Moi had the great pleasure of attending the Seattle Art Museum’s (SAM) press preview for Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion which runs June 27 – September 8 at SAM Downtown in Simonyi Special Exhibition Galleries. This exhibit was organized by the Kyoto Costume Institute (KCI) and London’s Barbican Art Gallery in collaboration with SAM Seattle whichis one of two U.S. cities which will host this exhibit. After leaving Seattle, the exhibit will go to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Japanese fashion historian, Akiko Fukai , who is the Chief Curator of the KCI is the curator. All moi can say is, we are so very blessed. For fashionistas on the West Coast, it is definitely worth traveling to Seattle to see. Moi would describe the experience as being treated to some very expensive Cognac. It is not something one gets every day, but once treated to the experience, the Cognac is savored. Once the Cognac is drunk, you know that you might not have appreciated all the subtle notes.
The exhibit is “ structured in a combination of thematic and monographic sections.” The first section is influenced by In Praise of Shadows:
….an essay on Japanese aesthetics by the Japanese author and novelist Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. It was translated into English by the academic students of Japanese literature Thomas Harper and Edward Seidensticker.
The essay consists of 16 sections that discuss traditional Japanese aesthetics in contrast with change. Comparisons of light with darkness are used to contrast Western and Asian cultures. The West, in its striving for progress, is presented as continuously searching for light and clarity, while the subtle and subdued forms of oriental art and literature are seen by Tanizaki to represent an appreciation of shadow and subtlety, closely relating to the traditional Japanese concept of sabi. In addition to contrasting light and dark, Tanizaki further considers the layered tones of various kinds of shadows and their power to reflect low sheen materials like gold embroidery, patina and cloudy crystals. In addition, he distinguishes between the values of gleam and shine. ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Praise_of_Shadows
The other sections have the themes of Flatness, Tradition and Innovation, and Cool Japan. One is of course wowed by the designs, but the real story is CREATIVITY and INNOVATION in the imagining of how fabrics can be used in design. Another thought moi had was that those who wear these fashions are probably very confident and sure of themselves and their relationship to the world.
This show is really one of those that you have to see in person because one will not be able to grasp the subtle and nuanced way in which some very exceptional fabrics are used in design. Sometimes fashion is simply eye candy and there certainly are those pieces in the collection. There are also those pieces that jar the senses and ask one to think about what role fashion has or should have. Is fashion important and what does beauty really mean? This is a beautifully displayed collection of designs displaying a particularly cultural take on the question of what is good design. Moi highly recommends this show.
The Japanese External Trade Organization describes the Fashion History of Japan:
Japanese fashion reached a turning point in the 70’s. Pr?t-a-porter (ready-made clothing) which people could wear more easily than haute couture, became widely available and that drastically changed Japanese fashion. Japan was in the middle of a high economic growth period and strong personal consumption backed the situation. Hanae Mori, Kenzo Takada, and Issei Miyake received attention internationally in the 1970’s.
Kenzo Takada established The House of KENZO in Paris in 1970 and opened his own boutique “Jangle Jap” there. He then started participating in the Paris Pr?t-a-porter Collection and his colorful, pretty and dynamic folklore look, big look, and layered look quickly became popular. Issei Miyake also started showing in Paris the Pret-a-porter Collection in 1973. Hanae Mori had her first show in New York in 1965 and then opened her maison de haute couture in Paris in 1977 and joined the Paris Haute Couture Collection. At the same time, Sayoko Yamaguchi, a Japanese fashion model, became very popular in the Paris Collection with her bob hair and makeup which emphasized her long-slitted eyes.
In the 80’s, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto received high recognition internationally. Their “boro look” which was loose black clothes ripped and frayed, brought sensational controversy in Paris, but their clothes then gave influence to the fashion after the period. Kawakubo and Yamamoto’s clothes matched to the mood of the 80’s when clothes with strong impressions were considered to be interesting. Their avant garde and dress-down approach had carved out new possibilities of fashion. It was an era when Japanese fashion bolstered a unique and original image which would shake the general idea of Western clothes. Kawakubo and Yamamoto’s deconstructed and sexless clothes later influenced designers in Belgium such as Martin Margiela.
