Thanks to lockdown, Europe’s first major exhibition devoted to the kimono was forced to close just two weeks after opening. Fortunately, we live in an age of high-quality streaming and super-fast broadband so we can still indulge in the V&A’s famous fashion exhibitions at home.
The V&A’s ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’, which opened on February 29 before closing in early March, was one of the first exhibitions in Europe to delve into the sartorial and social significance of the kimono, exploring its traditional roots from the 1660s in Japan to the garment’s recent reinvention in Japanese street culture. Today (Thursday May 21), the museum has released a series of five films made just before the country went into lockdown that will let anyone who didn’t manage to catch the very limited run get an intimate 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour of the show, led by curator Anna Jackson.
Even if you saw the exhibition in the flesh, the videos will be worth watching to hear Jackson’s personal insights into putting it together. She’ll also be highlighting and discussing star exhibits like the Alexander McQueen dress designed for Björk and worn on the cover of her album ‘Homogenic’, original ‘Star Wars’ costumes modelled on a kimono by John Mollo and rare seventeenth- and eighteenth-century kimonos displayed for the first time in the UK.
Before it closed, Time Out’s art critic got a look at the exhibition and said: ‘It focuses so completely on the complexities of kimono-creation and wear within Japanese society, providing a parallel fashion narrative to our usual French-centric one. It also works because the items in those simple glass cases are fascinating and beautiful (very beautiful). From the flamboyant ruby reds and blazing motifs of a newly minted merchant class to the pared-back (but achingly expensive) minimalism of the elite, the garments on display have the codified strictures of society woven into them as intricately as their embroidery patterns.’ This is definitely worth adding to your calendar of virtual events.
Watch the V&A’s curator-led tour of ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ here.
Missing London’s museums and galleries? You can take virtual tours of almost every major London museum and gallery.
Or, check out this virtual group show featuring 50 artists’ responses to lockdown.