A wee while ago now, my dear friend and I hotfooted it to the Barbican gallery in London to see their exhibition “Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion” – both being huge fans of Japanese fashion, street and couture, we felt the need to check it out! I won’t spoil the exhibition for those planning to see it too, but I will say that we left feeling slightly stuffed full after gorging our eyes and brains on the clothing & video installations; totally worth it. Being the shopper & book fiend that I am, I was very happy to note the excellent selection of Japanese fashion books on offer in the gift shop – quick, update your Christmas wish lists now!
I think I know what I’d like Father Christmas to bring me this year: a piece of cloth. Preferably from Issey Miyake!
Usually here at Tokyo Telephone we strive to bring you the most up-to-date goings on in the wonderful melting pot of Japanese fashion, but I really felt that Dai Fujiwara’s A-POC (A Piece of Cloth) collection for Issey Miyake at the turn of the millennium was well worth a mention despite being a decade old, ancient history in fashion terms.
Traditionally Japanese fashion , particularly that of the 1980s when the Miyake brand began to take hold, was monochromatic – black being the favoured colour of everyone from sombre suited salary men to the young fashion elite on the Tokyo streets. So when we turned a corner at the Barbican exhibition, it was literally and figuratively: confronted with mannequins locked inside bright red material stretching up to the ceiling and back again. At once elegant and uncomfortable (a combination that Japanese design does best!) it was a visual spectacle at the very least.
The concept is an unusual one, as all the clothes in the A-POC collection are cut from a single long roll of fabric. A video installation of the catwalk premier showed the Issey Miyake team cutting a vast swath of cloth, and as if by the wonder of their magic scissors, all sort of garments appeared: socks, hats, tops, dresses… sort of like paper dolls for post-yuppie generation.
I did mention that the concept was unusual, maybe not entirely original: of course I have to mention kimono. Made in the age-old way from a single piece of cloth, perhaps beautifully dyed silk, the kimono requires no real tailoring and fits everyone no matter their weight or height. However, despite the inherent similarities to the fundamental construction of kimono, A-POC feels futuristic nonetheless. With bright primary colours and aching minimalism, there’s the sense that this collection could have been dreamed by a sci-fi writer in the 1960s, clothes and humans alike produced on huge rolls; cut to fit your taste.
The genius of Issey Miyake doesn’t stop at A-POC either: with another nod to Japanese traditions, consider the origami-like intricate folds of the Pleats Please collection. Anyone who can turn the above tightly folded material into the dress below is well deserving of praise! Like all the best magic tricks, my brain hurts just trying to work out how it’s done…
Issey Miyake: genius, visionary, traditionalist, magician, architect, and more.
Love this animation showing the attention paid to movement and line – a bit mesmerising.
Issey Miyake homepage – be sure to play with the Christmas special site too!
Future Beauty: 30 Years of japanese Fashion @ Barbican – runs until February 6th, 2011; highly recommended!