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‘Future Beauty’ at SAM

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

It’s hard to believe that summer is over, kids are back at school and fall is almost upon us.  Vacations are a distant memory and plans are being made for the holidays already…yikes, take me back to summer!  We took a wonderful family trip to the Pacific Northwest; Eugene, Seattle, Vancouver, Whistler and Portland in that order.  I had discovered an exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum that I was REALLY excited about, Future Beauty 30 Years of Japanese Fashion.  Although always a fan of the sculptural silhouttes of Japanese designers, I do not own any pieces, nor do my clients lean in that sartorial direction.  I really loved this exhibit and it was only enhanced by the perspective of my 15 year old daughter.

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The entire exhibit was on loan from the Kyoto Costume Institute, a museum I would LOVE to visit one day (#327 on my bucket list).  The exhibit starts with 1973, the year designer Rei Kawakubo started Comme des Garcons (meaning “like the boys”), known for it’s androgoneous styles that challenged gender stereotypes.  Pictured below is a piece from the 1997 collection, “Dress Meets Body, Body Meets Dress”, sometimes referred to as the Quasimodo collection.

Rei Kawakubo/ Comme des Garcons Top and skirt of stretch nylon/ polyurethane plain weave printedgingham checks; down pads Spring/ Summer 1997

Rei Kawakubo/ Comme des Garcons Top and skirt of stretch nylon/ polyurethane plain weave printed gingham checks; down pads
Spring/ Summer 1997

It’s interesting to note that Kawakubo did a stint as “guest designer” for H & M in 2008.  Here is another Comme des Garcon collection piece designed by Kawakubo that is as appropriate today, as it was in 1992/93 when it was first shown…

Rei Kawakubo/ Comme des Garcons One piece dress of three sheets of black and purplish brown polyester georgette; of two sheets of the same material at sleeves; black nylon knit at neck; trained Autumn/Winter 1992-93

Rei Kawakubo/ Comme des Garcons One piece dress of three sheets of black and purplish brown polyester georgette; of two sheets of the same material at sleeves; black nylon knit at neck; trained
Autumn/Winter 1992-93

Yohji Yamamoto was another Japanese designer emerging at the same time as Kawakubo.  He showed his line in Paris for the first time in 1981, and was a rumored paramour of Kawakubo.  Together, along with Issey Miyake and Kenzo Takada, they embodied Japanese fashion design and elevated it to what it is today.

Yohji Yamamoto Dress, Black and white felt; black knit under skirt. Autumn/Winter 1996-97

Yohji Yamamoto Dress, Black and white felt; black knit under skirt.
Autumn/Winter 1996-97

Following on the heels of Yamamoto and Kawakubo was Junya Watanabe, former apprentice and protégé of Kawakubo at Comme des Garcons.  Watanabe worked his way up through design positions, finally designing under his own name for Comme des Garcons.

Jnya Watanabe Comme des Garcons Autumn/Winter 2000-01 Red polyester organdie jacket;Yellow polyester organdie skirt

Junya Watanabe Comme des Garcons
Autumn/Winter 2000-01
Red polyester organdie jacket;Yellow polyester organdie skirt

The above ensemble was just incredible!  Pictures do not do it justice, the architecture is just beautiful.  Pictured below is another piece by Watanabe in denim, a great fabric to work with, but a little unexpected from this genre of designers.

Junya Watanabe Comme des Garcons Blue washed denim dress and trousers Spring/Summer 2002

Junya Watanabe Comme des Garcons
Blue washed denim dress and trousers
Spring/Summer 2002

Future Beauty also paid homage to the newer up- and- coming Japanese designers like Jun Takahashi for UNDERCOVER.  He has collaborated with Nike and Uniqlo in past seasons.  Below is a look designed for UNDERCOVER.  He also designs with his wife RICO as well (not sure what the capitol letters signify???).

Jun Takahashi/ UNDERCOVER Jacket, sweater, scarf, belt, bag, gloves, stockings and wig of various fabrics including wool, mohair, synthetic 'leather', painted, printed and embroidered with plaid pattern  Autumn/Winter 2000-01

Jun Takahashi/ UNDERCOVER
Jacket, sweater, scarf, belt, bag, gloves, stockings and wig of various fabrics including wool, mohair, synthetic ‘leather’, painted, printed and embroidered with plaid pattern
Autumn/Winter 2000-01

Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi designer for mintdesigns and they represent the new  aesthetic of younger Japanese designers.  The dress below conveys the creativity and vision of this new crop of designers.

Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi for mintdesigns White and blue silk-screen printed polyester; shredded magazines Autumn/Winter 2008-09

Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi for mintdesigns
White and blue silk-screen printed polyester; shredded magazines
Autumn/Winter 2008-09

This exhibit was really a highlight for me, as you don’t expect to see a major collection like this outside of New York or the de Young in San Francisco (speaking of which, I can’t wait to see The Art of Bulgari, jewelry exhibit opening at the de Young on Sept. 21st!).  I was totally impressed with the 100+ pieces this exhibit encompassed and my hope is that it travels to other locations in the US, before returning home to Kyoto!

“What you wear can largely govern your feelings and your emotions, and how you look influences the way people regard you.  So fashion plays  an important role on both the practical level and the aesthetic level.” —Kawakubo, Interview Magazine