Kim Kardashian announced her plans to change the name of her new Kimono shapewear clothing line. The move followed intense backlash on social media and accusations of cultural appropriation. Before the announcement, the Japanese Government announced they would be sending patent officials to the United States to discuss the matter with officials.
Last week Kim Kardashian shared an Instagram post to officially launch a new line of shapewear to her clothing brand. Using a play on words, Kardashian named the intimate apparel “Kimono.”
Despite her excitement to share the new line with the world, the backlash was immediate. Individuals on Twitter, Instagram, and media outlets demanded that Kardashian change the name of her brand.
The Kimono is a traditional outerwear garment that men and women wear in Japan. The garment often made with beautiful fabrics, has been a staple in Japanese wardrobes for over a thousand years.
On Instagram, Japanese women shared their anger with Kardashian. A hashtag “KimOhNo” began trending, and thousands of people shared photos sharing their hurt and displeasure with Kim.
Then the Japanese government flexed its muscles by speaking out against Kardashian. The mayor from the ancient Japanese Capital Kyoto, Daisaku Kadokawa, issued a letter to Kardashian.
“I am writing you this letter to convey our thoughts on Kimono and ask you to reconsider your decision of using the name Kimono in your trademark.
“Kimono is a traditional ethnic dress fostered in our rich nature and history with our predecessors’ tireless endeavors and studies, and 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 symbolizes a sense of beauty, spirits, and values of the Japanese.
In recent years, we see not only Japanese but also many foreign tourists wearing Kimono and strolling around Kyoto and cities in Japan. It is proof that people around the world love kimono that we are proud of as our traditional culture.
We are currently undertaking initiative nationally to make “Kimono Culture,” a symbol of our culture and spirits, registered to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. We think that the name for “Kimono” is an asset shared with all humanity who love Kimono and its culture, therefore, should not be monopolized.
Despite the backlash, Kardashian told the New York Times that she would not change the name. Kardashian insisted that her product line would not prevent people from selling traditional Kimono products.
Naturally, Kardashian doubling down did not help public opinion. The story became international news. The Japan Times wrote numerous stories about Kardashian and her refusal to change the name. Additionally, a petition started on Change.org urging her to change the name garnered more than 130,000 signatures.
By Monday, the heat became too much for Kim Kardashian. She announced on Instagram that she would rebrand her shapewear line. In a photo on Instagram, she wrote,
“Being an entrepreneur and my own boss has been one of the most rewarding challenges I’ve been blessed with in my life. What’s made it possible for me after all of these years has been the direct line of communication with my fans and the public. I am always listening, learning, and growing – I so appreciate the passion and varied perspectives that people bring me.
When I announced the name of my shapewear line, I did so with the best intentions in mind. My brands and products are built with inclusivity and diversity at their core, and after careful thought and consideration, I will be launching my Solutionwear brand under a new name. I will be in touch soon. Thank you for your understanding and support always.”
Despite Kardashian changing the name, the Japanese Government held a press conference on Monday. According to a report in Japan Times, industry minister Hiroshige Seko tweeted his plans to send officials to the United States on July 9.
In a press conference, Seko said,
“This has become a big deal on social media,” Seko said “The kimono is regarded around the world as a distinct part of our culture,” he said. “Even in America, kimono is well known to be Japanese.”
Additionally, the minister said that he would follow the matter closely in the coming months.
Trademark law and regulations have become front and center since Kardashian announced the launch of her brand. While Kardashian did not own the name Kimono outright, she had trademarked the font used for her brand. Additionally, her use of the name would not prevent others from using the word in selling traditional garments.
However, her massive platform and influence in the world made much fear that the Kimono would no longer be synonymous with Japan but rather with her brand. This fear is what prompted many on social media to accuse her of cultural appropriation.
Other companies have trademarked the word Kimono for their products. However, none of the trademarks corresponded to clothing. A software company and a writing utensil company received patents for Kimono in 2013. Kardashian’s choice to use the word for her brand of clothing is likely why the license created such a frenzy.
For now, the Japanese can breathe easy and know that the long tradition of the kimono will remain a part of their culture. Perhaps the Japanese Government will be able to persuade the United States to no longer issue patents for a name with such deep cultural meaning to another nation.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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