It came from Japan

Giant face-obscuring scarves, chess piece dresses and fluffy jumpsuits – it’s not the sort of get-up you generally see walking down the street. But a number of such whacky and sculptural creations will be on show in October at London’s Barbican Gallery, as part of a survey of the last 30 years of Japanese fashion.

The work of three of the biggest names on the scene since the 1980s, Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohij Yamamoto, will be on display, showing how Japanese designers had a dramatic impact on international couture at the end of the 20th century.

Yohij Yamamoto
Yohij Yamamoto

Speaking about how Miyake, Kawakubo and Yamamoto changed fashion in the 1980s, Barbican Centre head of art galleries Kate Bush says, ‘The tight silhouettes of Western couture were jettisoned for new fluid shapes. Out went the magnificent ornament and extravagant techniques of the post-war tradition and in came a stark, monochrome palette and an entirely new decorative language – holes, rips, frays and tears – emerging from the stuff of  fabric itself.’

Split into five sections, the exhibition will look at the work of these three designers as well as pieces from Junya Watanabe, Jun, Takahashi, Tao Kuihara, Matohu and Mint Designs, relate to Japanese art, culture and traditional costume.

Yohij Yamamoto
Rei Kawakubo

First section, In Praise of Shadows, will demonstrate the industry’s interest in a monochrome palette, which exhibition curator and director of the Kyoto Costume Institute Akiko Fukai argues arises ‘from a cultural sensibility attuned to light and shade and the power of black’.

Flatness will explore geometric patterns and the contrast between flatness and volume in the work of Miyake and Kawakubo and Tradition and Innovation will look at how traditional Japanese garments and techniques have influence modern design. The final downstarirs section, Cool Japan, will look at the relationship between Japan’s vibrant street style scene and high fashion. The upstairs gallery will be dedicated to the work of emerging designers such as Akira Naka, Anrealage, Né-Net, Sacai and Mikio Sakabe.

Yohij Yamamoto
Mikio Sakabe

Half fashion design, half sculpture, the innovative and surreal creations in the exhibition will be a welcome relief from the bleak palette of Western autumn-winter collections.

Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion runs from 15 October – 6 February at Barbican Art Gallery, Silk Street London, EC2Y

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