Kim Kardashian is being accused of cultural appropriation over her new line of shapewear
Reality TV star and aspiring lawyer Kim Kardashian launched her new shapewear brand on Tuesday, Kimono Intimates. "Finally I can share with you guys this project that I have been developing for the last year," she tweeted. "I’ve been passionate about this for 15 years. Kimono is my take on shapewear and solutions for women that actually work."
The brand celebrates the diversity of women, offering shapewear in nine shades and a variety of sizes, ranging from XXS to 4XL. However, the name 'Kimono Intimates' sparked immediate criticism, since kimonos have been a traditional Japanese garment since the 15th cenutry. And the kimono is not a kimono. In fact, it's the opposite.
The word kimono means "thing to wear on the shoulders" and refers to a loose, long-sleeved robe tied with a sash, or obi. Japanese people wear them for public holidays and festivals, as well as formal occasions, such as weddings, funerals and tea ceremonies. Both men and women wear kimonos, but women wear them most often.
"We wear kimonos to celebrate health, growth of children, engagements, marriages, graduations, at funerals. It's celebratory wear and passed on in families through the generations," one Japanese woman, Yuka Ohishi, told the BBC. [This] shapewear doesn't even resemble a kimono - she just chose a word that has Kim in it - there's no respect to what the garment actually means in our culture."
"I think Kim has so much influence on pop culture, I fear there will be people who only know the word kimono as her brand," Ohishi added. "I imagine it will have an effect on search results, hashtags, if this brand becomes as powerful as her other ventures."
"The [aesthetic] of the kimono is graceful, elegant and gentle. It is not overtly revealing or figure-hugging. It wraps the wearer so they are not exposed," Prof Sheila Cliffe from the Jumonji Women's University told the BBC. "If I made a bra and called it a sari... some people would be very annoyed. It shows extreme disrespect... [the Kimono] is an expression of Japanese identity. That word does not belong to Kim Kardashian."
The word kimono doesn't belong to Kim Kardashian in Japan, but in the United States, it might, in a legal sense. Last year the reality star trademarked the Kimono brand, plus filed trademarks for Kimono Body, Kimono Intimates and Kimono World. On social media, several people accused Kim of cultural appropriation, creating the trending hashtag #KimOhNo.
"I feel very sad that the name 'Kimono' is being used to [describe] something completely different from what we Japanese know about it," wrote Twitter user @bunkaiwa. "My culture is not your plaything," added @kasumihrkw. "Please do not take Japanese culture," tweeted @ZTguRBJnUrTAgSf. "Kimono is not underwear."
As of this writing, Kim Kardashian has not responded to the comments.