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Kim Kardashian’s Response to the Accusations of Cultural Appropriation Might Not be What you Expected (UPDATE)

Last week, we addressed the topic of cultural appropriation and whether western yoga is an example of this. Kim Kardashian‘s new Kimono line also came up in the conversation, and if you were on the internet at all last week, you probably know about all the backlash Kim K got for her Kimono shapewear range, with many saying they feel insulted by her trying to turn something that’s true to their culture into a brand. Well, Kardashian has responded to the backlash and, spoiler alert, she doesn’t think she’s doing anything wrong.

Kim K is not backing down

Yeah, that’s right. After countless critics called the name of her new designs insensitive, Kardashian defended the name to The New York Times. She said that the name Kimono is a nod to the beauty and detail that went into the garments.

Kim Kardashian_Bad Yogi

The new Kimono Shapewear range became famous overnight for all the wrong reasons.
Image: Vanessa Beecroft

The Japanese people see kimonos as a sacred part of their culture. It dates back centuries and is usually worn on special occasions, like weddings and funerals. It’s understandable that they feel offended by the fact that Kim has turned this cultural staple into a brand to make money.

Social media was ablaze with comments from offended people

Shortly after the announcement of her new line, the internet was ablaze with fans who were equally excited and disappointed by the new line. One person commented on Kardashian’s tweet of the Kimono line, saying that she felt offended by the name.

“Nice underwear, but as a Japanese woman who loves to wear our traditional dress, kimono, I find the naming of your products baffling (since it has no resemblance to kimono), if not outright culturally offensive, especially if it’s merely a word play on your name. Pls [sic] reconsider.”

Another person commented that what Kim was doing was really not cool and that trademarking and profiting from something she doesn’t even have a connection to is unacceptable.

“My mom’s Japanese and got married in a kimono. I hope(?) it kind of makes sense to people that the kimono has deep cultural significance to the Japanese people. Whether it’s Kim (or anyone else), it’s just not cool to trademark and profit from something that you & your product don’t have any actual connection to (while negatively affecting, say, actual Japanese kimono makers’ ability to use the term).”

Another flat out said that Kim had no right to use the name.

“I’m from Japan. For us, Kimono represents the beauty & elegance of the country’s tradition. Your spandex underwear brand has nothing to do with it. I’m offended.”

Kardashian has no plans to change the name

Most of these outbursts followed after it was revealed that Kim had apparently trademarked the name “Kimono”. The entire range’s names have been registered with the United States Trademark and Patent Office.

Today reports that Kim, however, has no plans to change the name and said that she respects the Japanese culture and that she would in no way release any garments that would offend them.

“I understand and have deep respect for the significance of the kimono in Japanese culture,” she said, and added that she has no plans “to design or release any garments that would in any way resemble or dishonor the traditional garment.” She also said that she built the brand with “inclusivity and diversity at its core” and that she’s very proud of what’s yet to come.

The kimono is true to Japanese culture

Well, it doesn’t really matter how you look at it – a kimono is a kimono. It was, first of all, a traditional dress worn by the Japanese. It still is. To take a name that carries so much cultural representation and history with it and turn it into your own brand is definitely never a good idea. For Kim to say that the designs are in no way meant to offend the Japanese people is futile, because it already has. It doesn’t matter what she designs next under that name, the fact remains that what she’s creating has nothing to do with a traditional kimono. But, clearly, no one is going to swing Kim’s mind on this anytime soon.

Update: It seems Kim K is backing down after all

According to Yahoo Lifestyle, Kim has reconsidered her decision not to rename her new brand of shapewear. She took to Instagram a few hours ago to announce this decision, saying that she’s always learning and listening and after a lot of careful consideration, she’s decided to change the name of the range.

Many fans are applauding this decision and are even suggesting new names for the range, including KimBody and sKIM Wear. Of course, there are also those who think that she shouldn’t have allowed the critics to have a say over her and the shapewear. One person commented, “The name was great. People need to get over it, every little thing in this world gets them going. Leave it alone, people, get a life.” Another commenter who clearly didn’t agree shot back, saying, “Well you don’t understand the weight of turning a country’s national costume name to a celebrity underwear line. It’s like full-on disrespect, with or without meaning to do so. I applaud her for trying to change the situation since not every famous person is humble enough to own up to their missteps.”

Well, we have to give it to Kim, going to all the trouble to change the name of a brand you’ve been planning the launch of for a very long time takes some guts. Well done to her for deciding to heed people’s opinions on cultural appropriation.

Over to you: Do you think this is an example of cultural appropriation, or are people being too sensitive? Drop your thoughts in the comments. 

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