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Tristram Hunt, Director of Victoria and Albert Museum, on the occasion of the opening of – Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition, V&A, London, 26 February 2020
The Khalili Collection of kimono comprises more than 450 garments and spans three hundred years of Japanese textile artistry. It is one of the world’s most outstanding private collections of traditional Japanese kimono.
The form of the T-shaped, straight-seamed, front-wrapping kimono has changed very little over the centuries, yet the collection reveals an astonishing variety of designs. In Japanese dress it is the surface decoration, not the cut and construction, that is important and indications of gender, age, status, wealth and taste are expressed through the choice of colour and pattern. The kimono in the collection convey the remarkable creativity of designers who used the surface of the garment to produce a work of art that would enfold the wearer. The enormous range of patterns and motifs were executed in an often complex combination of weaving, dyeing and embroidery techniques, some garments requiring the expert skills of a number of different artisans.
The Khalili collection includes formal, semi-formal and informal kimono, undergarments and jackets, worn by women, men and children. Represented are the sophisticated garments of the imperial court, samurai aristocracy and affluent merchant classes of the Edo period (1603-1868); the shifting styles and new colour palette of Meiji period dress (1868-1912); and particularly the bold and dazzling kimono of the Taishō (1912-1926) and early Shōwa (1926-1989) periods which utilised innovative techniques and drew fresh inspiration from both past traditions and the modern world.
Anna Jackson Honorary Curator and Keeper of the Asian Department at Victoria and Albert Museum
Dror Elkvity Curator and Chief Co-ordinator