A museum employee poses next to a kimono ensemble for US singer Madonna.
Everyone loves to wear the kimono. From movie greats to fashionistas, the much-loved style of Japanese garment is worn with absolute ease.
A London show pays the fashion style its due respect by hosting an exhibition that shows the evolution of the garment from medieval times in Japan.
Freddie Mercury, Yves Saint Laurent and George Lucas were all seduced by the charms of the kimono.
The kimono has been worn by Jedi knights in Lucas's "Star Wars" movie saga, and David Bowie in his futuristic alter ego Ziggy Stardust.
"Its very fluidity is, I think, what makes it such an iconic inspiration," said Anna Jackson, curator of the "Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk" exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which opens on Saturday.
V and A director Tristram Hunt said: "When we think about fashion, the kimono might not be the first item that comes to mind."
The exhibition, which runs till June 21, "challenges this perception".
Elegance and show
A triptych consisting of a garment from 1800, a modern one by Japanese designer Jotaro Saito and a third from 2007 by Britain's John Galliano for Dior "shows how the fashion of the kimono has been translated beyond cultural and geographic boundaries", said Hunt.
The kimono influence has even reached space, with the plain robes worn by Alec Guinness as "Star Wars" Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi forming part of the exhibition.
More than 100 items show off the contrasting variations on what was once a simple robe.
The oldest, dating from around 1660 to 1680, has sober maple leaves embroidered on water motifs.
The most recent is a skateboarder-style long, hooded coat made in 2019 by the young designer Milligan Beaumont.
The kimono, worn by both men and women, began to appear in Europe thanks to the Dutch East India Company, which was allowed to trade with Japan despite the isolationist policy of its Edo period (1615-1868) that restricted contact with foreigners.
In the 19th century, Japan began making kimonos with French silk, and Europe began making kimonos from Japanese fabrics.
Since then, it has not stopped influencing international fashion.
Over time, the traditional embroidery depicting reeds, cherry trees, water lilies, birds or dragons became sophisticated geometric or even psychedelic patterns.
French designer Jean Paul Gaultier shortened the robes to Bermuda shorts length in a fiery red 1998 creation for pop star Madonna.
Alexander McQueen widened the neck and shortened the sleeves in 1997 for Bjork -- a look as experimental and avant-garde as the Icelandic singer herself.
In 1958, Saint Laurent transformed it into a cocktail dress with a voluminous skirt and a bolero jacket.
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Japanese artist Hiroko Takahashi fought through sexism and suspicion from traditional kimono artisans to establish a globally known brand that sold hundreds of her original garments every month - until the coronavirus devastation hit.
Japanese fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa said he plans to auction off artworks worth millions of dollars because he has no money.
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