Graduate collections have an annoying tendency to be one of the most exciting points in a given designer’s career, especially in Japan where it is commonly regarded as the last possible point where you can legitimately make something that has no chance of being worn in a day to day setting. It is an approach that ensures the Tokyo fashion street level average is without a doubt the highest in the world (as far as I am concerned anyway), but it makes the awful assumption that a designer in the making has reached their creative peak relatively early in their career, and also admits defeat to the question of whether fashion is art, when it is the ongoing conversation itself that is most important.
Hideki Seo is one talent currently lost to Paris at the forefront of challenging what exactly it is that a fashion designer is supposed to produce with collections that are actually constructed by the same team responsible for kaiju and tokusatsu costumes, and sketchbooks that he presents as art works. In this way it strikes me that his product is the process of design itself – the journey that takes his ideas from the brain to paper, and then the audacity to actually make the outlandish reality. There is no artifice to hide behind, his time in Africa yields obvious inspiration, his sketches are produced verbatim in the flesh, but even so, through it all there is definitely an obfuscated Japanese focal point – cute faces peering out from the otherwise uniform, regional mascots-esque shapes and a strong vein of pop culture running through the light hearted whole.
Hideki Seo has been in this state of producing sculptural fashion for some time now, but there are signs that he might be moving into more wearable trajectory. Lets hope he doesn’t water it down too much, but for now enjoy this retrospective of recent designs which comes direct from the rooms 27 trade show.
You can see why he would need to go to a tokusatsu level costumer to actually produce works on this scale. On the day I talked to one of the technicians responsible for same of the larger pieces, and the process of taking the sketch to production actually sounded remarkably easy – but that was coming from a man used to building monsters on a regular basis. It did raise the question of how much production students should be able to have access too in putting together graduate collections, especially as hands-off 3D printing starts to turn up in university technical labs around the world. Still, as long as they are putting out good work and can still thread a needle, who is to care? What are you going to do next, require that they weave all their own fabric as well?
Here you can see some of the diffusion items that fall into the “wearable” category, and expect to see the scaly face print on lots of things in the future.
Finally here are some of Hideki’s sketches that he presents as art works in their own right: