Ever since the demise of pantyhose and girdles, women have been stuffing themselves into various garments to conform to the demands placed on the female form. Pushed-up breasts, tiny waists, full hips, tiny breasts, manly hips, thigh gaps—it’s like women’s bodies have been the Mr. Potato Head of the fashion industry.
The most recent constant is smoothness. The shape can be big or little, curvy or straight, but there can be no lines of either flesh or underpants. For a while, the go-to was Spanx, but lately more options have entered the stretchy, suck-it-all-in, smooth-it-all-out, undergarment industry. The latest addition is Kim Kardashian West’s shapewear brand, formerly known as Kimono.
Kardashian West has the most recognizable shapes in celebrity fashion. Her figure defies gravity, logic, and skinniness standards. As such, her shapewear is all about variations in body types. These many flesh-toned elastic shapers are meant to accentuate and smooth.
It’s nice to see feminine shapes celebrated and encouraged; these are not feminine shapes reimagined, or non-binary silhouettes, or fashion that “explores the shifting nature of femininity.” It’s simply shapewear, for women who have women’s bodies. The name was kind of cool, too, a play on Kim’s name plus the mono-color of the undergarments, Kimono. But that cleverness was missed by the offense police.
The backlash was swift and fierce. Calls for her to change the name, insults about Kardashian West being narcissistic, and worries over the trademarking of the brand name abounded on Twitter. She’s such an icon that everything she does gets heat in some form or another.
In this case, a petition against her circulated and gained 11,000 signatures. The mayor of Kyoto, Daisaku Kadokawa, even got into the act, penning a letter asking her to reconsider the use of the word “kimono” for her shapewear. He explains that kimonos are traditional garments and that their use in Japanese culture should be respected and honored.
Kimono is a traditional ethnic dress fostered in our rich nature and history with our predecessors’ tireless endeavours 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 sense of beauty, spirits and values of Japanese.
In recent years, we see not only Japanese but also many foreign tourists wearing Kimono and strolling around in Kyoto and cities in Japan. It is a proof that Kimono, that we are proud of as our traditional culture, is loved by people from around the world.
Everyone Ganged Up on Kim
After the entire internet ganged up on her, Kardashian West decided to reconsider the name. After all, offending a bunch of women who may otherwise buy her product could be a downside for early sales.
But Kardashian West obviously wasn’t trying to be culturally insensitive. In fact, her line of body makeup, as well as her line of what she terms solutionwear, are made for all skin tones and body types. The solutionwear is even made for different styles of dresses, prompting Chrissy Teigen to rejoice.
Oh my god I don’t have to cut one side of my spanx anymore!!!!!
— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) June 25, 2019
And get her dragged right into the controversy.
The whole thing is worthy of an enormous eye roll. A line of shapewear that bears the name of a traditional garment does not diminish that garment. Kimonos aren’t going anywhere, and neither is Kardashian West, or her business acumen.
Her determination to keep trying out new things, from branding to legal aid, is what keeps her fresh and in the public eye. Still, she is a celeb whom people love to hate. Whether it’s her sex tape fame origin story, photo-shopped (surgical?) curves, reality TV show, or marriage to Kanye West, some high percentage of her ratings must be in hate clicks.
Kardashian West Has Always Courted Controversy
This isn’t the first time Kardashian West has come under fire for cultural appropriation. Back in 2018, she was called out for wearing Fulani braids to the MTV Awards. The internet freaked out over that one, but she didn’t back down. Earlier this year she wore a traditional Indian headpiece to Kanye’s worship-oriented Sunday service, and there was collective outrage.
Her 2014 cover of Paper Magazine was deemed offensive for harkening back to the figure of Sara Baartman, the Hottentot Venus. In 2016 she wore grills on her teeth, which was also offensive, even though this is a recent accoutrement within black culture, and certainly not exclusive to that community. When she embarked upon a legal education, albeit outside of the contemporary norms, she was again told to stay in her lane.
What Kardashian West keeps telling us over and over is that she defines her own lane, and if she doesn’t like how constricting it is, she’ll break out of it, forge a new path, and give zero f–ks.
So why did she back down over Kimono? And what could she call it? Monokimi? Kardashapes? Kimono is way better. But she must have figured it just wasn’t worth the hassle or potential for a virtue signaling boycott. Of course, in the age of stupid internet outrage, it doesn’t matter if the offense is walked back or apologized for, the damage is done and there can be no forgiveness.
Even after she changed her mind about the name, and agreed to go back to the drawing board on the branding, Kardashian West was hounded and critiqued.
This was such a manipulative marketing tactic, the old “make a really bad mistake and then correct it to gain even more attention while looking good simultaneously” LOL please stop
— vm (@victoriaeatss) July 1, 2019
“Just stop” what? Where does the outraged Twitterati want people to go, and what do they want them to stop doing? Breathing? Working? Existing?
Kardashian West should be applauded for sticking to her guns in her other battles with the cultural appropriation police, refusing to have her intentions of fashion-forwardness and looking hot be misconstrued as insensitive. But it’s too bad she’s changing the name of her shapewear, which she most certainly did for financial reasons. It’s never a good look to back down before the anonymous, trolly face of internet hate.
By the standards of oppression politics, wherein cultural appropriation is a condition inflicted by a more visible culture upon a less visible one, a woman creating a line of shapewear can’t appropriate Japanese culture. Japanese culture is extremely visible; it has a big and beautiful place on the world’s cultural stage. Kardashian West is just one woman with a line of undergarments, and a willingness to make a mediocre pun.