Kim Kardashian West's new 'Kimono' shapewear sparks outrage in Japan
International / 26 June 2019, 6:00pm / Simon Denyer, Jennifer Hassan
Tokyo - Kim Kardashian West's latest product is not yet available to buy, but the backlash is already here.
A day after a new line of slimming undergarments called Kimono Solutionwear was announced, some Japanese people expressed their displeasure with the reality star's use of the word kimono to sell her latest product. They accused her of appropriating an item - and an idea - central to Japanese culture in an attempt at cute wordplay and consumerism.
Kardashian West announced the project on Tuesday on Twitter, saying it was coming soon. The product, which does not resemble a kimono, is shapewear for women in nine different shades and an array of sizes that is intended to help women feel more confident.
"Finally I can share with you guys this project that I have been developing for the last year. I've been passionate about this for 15 years. Kimono is my take on shapewear and solutions for women that actually work," she wrote.
This is a new approach to shapewear: Offering real solutions in 9 shades and sizes XXS-4XL, @kimonobody celebrates and enhances the shape and curves of women. Each piece is designed with soft yet supportive fabrics for everyone to feel their most confident. #KimonoBodypic.twitter.com/Cr81BqiLT4
In Japan, the word kimono, which means "thing to wear on the shoulders" is a central part of national culture. It is a gown that is tied with a sash and has been worn by men and women alike for generations.
On social media, angry users accused the reality star of disrespecting Japanese culture and stealing the name of their traditional dress.
"This is blasphemy against Japanese culture. Can't someone from kimono-related organizations protest? This is terrible," tweeted Masahito Sato, an editor and writer.
Many used the hashtag #KimOhNo to express their disgust and disappointment.
"Kim, I'm sure your shapewear's nice, but please don't take the name of a beautiful, traditional Japanese wardrobe and use it for your undies," one user wrote.
Kardashian West calls her new brand "a solution focused approach to shape enhancing underwear." According to the BBC, she trademarked the Kimono brand last year in the United States and has also filed trademarks for "Kimono Body," "Kimono Intimates" and "Kimono World."
Yoshifumi Nakazaki, the deputy director general of the Japan Kimono League, said the kimono was a "common asset" for all Japanese people.
"It's not just kimono as clothes but kimono as a name that is the common asset, not just for those of us who live in the modern era but for the history of Japanese people that has been accumulated over the years," he said in an interview. "Generally speaking, it is unthinkable for a Japanese person to register kimono for a trademark. That would be impossible."
Sarah Owie, another writer, said she was sad to see Japanese culture "threatened" and that Kardashian West had gone "OVER LIMIT."
This is not the first time the Kardashian sister has been accused of cultural insensitivity. In 2017 she was accused of wearing blackface during the launch of her KKW Beauty range. A photo posted to social media at the time showed an extremely tanned-looking Kardashian West promoting her new Contour and Highlight Kit.
"I would obviously never want to offend anyone," she later told the New York Times. "I used an amazing photographer and a team of people. I was really tan when we shot the images, and it might be that the contrast was off."