Hi everyone, it’s Justine.
You know I don’t usually pick up on pop
culture topics on this channel and I certainly
don’t feed into the drama and gossip already
present on YouTube, because there is enough of it already.
So this video isn’t gossip, it is my opinion
& research on a fashion issue that has been
heavily discussed in the past 2 weeks, internationally.
Kim Kardashian has recently announced she
would launch a shapewear line. It caused an
Here is what really happened & why.
1. The context: Kim Kardashian’s new shapewear
Kim Kardashian is famous for her figure. She
has capitalized on it with an app, a cosmetic
line called KKW BEAUTY and other business
Now on June 25th, she announces the launch
of the line which, for me, makes most sense:
a shapewear line.
Let’s be clear: I am not in favour of her
and her family promoting a beauty ideal that’s
absolutely not attainable – since she only
achieved that body with the help of repeated
cosmetic surgery. I’m solely saying that
given her brand positioning, launching a shapewear
line makes sense.
Now the name: it is called KIMONO SOLUTIONWEAR™
(specific font). 1
Her name is Kim. Japan is trendy. Kimono robes
used as overgarments are trending, especially
in the US. The US are likely to be the biggest
potential market for the product. So you’d
think: great name, all boxes checked.
The line is even planned in 9 sizes and 9
shades, which means it is meant to be inclusive.
2. The Japanese reaction
Within 24 hours, the info spreads and the
backlash starts: many very annoyed Japanese
people comment under her Instagram photo:
“this is disrespectful”, “change the
name”, “how dare you use that name for
underwear”, “shame on you”.
If you are surprised by the reaction, it’s
because you are not Japanese. Let me explain:
Japan is a millenary culture, very sophisticated,
where “daily activities” such as flower
arrangements, tea drinking or getting dressed
have been elevated into true art forms and
are being taken extremely seriously. The kimono
garment is a symbol of the Japanese culture
and the subtility of putting one on includes
precise drapery… and NOT showing much skin
or body contours.
So there is a kimono (and everything is stands
for) and there is Kim Kardashian’s product:
body-con, showing quite a bit of skin & it
is an undergarment. All the opposite of an
Turns out Kim has even filed a trademark request
for the name. And the Japanese think: how
dare you try to get the generic name that
describes a garment and is central to another
3. The legal story (which wasn’t mentioned)
Even before the announcement of the launch,
Kim Kardashian has requested not one but several
The word “kimono” in the specific font.
You can’t trademark a generic word but you
can trademark it in association with a font.
The name “Kimono solutionwear”.
The name “Kimono body”.
The name “Kimono world”.
Now let’s check what she wanted to protect
under the trademark “kimono” because the
trademark register is public:
Luggage, bags and purses. Lingerie, shapewear,
bras, kimonos… bikinis, and even socks & t-shirts.
It is defined very broadly and it includes
multiple products that are not part of the
This tells us that the plans for the new brand
are clearly much bigger than just shapewear
4. The consequences
On June 29th (4 days after the launch announcement),
the mayor of Kyoto, Japan has written an open
letter to Kim Kardashian, demanding a name
change as well as the withdrawal of the trademark
application on the initial name.
A Japanese lady has started a petition on
change.org, which has crossed 137,000 signatures
at the time of filming.
There is a hashtag against the new line: #KimOhNo.
I must admit it’s catchy.
The backlash on Instagram is growing: over
46,000 comments (including many in Japanese).
Pretty much all the media outlets in the US
are now covering the controversy.
On June 27th, Kim Kardashian was still sticking
to her brand name and said to the New York
“Filing a trademark is a source identifier
that will allow me to use the word for my
shapewear and intimates line but does not
preclude or restrict anyone, in this instance,
from making kimonos or using the word kimono
in reference to the traditional garment”.
She is clearly playing on legal terms, here.
You know what? It’s hard to believe after
seeing all the trademark categories she applied
to… and since she even wanted to use @kimono
as the Instagram handle for her new line.
And once you have a trademark, you know, you
can always discuss its limits in court. It’s
not clearly defined so there’s room for
interpretation – especially if you have
the good lawyers.
Anyway. On July 1st, she pulled it back and
announced on Instagram that she would be changing
the name of her line.
Result on Instagram: even more likes on this
post than on the initial one.
5. My conclusion
Before I tell you what I really think, let
me just add in a few more pieces of information,
1. On July 4th: sale announced for her line
KKW BEAUTY – how practical for her beauty
line, that she just had 10 days of intense
buzz in all media…
2. She probably has not one but a full team
of lawyers behind her. In fact, SHE is currently
even studying law in California. I don’t
believe, for a second, that she didn’t know
the tricks of trademarking specific words
& how trademark law varies from one country
to the next.
3. On July 4th (same day as the beauty line
sale), she won a lawsuit against Missguided,
a British fast fashion brand, which tends
to use her image to market knock-offs, copycats
of her looks. She won 2.7 Mio. $. So she is
well aware of how much money you can make
through trademark law and intellectual property
4. It is not the first time that Kim Kardashian
causes an uproar through perceived cultural
appropriation and she knows how much press
coverage that can bring.
So here is what I think: I think she tried
to trademark the word kimono as much as possible,
no matter what she claims to defend herself,
and even though she knew it is actually a
generic word AND that is has a high meaning
in the Japanese culture.
The buzz generated means that the shapewear
line will get even more attention when it
finally launches under a new name – which
means lots of free PR.
And the timing, just before the sale of her
cosmetics, probably brought her quite a bit
of extra income as well.
I’d say this whole story is an orchestrated,
very advanced marketing strategy from a team
extremely experienced in the media field.
Ethics not so much. After researching this
controversy, I believe that if she could have
trademarked the word “kimono” alone, she
would have done it.
In fact, it is a strategy where she couldn’t
loose: either she gets the trademarks and
starts suing everyone over the word kimono
– or she gets the scandal and it brings
And what about the Japanese public? I’m
guessing that Japan wasn’t a big potential
market for the shapewear, so it probably won’t
have a dramatic effect on the actual sales.
And in her 2nd Instagram post, she remained
very politically correct but did not apologize.
What do you think of this whole story? Did
you think that trademarking “kimono” might
be an issue? What if she had trademarked the
word “sari”? What would be a similar,
potentially problematic word in YOUR culture?
The business of fashion is wild, it baffles
me again and again.
Thumbs up if you enjoyed this video, though.
And if you’d like to watch more, here is
I’ll see you soon and until then, take care!