We may have already seen the fashion show that ended the Coconogacco Coco-Ten Exhibition, but in reality that is only half the picture. Prior to that show the design students of the Coconogacco school curated a series of rooms to contextualize their work which served as art exhibitions in their own right, and it is those that we are going to be looking around today. What you are going to miss out on though is the very real context of these rooms, housed as they were in a deserted seventeen floor building where you could comfortably go 10 minutes without seeing anyone else, all in the chill of the Tokyo winter, the only sound being scraps of found music before you accidentally stumble across a noisecore band rehearsing.
As entertaining as it was, and trust me it was, you couldn’t help but notice that there actually weren’t any clothes featured in the installations that you could reasonably wear, let along buy. It makes a welcome change from the huge number of Japanese fashion students who are so keen to be a designer that they skip to making ready to wear clothes before they really think about fashion as an art. Granted this approach might work for designers whose work focuses on function or those whose customers only require the literal context of the clothes, i.e. fabric treatments and construction techniques. That is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with that situation, but only that fashion needs culture to progress, lest it turn into a celebration of consumption behind the fig-leaf of appreciation.
The student designers at Coconogacco are encouraged to think about using alternative mediums to express what they want to with their fashion, before these concepts inevitably become restricted by the process of garment production. I think the Tokyo fashion scene is probably unique in facilitating this approach to fashion design because it is one of the few places on the planet where the only gulf between what is presented by designers and what is worn on the street, is that what is worn is actually frequently more impractical than what is presented on a runway. Hence you do have a culture of wearing clothes as art, that the likes of Grayson Perry or Leigh Bowery would probably approve of, on a street level, and it is precisely designers like Mikio Sakabe and WrittenAfterwards (who teach at Coconogacco) who allow this to flourish.
So when you look round at this work, you are seeing ideas, aesthetics and hints of what is to come when they finally focus these ideas into wearable clothes. Either that or they will end up like WrittenAfterwards and refuse to make anything wearable – time will tell.
Chiaki Moronaga’s work is the closest of all to approaching its eventual fashion conclusion – definitely one to watch over the next year.
Clothes in various degrees of transformation.
Clothes expressing a mood.
A play on samurai armor.
A sketch of what is to come.
An installation on the nature of being a designer.
The hint of an aesthetic in creation.
And some that were lost on me.
For more on Trans Art Tokyo you will want to go here and rest assured that we will have more from the Tokyo underground soon.