In 1985, the Council of Fashion Designers, Tokyo (CFD) was established with 32 designers and then the Tokyo Collection was started. The DC (Designer Character) boom in the 80’s helped to energize the Tokyo Collection. In addition to designer’s brands which had been recognized internationally as high-end brands since the 70’s, character brands referred to brands which were more affordable yet very fashion trend conscious. Many character brands such as Bigi, Nicole, Atelier Sab, Pink House, and Takeo Kikuchi swept the Japanese market. Strong economic growth referred to as a “bubble” intensified the movement.
Shortly after the 90’s started, the economic bubble burst and casual fashion became the mainstream fashion trend. In addition to “Shibukaji” which meant casual fashion originated from Shibuya in Tokyo in the end of the 80’s, “kogyaru” which referred to high school girls with loose socks, “chapatsu” ( brown hair), and “ganguro” (face with black foundation or strongly tanned) gained power in Shibuya. Street fashion in Tokyo started to get attention even from the international media and Shibuya and Harajuku especially became recognized as sources for fashion trend. “Ura Hara” which referred to the back streets in Harajuku, also became popular as a trendy fashion area. Jun Takahashi who is the designer of Under Cover originated from “Ura Hara” and he joined the Tokyo Collection in the middle of the 90’s and later started showing in Paris with the 2003 Spring Summer collection. Shibuya 109 (ichi maru kyuu), which is a building with many fashion brand tenants such as Egoist, Cocolulu, Moussy and Cecil McBEE, became very popular among young women in their teens and 20’s and the sexy and pretty fashion was called “maru kyuu fashion.”
When 21st Century started, more Japanese designers such as Chisato Tsumori, Junya Watanabe, Chitose Abe (Sacai), Limi Yamamoto (Limi Feu) started showing in the Paris Collection. In New York, “Japan Fashion Now” which was started in September in 2010 at the FIT Museum extended the term for three more months to the beginning of April in 2011 due to the popular demand. Among the featured designers in the exhibition, Under Cover, designed by Jun Takahashi was particularly favorite among the visitors. Noritaka Tatehana, who launched his shoes brand “NORITAKA TATEHANA” in 2010 quickly became famous as the pop singer Lady Gaga wore his highly distinctive shoes with no heels. His collection pieces are all handmade by the designer himself who has a back ground of creating kimono and wooden clogs utilizing yu-zen dying. Among the veteran designers, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons still actively inspires the world of fashion not only with her collection each season, but also her concept stores Dover Street Market, which are in London as well as in Ginza, Tokyo. Rei Kawakubo was chosen to be awarded for the international design from CFDA, Council of Fashion Designers of America in June, 2012. http://www.jetro.org/fashion_history_of_japan
Here is the press release from Seattle Art Museum:
For Immediate Release
Contact: Wendy Malloy, SAM Public Relations
(206) 654-3151; email: PR@SeattleArtMuseum.org
SEATTLE, May 6, 2013 – This summer Seattle Art Museum (SAM) presents Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion featuring more than 100 costumes by celebrated and original designers including Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, and Yohji Yamamoto as well as younger designers influenced by popular culture and the dynamic street life of Tokyo.
This exciting exhibition, on view at the Seattle Art Museum June 27–September 8, 2013, highlights the tremendous innovation of Japanese fashion designers from the early 1980s to the present who revolutionized the way we think of fashion today. The designs reflect a range of influences from Japanese aesthetics, reinterpretations of Western couture, punk aesthetics and Japanese street fashion.
“I am delighted that the Seattle Art Museum is the first museum in the United States to share this fascinating and influential period in design history and to present this stunning collection from the Kyoto Costume Institute.” said Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director.
Curated by the eminent Japanese fashion historian Akiko Fukai, Director/Chief Curator, the Kyoto Costume Institute (KCI), the exhibition explores the distinctive sensibility of Japanese design and its sense of beauty embodied in clothing. Bringing together over 100 garments from the last three decades—some never seen before in the United States—the exhibition also includes films of notable catwalk shows and documentaries.
