Japan is to send patent officials to the US to discuss the flap over Kim Kardashian’s Kimono brand underwear, the trade minister said on Tuesday.
The reality TV star and businesswoman said on Monday she would rename her Kimono shapewear line after people in Japan said her use of the term was disrespectful.
Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said he was aware of Kardashian’s decision but still wanted there to be “a careful examination” of the matter.
“This has become a big deal on social media,” Seko said during a regular press conference in Tokyo, adding that trademark issues fell under his jurisdiction. “The kimono is regarded around the world as a distinct part of our culture. Even in America, kimono is well known to be Japanese.”
Kardashian said she had announced the Kimono products in June “with the best intentions in mind” and that she appreciated the feedback she had received.
“My brands and products are built with inclusivity and diversity at their core and after careful thought and consideration, I will be launching my Solutionwear brand under a new name,” she wrote on Twitter.
Japanese social media users cheered as they welcomed this news. “Kim Kardashian announced on her Instagram that she is changing the name of her brand,” said Yuka Ohishi on Twitter. “No apology [was] made, but I’m impressed she made this decision. Let’s hope the new name is a good one.”
Others thanked international audiences for their support. “Thank you very much to everyone who disseminated information, signed and support us,” wrote one user who goes by the name sato_kimono. “I think it was impossible for Japanese [to do this] alone.”
There were also some sceptical and humorous responses, as social media users debated whether the kimono scandal had actually been a well-planned PR stunt for Kardashian, who is known for her savvy use of social media and online marketing. “Kim Kardashian named it Kimono to cause an uproar and make the brand go viral and y’all fell for it,” said Twitter user MissGinaDarling.
In Japanese, kimono means “thing that’s worn” and refers to full-length robes with sashes donned for formal occasions such as weddings and funerals. Kardashian’s use of the word on undergarments and filing for a trademark annoyed many people.
Others said using the word was “a theft of traditional culture” and begged Kardashian to change the name, saying the underwear would sell just as well if it was called something else.
Japan is seeking to expand its range of cultural exports, Bloomberg reported on Monday, with anime among the top sellers, recording overseas sales worth 768 billion yen (US$7.1 billion) in 2016. From January to April this year, Japan exported US$48.97 billion worth of goods and services to the US, and imported US$23.98 billion worth.
Seko said that he was sending Japanese patent executives to the US Patent and Trademark Office on July 9 to “properly exchange views on the matter”, adding that he would be following the situation closely.
This story was first published in South China Morning Post.
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