Kim Kardashian defends Kimono fashion line amid claims of cultural appropriation

The mayor of Kyoto has implored the reality star to drop the trademark for her shapewear collection

Kim Kardashian says her Kimono line was meant to be “a nod to the beauty and detail that goes into a garment". AP
Kim Kardashian says her Kimono line was meant to be “a nod to the beauty and detail that goes into a garment". AP

She's currently embroiled in the latest cultural appropriation row of 2019, but Kim Kardashian says she has no plans to rename her controversial shapewear line.

The reality TV star and entrepreneur unveiled Kimono, a collection of underwear designed to "enhance, smooth, lift or sculpt", last week, to mixed reactions.

In backlash on social media, the line's name – which riffs on Kardashian's own first name – has been deemed disrespectful to Japanese culture.

However, the mother of four told The New York Times she would not rebrand Kimono in the wake of public reaction, adding the name was meant to be "a nod to the beauty and detail that goes into a garment".

"I understand and have deep respect for the significance of the kimono in Japanese culture," Kardashian, 38, told the publication.

"My solutionwear brand is built with inclusivity and diversity at its core and I'm incredibly proud of what's to come."

Kim Kardashian dressed in a bodysuit from her new clothing line called Kimono. Reuters
Kim Kardashian dressed in a bodysuit from her new clothing line called Kimono. Reuters

The kimono has a storied history, and dates back to the 8th century: today, the garment is generally reserved for special occasions, such as weddings, funerals and festivals.

Different types of kimonos symbolise different things – styles depend on the wearer's gender, marital status and the type of event it's meant to be worn at.

Kardashian's shapewear line is due to be released next month, and the star has applied for eight trademarks on the line's name and its design, the NYT reports.

“Filing a trademark is a source identifier that will allow me to use the word for my shapewear and intimates line but does not preclude or restrict anyone, in this instance, from making kimonos or using the word kimono in reference to the traditional garment,” Kardashian said in a statement.

Kardashian has been using the hashtag #KimonoBody to spread the news of her new launch, and the announcement has been met with criticism.

The mayor of Kyoto has subsequently implored Kardashian to reconsider the name, asking her to drop her trademarks.

“Kimono is a traditional ethnic dress fostered in our rich nature and history with our predecessors’ tireless endeavours and studies,” Daisaku Kadokawa wrote in a public letter. “It is a culture that has been cherished and passed down with care in our living. Also, it is a fruit of craftsmanship and truly symbolises sense of beauty, spirits and values of the Japanese.”

The mayor also revealed the city is helping with a national initiative to make 'Kimono Culture' part of Unesco's Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

"We think that the names for 'Kimono' are the asset shared with all humanity who love Kimono and its culture, therefore they should not be monopolised," he added.

This is not the first time Kardashian has been accused of cultural appropriation; the star wore a traditional maang tikka headpiece in April, with some fans saying she disrespected Indian culture with her attire.

In Indian culture, the maang tikka – which features a delicate adornment that touches the forehead – is traditionally worn by brides.

"Kim always seems to wear things many different cultures but knows nothing about those cultures," wrote one commenter. "She wears them like a costume and like she makes them a thing."

Updated: June 29, 2019 10:37 AM

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