The kimono – from costume to catwalk

From the 17th to the 20th century the kimono was the principal piece of clothing in Japan for both men and women. But now it’s an inspiration for fashion all over the world Fashion as we know it – the business of clothes-as-zeitgeist, as distinct from simple dressmaking – was invented in Paris by Louis XIV in the second half of the 17th century. This, at least, is fashion’s widely accepted creation myth. The Sun King and his finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, established a luxury fashion industry which enshrined France as the world leader in taste. To help the lavish new court at Versailles eclipse the austere, black-clad glamour of Madrid, they introduced a rigid schedule whereby new fabrics were issued twice a year – not just warmer or lighter to reflect the weather, but in new colours each time – and the fashion “season” was born. But travel 6,000 miles east to Kyoto, home of the kimono, and the history of fashion looks quite different. In the late 17th century, a demand for luxury textiles among the