Freddie Mercury’s Kimono

London’s V&A’s major fashion exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk is opening on the 29th of February and we had the privilege to attend the press viewing. A lovely kimono owned by Freddie Mercury is on display for the first time. Worn by the musician at home, the kimono was kept in a private collection but now, it will provide audiences with a glimpse into the personal life of the singer. 

The exhibition also includes special kimonos on show in the UK for the first time, as well as contemporary garments designed by international fashion designers and worn by global celebrities.  Freddie Mercury’s kimono sits alongside the dress designed for Björk by Alexander McQueen and worn on the album cover Homogenic, an original Star Wars costume based on the shape of a kimono, as well as the Jean Paul Gautier ensemble worn by Madonna in her video Nothing Really Matters. Over 315 works are featured in the exhibition, half drawn from the V&A’s superlative collections and the rest generously lent by museums and private collections in Britain, Europe, America and Japan. 

The kimono is an ultimate symbol of Japan and is often perceived as traditional, timeless and unchanging.  This exhibition counters this conception, presenting the garment as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion and an inspiration for major designers and the creation of iconic performance costumes. 

Anna Jackson, curator of Kimono : Kyoto to Catwalk at the V&A, said: ‘Freddie Mercury was one of the most talented and charismatic musicians and performers of the 20th century and we are delighted to display a kimono that belonged to him in the exhibition. Mercury’s wearing of kimono reveals how this iconic garment has the power to transcend national, cultural, sexual and gender identities.’ 

British musician, songwriter and lead singer for the band Queen, Mercury was famous for his flamboyant stage performances.  In the mid-1970s he sometimes wore boldly patterned kimono onstage, challenging the norms of gender and sexuality. This personal kimono however is more delicate in its design and overtly feminine, revealing that gender fluidity extended to his private life. The design and materials used in the vintage kimono point to it likely being acquired by the musician in Japan. Queen first toured the country in 1975 when Mercury developed a passion for the culture and began to collect Japanese art and antiquities.

The exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk can be visited from 29 February – 21 June 2020.

Image: V & A

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