Pulling a Kim K, things I have in common with Jon Snow, and what's kimono got to do with it
Oh no - part 2.
In less than a week I went from being mostly clueless about Kim Kardashian's publicity stunts, to fully annoyed by her whole Kimono trademark act and ready to jump in on the widespread social media backlash.
Now that I've voiced my anger and done some research (in that order, yikes!), I can see the legal dangers of KK trademarking the word kimono have been greatly exaggerated amidst the internet hysteria: no, she won't become sole proprietor of the word, shall the trademark be granted (she's said on Instagram she'd change the name, but the trademark applications have not yet been withdrawn, according to The Fashion Law's article).
And yes, people can still use kimono as the generic word for robe-y apparel. Or in more specific terms, as put by a trademark examining attorney consulted by Highsnobiety, "It’s really like, if she has Kimono shapewear or bodywear, she gets that put on clothing items, assuming they are not kimonos, that’s saying that no one else can use kimono as part of the mark unless it’s in reference to Kimono goods."
But still, let me rip a page out of the Kardashian book and make this moment about me: why did I feel so resentful at such a predictable shtick?
Hāfu, not 'ainoko'You might not have instantly guessed by seeing my name, but I'm half-Brazilian, half-Japanese - also known as hāfu, in Japanese.
If you meet me in person, you might not see it, either: I'm olive-skinned, my eyes are quite big and I don't have pitch black, stick-straight hair.
My great-grandparents emigrated over a 100 years ago, a period when Brazil was advertised in famine-stricken Europe and Japan as the new promised land of abundant agricultural riches.
We have no stories of being disconnected from our cultural heritage due to anything remotely as ugly as the internments camps in America during World War II, just the typical immigrant ho-hum: the lengthy trip by sea, the high hopes of moving to a land they only knew stories of, the inevitable reality check once they arrived, the cultural and language barriers.
There was no forced work in the farms they went to work at, but there was also no time to teach the kids Japanese. And there wasn't any kimonos passed down from mother to daughter: the only treasure brought from the motherland by my great-grandmother was an old Rising Sun flag, a dirty rag so neatly folded it's kind of heartbreaking.
So before I knew about wabi-sabi and boro, I already had deep in me the spirit of keeping little rarities: first, it was Japanese strawberry gummies and maneki-neko lucky charms that I could only buy on the bigger events of our club, when vendors from São Paulo came to town; as a teenager, I liked to collect miniatures of my favourite anime characters, then comic books - the original ones, in Japanese, ridiculously rare and 5x more expensive than the translated editions; to finally being a young adult studying in Tokyo and indulging in all sorts of kawaii trinkets.It wasn't until I was 27 that I finally put my hands in a real kimono, a farmer's kimono in indigo-dyed cotton with probably a different denomination that I don't even know of.
Someone who actually knows about Japanese costume might see me wearing it as a dress or a long coat and put me in the same category as the white girl who likes to wear African prints and turbans.
Or would they?It's probably my own shame of not knowing more about my own cultural background when everybody else seems so fascinated by it.
(This is when backward-thinking immigrants would be ready to call me ainoko, i.e. lovechild. These are also the ones calling Brazilians gaijin = foreigners, which full on doesn't make sense).
For this reason, I've always been wary of using the term cultural appropriation, but this time I finally got to a gut level understanding of it:
Yeah, I got angry at mrs. Will-Do-Anything-for-Publicity-West, and it wasn't the trademark.This is not Vêtements or Apple, it was this alien entity trying to take over a word that holds so much meaning to a whole group ethnic group just, you know, 'cause it starts with Kim.
Am I even allowed?
I've been calling things in my collection kimono or other denominations in that family of traditional Japanese costume.There's a Kimono Aloha shirt and a Samue jacket with sleeve flaps, like a woman's yukata.
All heavily printed with motifs inspired by some of my other childhood obsessions: Final Fantasy VII, kawaii characters and cats.
Did I do a PhD level research on all of those pieces? No, I didn't.
That's not the point.
Launching this collection and my label has that underlying childhood dream, of wanting to do that special something you don't even realise yet what it is, in your airy fairy 10-year-old head.
I always wanted to do "something Japanese" because I felt it so deeply in my body, and that went through a path of videogames and cartoons.
A part of me is disappointed I didn't follow the path of tea ceremonies and calligraphy classes - if you stand with this bully, don't worry: I'm not gonna stop my investigation of Japanese culture at the pop chachki level.
Or try to milk the niche just 'cause my family makes sushi for our gatherings. True story, by the way, in case you have a 'How Asian are you?' checklist.