Kim Kardashian’s new shapewear line, Kimono Intimates, highlights the inner workings of cultural appropriation and how much celebrities inadvertently steal from other cultures.
Kim Kardashian’s use of the name kimono in her new business venture, is a prime example of why celebrities should think just for a moment before they name their underwear line after a piece of clothing that holds significance for a particular community. By attempting to be cute and create a play on her name, she failed to realize that kimonos are a cultural item of importance within the Japanese community. Her use of the kimono to represent a personal underwear brand is a discredit to the rich history of the Japanese kimono.
Celebrities and fashion designers have a troubling habit of using elements from different cultures to promote their brand, without giving proper credit or acknowledgement. The majority of the time, they do not realize their transgression until they are called out by the culture from which they have stolen. It’s one thing to adopt a hairstyle or piece of clothing into one’s style if one has a personal connection; however to use it for brand promotion or profit is disrespectful not only to the real kimono but to the Japanese people as well.
Kim’s Blissful Ignorance
The number one rule of naming an underwear line is to not choose the name of a traditional garment that holds a cultural and ceremonial significance for an entire nation or culture. For those who are not familiar with the term, the kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that is worn for formal events and special occasions.
Thanks to the power of the internet anyone can easily find out the history and meaning of a garment or style that they feel inspired by, before integrating it into their own style. However, when Kim Kardashian was searching for a name for her underwear line, she failed to do any of those things, adopting the name for herself without taking the time to prevent the risk of cultural appropriation.
It’s not fashion, but a part of someone’s culture
Her inability to understand why using the term kimono to trademark lingerie and underwear is offensive shows the lack of depth of understanding she has of not only Japanese people but of the entire culture as well. Her lack of knowledge on the history and meaning of the word proves that she had no right to use it for her brand in the first place. Not once during her brainstorming sessions did Kim even consider the fact that her “perfect” brand name was in fact neither “hers” nor perfect for an underwear line but rather unabashed cultural appropriation.
Her reasoning was that the name was cute and that it went with her brand image, neglecting to realize that her use of the kimono had a legitimate impact on the Japenese culture and people. Just because Kim and her husband enjoy visiting Japan and feel that they have an intimate connection with the country, does not give her the right to slap the word kimono on her underwear line. Her failure to recognize the origin of her intended brand name, despite her supposed love for the country further reflects her thoughtlessness.
Twisting the Identity of Culture
The use of the traditional Japanese garment to brand a celebrity underwear line is a cultural appropriation nightmare. Kim has taken a beautiful garment with a rich history, and destroyed it by linking it to underwear of all things. It’s one thing to take the time to learn about the culture and integrate the garment or style into their personal look while being respectful of its origins, but Kim’s actions are a blatant poaching of the kimono. The kimono is not a cute play on Kim’s own name, but a part of a real culture’s history that is still used today, and to have it be connected with underwear tarnishes it’s significance.
Her use of another’s culture is a misguided form of flattery that was ill conceived and poorly executed. The habit of celebrities taking elements of cultures that they do not fully understand the context or history of, and shaping it beyond recognition to fit their personal brand is not flattery it’s outright stealing. When Kim attempted to trademark the term kimono for her underwear line, she was altering the meaning of the word and erasing the history of the Japanese culture.
Although Kim has walked back her choice of brand name since receiving international backlash the damage is done, now when you google kimono her brand shows up before the original kimono that came centuries before hers.