Future Beauty

by Custom Media
Future Beauty30 Years of Japanese Fashion

Europe’s first exhibition to comprehensively survey avant-garde Japanese fashion was featured recently at the Barbican Art Gallery, London in an event co-organized by the Kyoto Costume Institute.

Visionaries such as Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto redefined the very basis of fashion; challenged established Western notions of beauty, and turned fashion very firmly into art.

Kawakubo’s protégé, the techno-couturier Junya Watanabe also featured in the exhibition, together with the acclaimed Jun Takahashi, and the new generation of radical designers including Tao Kurihara, Matohu and Mintdesigns. Future Beauty explored the work of these designers in relation to Japanese art, culture and costume history.

One section, In Praise of Shadows, took inspiration from the seminal text of the same name written in 1933 by author Junichiro Tanizaki. It featured pieces by Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto from their revered collections of the early 1980s to their work from recent seasons, alongside garments by Junya Watanabe, Jun Takahashi and Matohu.

The Flatness section explored the simple geometries and interplay of flatness and volume in the work of Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo, including a series of specially commissioned striking photographs by Naoya Hatakeyama.

Future Beauty

The relationship between tradition and innovation was also considered — from the radical reinvention of traditional Japanese garments and techniques, such as kimono and origami, to the technological advances made in textile fabrication and treatment. It included a series of paper garments by TAO, 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 phenomenon that is Cool Japan featured works by TAO, Jun Takahashi for Undercover, and Naoki Takizawa for Issey Miyake, among others. Cool Japan examined the symbiotic relationship between street style, popular culture and high fashion. There was also a series of rooms showing catwalk collection films, interviews, and Wim Wenders’ classic documentary on Yamamoto Notebook of Cities and Clothes.