fact that its significance has been relatively dismissed in art and fashion history, she will explore what kimono meant to these masters and what they drew out of stylish, oriental fashion.

The talk will be preceded by a brief introduction by Anna Jackson, the Curator of Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, and a brief conversation with FUKAI Akiko will follow her lecture.

About the speakers


Award-winning and renowned fashion historian and Director/Curator Emeritus of the Kyoto Costume Institute, FUKAI Akiko obtained an MA and honorary doctorate at Ochanomizu University and studied Art History at the Université de Paris IV (Institute des Arts et de l’ Archeologie). She has organized several major and acclaimed fashion exhibitions such as “Japonism in Fashion,” and “Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion” in Japan and overseas. She is also the author of multiple influential books including Reading Fashion from Pictures (PHP Institute, Kyoto, 2009), and Kimono and Japonism (Heibonsha, Tokyo, 2017) as well as Fashion (Taschen, Köln, 2002), of which 650 thousand copies have been sold so far.

Anna Jackson

Anna Jackson is Keeper of the Asian Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum. A specialist in Japanese textiles and dress, she has written widely on the subject and is the curator of the exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk and editor of the accompanying publication. Her other major research interest is the cultural relationship between Asia and Europe. In 2004 she was co-curator of Encounters: the Meeting of Asia and Europe 1500-1800 and in 2009 lead curator of Maharaja: the Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, which subsequently toured internationally.

Please note that this session will be hosted on Zoom.

To book your place, please click here.



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