As the “coco” of the alternative fashion school Coconogacco ought to suggest, their collective focus is always on the “now”, but their “now” always being a constantly evolving process that turns their exhibitions into intimate glimpses of the students’ respective growth as designers. In the context of Japan I really can’t sufficiently stress just what a revelation this is, especially as someone who works in the fashion education establishment in Japan and in turn with the designers it eventually produces, the idea that you would show anything in a state of process is completely contrary to the whole system. In many ways that is what makes visits to the likes of Design Festa such a revelation, these are invariably people from outside the establishment actually getting on with it and pushing their work out there and calling people over to see it, rather than polishing it for years and then hoping that someone will glance in their direction come the showrooms after Tokyo Fashion Week. However, Coconogacco is a sign that things are starting to change, even if it is an example from the extreme end of the spectrum. Designers are starting to grasp that they can’t all enjoy a private fan club and zero media presence as a certain someone with Kanda in their name would suggest, but rather that you may as well go with the tide and accept exposure. My personal positive spin on this situation caused in equal parts by the instancy of the internet and the ravenous appetite for fashion created by the fast fashion empires, is that given people are always hungry to consume fashion regardless of whether it is in information or physical form, you may as well fill their faces with it.
Today’s topic is the Cocoten exhibition from the aforementioned Coconogacco school, held us part of Trans Art Tokyo in the very heart of Kanda. It is a fascinating area to hold any event in, but particular appropriate for one that explores visual identity, mainly as it is a place in a state of urban renewal but also because it has a unique character unlike anywhere else in Tokyo, and seeing as I did a rambling paper on the urban identity of the Chiyoda ward when I was studying at Meiji, maybe that is something I will bore you with another time.
In keeping with the urban theme we will enjoy our tour in the order the building the exhibition was held in presented us with, and as ever I will let you look and think for yourself, just remember that every detail has its purpose:
A family framed in tatami.
A conveyor belt of salarymen from a designer working with the country’s male representatives as his muse.
The brilliant thing about the Coconogacco approach is that after seeing the slow steady steps of the designer on the rise, when they do start producing “real” clothes you really do feel the wind in your hair and a sense of genuine excitement that is regrettably rare.
This jumper is was fantastic in the flesh, beautifully constructed and very uncanny.
This work challenges the male gaze, but punishes those who look.
This work is almost a parody of current streetwear, especially when contrasted with the artwork that surrounds it.
But it would’t be a Coconogacco exhibition if you were not challenged, this was a relatively disturbing piece to run into in a very dark room.
A false view out of the window.
The upper floors of the building were originally a family home adding a disturbing dose of reality to the surreal exhibits.
A bed to escape into, or escape from.
Sadako lurking in the bedroom.
A gyaru prepares herself in the kitchen.
The next floor had the filthy saturation of the urban sprawl encapsulated in an ordinarily clean space, the clothes growing out of the graffiti and dirt.
Daddy issues in the next room.
Before an altogether more literally inspired Hawaii-inspired scene.
In the bathroom Bokuto offers us the optimism of 80s robotics made of mundane PET bottles.
Finally on the roof we find the final mannequin in the clouds looking out over the city, a paint trail from which takes us to a single vest painted white and blowing in the breeze:
This sad vest appeared to ask what a designer can contribute to fashion – you can print on fabrics, prod patterns about or adopt all the artisanal techniques you want, but it is still an illusion of choice. There are clearly depths to be explored in fashion, and by isolating the context of fashion and process by which that is achieved Coconogacco are on to something, even if it is not clear quite just yet. Personally, I have always wondered if clothes can truly be a medium for art, and I think in time Coconogacco have the potential to make a very convincing case.