“The exhibition shows how Japanese fashion design launched itself on the world stage in the 1980s,” said Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art.
“Japanese fashion designers at that time developed breathtaking aesthetic positions that subsequently influenced a younger generation of Western designers including Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Alexander McQueen.”
The first Japanese designers who gained recognition in the West were Kenzo Takada and Issey Miyake in the 1970s. But the 1980s were the decade when Japanese designers forcefully made their mark. Traditionally, Western women’s fashion was and still is concerned with seductively packaging and unveiling the body.
Symmetry of the silhouette is one of Western fashion’s defining characteristics. But a legendary spring/summer show in Paris for the 1983 collection was a stark departure from such familiar positions. Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto were the designers who put forth a stark new aesthetic based on monochrome black and white colors and they presented asymmetrical, and above all artfully perforated and ripped designs that were deconstructive and the antithesis of a fitted gown.
The exhibition is structured in a combination of thematic and monographic sections:
The first thematic section, In Praise of Shadows, explores the Japanese designers’ interest in materials, textures and forms, and consciousness of light and shade. Most of the designs in this section are in black and white and revisit the moment when these minimal aesthetic proposals were first introduced to European audiences in the early 1980s. The costumes in this section include designs by Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, and Junya Watanabe.
The second section is Flatness and explores the simple geometries and interplay of flatness and volume in the work of Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo. This section includes a series of specially commissioned striking photographs by Japanese artist and photographer Naoya Hatakeyama.
In the next section the relationship between Tradition and Innovation is considered—from the radical reinvention of traditional Japanese garments and techniques, such as kimono and origami, to the technological advances in textile fabrication and treatment. It includes a series of paper garments by OhYa and Mintdesigns; Watanabe’s seminal autumn/winter 2000 collection Techno Couture; examples of Kawakubo’s deconstructionist work; as well as modern takes on traditional Japanese techniques and garments by Yamamoto, Kenzo and Matohu.
The final section focuses on the phenomenon that is Cool Japan. Featuring works by Tao Kurihara, Jun Takahashi for Undercover and Naoki Takizawa, among others. Cool Japan examines the symbiotic relationship between street style, popular culture and high fashion.
The exhibition also includes monographic presentations on each of the principle designers in the show featuring a range of archive and recent works: Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons), Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Junya Watanabe, and Jun Takahashi (Undercover).
Following its visit to Seattle, Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion will travel to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., where it will be on view November 16, 2013 through January 26, 2014.
Seattle Art Museum
SAM is one museum in three locations: SAM Downtown, Seattle Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park, and the Olympic Sculpture Park on the downtown waterfront. SAM collects, preserves and exhibits objects from across time and across cultures, exploring the dynamic connections between past and present.
Kyoto Costume Institue (KCI)
Established in 1978 by Wacoal Corp., KCI is one of Japan’s leading repositories of historical costumes and contemporary fashion with a collection of over eleven thousand works. KCI has organized critically acclaimed fashion exhibitions around the world, including Ancien Régime and Japonism in Fashion, and generated important publications such as Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century; Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute (Taschen, 2002).
Exhibition originally conceived by the Kyoto Costume Institute and Barbican Art Gallery, London. Seattle Exhibition organized by Kyoto Costume Institute in collaboration with the Seattle Art Museum. Exhibition supported by Wacoal Corp.
Presenting sponsor is Seattle Art Museum Supporters. Major sponsor is 4Culture King County Lodging Tax. Additional support provided by the Japan Foundation and the Max and Helen Gurvich Exhibition Endowment. Print media sponsor is Seattle Weekly. Retail partner is Pacific Place.
Contemporary and modern art programs at SAM are supported by a generous group of donors in honor of Bagley Wright.
Moi highly recommends this show. It is worth traveling to see.
Brief History of Japanese Clothing http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/articles/japanese-articles/a-brief-history-of-japanese-clothing.html
Elements of Japanese Design http://www.thecultureconcept.com/circle/elements-of-japanese-design
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