Kim Kardashian West and Japan Reach Détente


Relations between Kim Kardashian West and the country of Japan eased on Tuesday after Ms. Kardashian West announced that she would change the name of her shapewear line, which she had said last week would be named Kimono.

That announcement of the trademark caused an uproar (kimono being a traditional Japanese garment) and invited pushback from Japanese officials. The mayor of Kyoto sent Ms. Kardashian West a letter to ask her to reconsider the name. Days later, she did.

On Tuesday, Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s trade minister, acknowledged Ms. Kardashian West’s pledge to revisit the name. Still, he said that he planned to send someone to speak to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and that he would keep an eye on the shapewear situation.

A publicist who reached out on behalf of Kyoto did not yet have any update on whether the mayor’s invitation to Ms. Kardashian West to visit his city still stood.

Some of the outrage might be beneficial to the family. The engine of the Kardashian empire is attention, and even negative attention increases their brand recognition.

Meredith Clark, a professor at the University of Virginia’s department of media studies, said that the family had mastered exploiting the attention economy “and specifically exploiting the online outpour of outrage when they do something that draws attention.”

So are the Kardashians too big to cancel? Ms. Clark said that, given that canceling is a personal act on the part of the consumer, no one was really too big to cancel.

But when cancellation means a product getting knocked out of the market, “I do think they’re too big to fail,” she said. “Because even in failing, even in garnering this outrage, they still manage to profit.”

The Kimono uproar was perhaps the first time the Kardashians have managed to exasperate a nation. It occurs at a time when Japan’s officials have become more responsive to conversation on social media, as the Japanese government is championing both its cultural heritage and the international recognition of that heritage.

Mr. Seko, the trade minister, is not quite as gregarious on social media as the country’s foreign minister, Taro Kono, who has a separate English-language Twitter, but he tends to tweet frequently. While addressing the Kardashian controversy, Mr. Seko was also tweeting about the Group of 20 summit meeting in Japan, conducting a slightly different type of diplomacy.



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