Have you burned out yet? Note the “yet” on that question – these things are after all inevitabilities in the case of fashion, as there is only so much of the “new” you can take, a finite number of cultures to plunder, and all it takes is a slight shift of the zeitgeist for you to be out of tune with it. In those instances a search for meaning becomes necessary, a desire to find something, anything, that feels connected to a larger context worth belonging to via clothing. More often than not that search becomes a very euphemistic one, where the individual occupies themselves with quality or technical proficiency in the attempt to add a vague sense of value to an otherwise culturally bankrupt creation. However, no matter how much applique is applied, how expensive a garment dares to be, it is ultimately a rather hollow experience unless connected to a modicum of context – no-matter how insultingly small.
Saying that, even though the world at large seems to becoming ever more adept at stripping away meaning from pretty much anything we used to hold dear, whether culture, race or religion, in its increasingly desperate search for a new aesthetic, there are pockets of resistance, of designers who have looked inward rather than outward to create fashion that is not only entirely their own, but also with genuine heart.
Under the theme of “DNA” the “rooms 29” trade show, recently held in the Yoyogi National Gymnasium a stone’s throw from Harajuku, provided a fair amount of proof of that this kind of fashion is possible, but was epitomized by the work of Keisuke Kanda (whose wishes I am grudgingly respecting by not publishing his fantastic work – you will have to track it down yourself) and also today’s subject – Ryota Murakami.
Regular readers of this site should know Ryota Murakami, at least visually if not by name from his student work at the Coconogacco alternative fashion school, and his appearances at Trans Art Tokyo and the Zetsumeiten. However, his exhibition at rooms was his first solo exhibition in Tokyo, and broadly justified by being selected by Coconogacco organizer and Writtenafterwards designer Yoshikazu Yamagata as a brand to watch.
Beyond that fairly weighty recommendation Ryota’s connection to the DNA theme of rooms is also a very literal one, while his brand takes his own name it is the work of two people, his design partner being his own mother Chiaki Murakami. This personal relationship becomes the focus of the brand, designs come from shared memories, a pattern could be derived from a curtain Ryota remembers as a child, or else a childhood toy becomes the face on a sweater.
This introspective version of fashion is largely resilient to the forces I mentioned above, the design could be ripped off, but the copy would quite simply lack the context that made the original of value, and likewise the familial context cannot be stripped out by the digital age’s propensity to dilute anything to as brief an explantation as possible, as without sufficient explanation the work quite simply ceases to exist. After all the work only exists in its context – its DNA.
Luckily enough Ryota Murakami goes to great lengths to tell the story of his work, not only in the garments, but also via conventional narratives as below:
I challenge anyone not be at least slightly moved by the naive honesty of his work, and that is not to say for one moment that this contextual definition of fashion only applies to work like this, perhaps only that this is a topic that best illustrates it given that pretty much everyone can relate to across borders.
Tatami is frequently used in Ryota’s exhibitions, the connection to the home and the family framing his work wherever it goes.
On to the fashion itself and knitwear features prominently, it being the medium Ryota grew up watching his mother create with.
However, beyond the showpieces other textiles appear in combination, the leather on the above right providing a nice contrast against the raised texture of the sakura petals.
The work may be whimsical, but it is also accomplished, designs are rendered with absolute cartoon-esque precision.
Ryota’s use of props won him a nomination for the “Artwork Category” for ITS, but I like to think of the toys and props being a continuation of the fashion proper, rather than outside it.
For now I will allow you to absorb yourself in the details, and if you don’t feel the slightest emotional reaction to his work, then maybe you are too burned out for even me to help you!
The invitation to become part of Ryota Murakami’s extended family is still pending, in that he has no homepage or shop as of yet, but rest assured when he does you will hear about it here.