Kim Kardashian's ill-fitting trademark sparks KimOhNo backlash and accusations of cultural appropriation

In this file photo taken on February 06, 2019 US media personality Kim Kardashian West arrives to attend the amfAR Gala New York at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.
PHOTO: AFP

Kim Kardashian, the reality television star and social media influencer, has been accused of cultural appropriation after launching a new line of shapewear products under the name Kimono Solutionwear.

Kardashian and her famous family - often referred to as the 'Kardashian Klan' - are known for using the letter 'K' in their branding, but her choice to name and trademark her latest business venture Kimono prompted cultural critics and social media users to condemn what they saw as an act of cultural theft with the hashtag #KimOhNo.

A kimono is a traditional Japanese garment which became popular during the nation's Heian era (794-1192). The T-shaped garment is often worn on special cultural and social occasions including weddings, funerals and coming-of-age rites, and it remains a significant cultural symbol in Japan.

According to media reports in the United States, Kardashian has applied to trademark 'Kimono' as a stylised word mark, along with the terms 'Kimono Body' and 'Kimono World'.

Social media users noted that if the patent is approved, even Japanese firms would be unable to sell kimonos in the US using those terms. Others were incensed by Kardashian apparently laying claim to a uniquely Japanese cultural artefact.

https://twitter.com/KimKardashian/status/1143505431391854594

"I'm interested in new shapewear but Kimono?" wrote Twitter user @TaniaGinoza. "Trademarking & profiting without any actual true appreciation and recognition of the origin of the name, a cultural garment from Japan, is just gross. Her line has nothing to do with the name yet seeks profit from it."

https://twitter.com/thetamlyntomita/status/1143643510706327552 https://twitter.com/EmmaKJacobson/status/1143735081992933377

In Japan, many social media users regarded the trademarking as outright appropriation.

"What a disgusting thing to use the word 'kimono'," wrote @__mt07_tak. "It's too disrespectful to Japanese culture. True cultural appropriation. #KimOhNo".

Yuka Ohishi tweeted: "Naming your product/start-up with Japanese words might seem hip and all, but it really sucks for us when our culture is diluted by names of brands that don't have anything to do with what the word actually represents."

https://twitter.com/andrea_arhagba/status/1143644491548692480

Others, however, managed to find the humour in Kardashian's latest PR debacle.

Asian-American comedian Karen Chee tweeted: "'Kimono'? are people really surprised that Kim Kardashian is appropriating Asian culture?! hellooo her name is Kim she's been appropriating Koreans her whole life."

In January, US singer Ariana Grande was accused of cultural appropriation when she mistakenly tattooed the Japanese term for 'barbecue grill' onto her palm. Although some fans saw the humour in the situation, ongoing criticism prompted Grande to fix the embarrassing gaffe.

This article was first posted in South China Morning Post.