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Explore the impact of the kimono on global fashion in new exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum
Rei Kawakubo (b. 1942), Japan, for Comme des Garҫons, Jacket, Skirt and Socks, Fall 2012, polyester, cotton, Cincinnati Art Museum; Museum Purchase: Lawrence Archer Wachs Trust, The Cynthea J. Bogel Collection, 2016.247, Photo by Rob Deslongchamps

CINCINNATI, OH.- In Kimono: Refashioning Contemporary Style, on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum from June 28–September 15, 2019, visitors can experience more than 50 ensembles by Japanese, European and American designers including Coco Chanel, Christian Louboutin, John Galliano, Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Rei Kawakubo, Iris van Herpen and Issey Miyake.

Organized by the Kyoto Costume Institute in Japan and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the exhibition features fashion from the 1870s to the present day along with kimono, Japanese prints, paintings and textiles.

Kimono—literally translated “thing to wear”—has impacted international fashion since Japan opened its ports to the world in the mid-1850s. The form and silhouette of kimono, its two-dimensional structure and motifs used as surface embellishment, have all been refashioned into a wide array of garments. Kimono revealed new possibilities in clothing design and helped lay the foundation for contemporary fashion design.

The exhibition explores these themes in four sections. The first explores the influence of Japanese aesthetics, called Japonism, on artists, specifically painters, of the late nineteenth century, who depicted kimono in many of their works. The second section examines kimono’s influence on fashion from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, when couture designs were inspired by the shape and cut of kimono and incorporated Japanesque motifs in their surface decoration. Two of the pieces included in this section address the use of kimono by Westerners as dressing gowns with a Cincinnati connection. The third section examines contemporary fashion and the continued use of variations on the kimono silhouette along with traditional weaving, dyeing and decorative techniques. The final section demonstrates how Japan continues to inspire the world of fashion through popular design, including manga and anime.

From a nineteenth century gown decorated with Japanese-inspired floral motifs to a 1960s dress tied with an obi-like sash to couture designs as recent as 2016, Kimono: Refashioning Contemporary Style, is a product of international collaboration between Japanese and American institutions. It makes clear that kimono has had a strong presence in fashion and continues to be an inspiration for designers worldwide.

“We are excited to partner with Kyoto Costume Institute (KCI) and Asian Art Museum to tell the story of the influence of kimono on contemporary fashions. KCI is renowned for their collection of Western dress and more than 15 exceptional examples of traditional and contemporary fashion have been added to the exhibition from our own permanent collection. We have also supplemented the show with paintings, works on paper and examples of Rookwood pottery that help tell this story. From the 1870s to today, the kimono has continued to be a touchstone for fashion couturiers on a global scale,” said Cynthia Amnéus, Cincinnati Art Museum’s Chief Curator and Curator of Fashion Arts and Textiles.

The Cincinnati Art Museum is the third of three venues in the United States to present this exhibition. It was previously on view under the title Kimono Refashioned at the Newark Museum in New Jersey and is currently on view at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (February 8–May 5, 2019).

The exhibition was initiated by Akiko Fukai of the Kyoto Costume Institute, and was jointly curated by Rie Nii of the Kyoto Costume Institute, Yuki Morishima and Karin Grace Oen of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Katherine Anne Paul of the Newark Museum, and Cynthia Amnéus of the Cincinnati Art Museum—all of whom contributed to the exhibition and exhibition catalogue.

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