As many of you know, there have been discussions happening around the use of the word ‘kimono’ in the making community this week. This is in no way the beginning, but rather, a rise in awareness and conversation that is being led by BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People/Person(s) of Color) makers who are dedicating their time and energy to educating us. We are grateful.
Thank you to those who have emailed and messaged us to express concern over the use of the word ‘kimono’ to describe our Suki sewing pattern. I apologize for incorrectly naming this garment a kimono and for following the trend without thinking. With our new awareness, and in support of the issues being raised by BIPOC, we’re taking action and choosing a more appropriate name. We are learning and want to do better.
I also want to apologize for not changing the name as soon as we became aware of this issue. I should have taken immediate action to change the name and make a public statement to educate others about this issue and to show support for those who took the time to educate me.
The Suki Kimono is now named the Suki Robe.
You may be reading this and thinking, what is the big deal? Well, the big deal is that this action adds to the never-ending racist, dismissive and hurtful behavior of white people (like myself) taking from cultures that do not belong to them. My actions hurt others and that is unacceptable.
The Suki pattern is a robe, not a kimono. A kimono is a traditional Japanese garment and the appropriation of the name ‘kimono’ demonstrates a serious lack of respect for the rich history of this garment and its cultural significance. To start reading on this subject, we recommend this article by Emi Ito: My Kimono is Not Your Couture.
The Suki pattern was inspired by the Japanese kimono and we decided to give it a Japanese name. We chose Suki because it means ‘loved one’ or ‘to be loved’. We wanted people to sew a Suki Robe for themselves as an expression of self-love, or to make one for a loved one as a special gift. The name Suki still feels like a good fit for this design, but we are open to feedback about the use of a Japanese name in this context.
The burden of calling-out racism and educating people about things like cultural appropriation almost always falls to BIPOC. All too often it is met with skepticism, dismissiveness, racism, and hatred. They are told they are ‘mean’ and ‘too sensitive’. They are asked to assume good intentions and ‘get over it’. They are censored and ignored. It is not acceptable and we will not tolerate it here on Helen’s Closet. If you do not agree that this name change was necessary, please read the article above. Respect those who are sharing their experience and knowledge on the subject. Listen to their stories.
There are many people who helped us learn more and right this wrong. Thank you for your labour. Thank you for your free education. Thank you for your honesty.
This is not the end of this discussion or the end of my education on this subject. I have a lot to learn and I sincerely hope that you will continue to let me know when I make mistakes and how I can do better.
The comments section below will be moderated. Please allow time for us to approve your comments. Please note that racism, bullying, or any other discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated in the comments section of this post.
In an effort to make amends and put our literal money where our mouth is, we are making a donation to the Nikkei Place Foundation, a charitable fundraising organization for the Nikkei Place Japanese Canadian community that is located here in Vancouver. Learn More.
The new name for this pattern is Suki Robe. We will be changing the hashtag to #sukirobe and updating all the supportive content on our website to reflect the name change. We promise to be more intentional and thoughtful about naming patterns in the future. Thank you for reading!
If you would like to continue this conversation with us directly, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For other designers out there, please consider this advice from Emi Ito (@little_kotos_closet) on the use of ‘kimono’ in fashion design: