Skip to main site content.
Kim Kardashian West at her KKW Beauty and Fragrance pop-up shop opening in Los Angeles in June 2018. (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images for ABA)

Backlash

Kim Kardashian West accused of cultural appropriation over ‘Kimono’ shapewear

By WITW Staff on June 27, 2019

Kim Kardashian West unveiled a new line of shapewear this week, which, she says, is designed to offer “solutions for women that actually work.” But news of the line’s launch was quickly dominated by criticism over its name: Kimono.

The shapewear, which includes bras, underpants, bodysuits, and one-legged shorts — for wearing under skirts with high slits — tries to be inclusive. It comes in nine different shades and ranges from sizes XXS to 4XL.

The line, Kardashian wrote on Twitter, “celebrates and enhances the shape and curves of women.” But many people of Japanese descent have said that the name Kimono is tantamount to cultural appropriation, divorcing a culturally significant and historic garment from its context. 

San Francisco-based Yuka Ohishi, who tweeted about the controversy, tells CNN, “I was not very pleased by companies using the word kimono to market beach cover-ups and robes. And then Kim Kardashian went to a whole new level by simply using the word as a pun. Her line is not at all inspired by the Japanese kimono, pays no respect.”

The garment has its roots in the Heian period (794-1192) and eventually came to be known as a kimono, which means “wearing thing,” during the Meiji period (1868-1912). As Western influences began to creep into Japan, women were encouraged to wear kimonos as a link to the country’s traditional culture.

Today, most people in Japan dress in Western clothing, but the kimono remains symbolically important and is worn on formal occasions. “As Japan has come to define itself within the western world since the late 19th century,” according to the Victoria and Albert Museum, “the kimono has come to mark a boundary with the foreign, to stand for the essence that is Japanese.”

It is for this reason that people were upset to see the kimono attached to a line of lingerie that has nothing to do with the traditional garment. Fuel was added to the fire when news began to circulate that Kardashian trademarked the word “kimono,” although Business Insider reports that the trademark actually applies to a specific stylized font.

Trademark details aside, many continue to maintain that the line’s name is cultural appropriation. On social media, some expressed their displeasure by using the hashtag #KimOhNo. 

“I feel very sad that the name ‘Kimono’ is being used to something completely different from what we Japanese know about it,” tweeted Yasuno Yoshizawa, a consultant based in California, per CNN. “Kimono is Japanese traditional clothes and we are very proud of its history and culture. I’m sorry but I feel this name choice is simply ignorant.” 

Read the full story at CNN.

Related

Mexico accuses designer Carolina Herrera of cultural appropriation in new fashion line

Accusations of cultural appropriation abound over photo of Kendall Jenner with an ‘afro’

Teenager’s ‘offensive’ prom dress triggers massive backlash on social media