It is always interesting to see what happens to an exhibition when it travels to another country. The contents of an event must indeed be adapted to specific spaces that may be smaller or larger compared to the original place the exhibition was designed for.
Fashion exhibitions also pose another problem as fashion quickly evolves and curators may therefore decide to include new and innovative pieces from the latest collections, or designs that are more relevant to the culture and history of a specific country the exhibition is visiting. This is what happened to "Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion".
Showcased at London's Barbican in 2010-2011, the exhibition went on a world tour that included Munich, Tokyo, Seattle and Kyoto, and arrived last year at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane, Australia.
The main aim of the event - exploring the seminal work of Japanese designers, while analysing also the creations of the younger generations - remains the same. But, for the occasion Akiko Fukai, Director and Chief Curator of the Kyoto Costume Institute (all the designs included in the event are borrowed from its archives), worked with Tarun Nagesh, Associate Curator, Asian Art, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, who acted as facilitating curator in this case.
The event at GOMA follows the divisions of the original event in four thematic areas, with some additions and changes including a special focus on Akira Isogawa.
The opening section "In praise of shadows" moves from the principles contained in the eponymous 1933 essay by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki and explores the concept of concealing the figure using the black colour and contrasting textures via a series of asymmetric, sculptural yet fluid designs.
Loose fitting ensembles by Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto are for example juxtaposed here with more recent black designs by Undercover's Jun Takahashi and Junya Watanabe.
The second section - "Flatness" - looks at the Japanese perception of dress via sophisticated garments of voluminous form and the interpretation of the Japanese spatial concept 'ma' formed by the empty space created when wearing kimono.
While at the Barbican exhibition the relationship between flatness and volume was explored via famous examples such as Issey Miyake's 1988 "Pleats" series and Naoya Hatekeyama's photographs of Comme des Garçons' A/W 1983-84 and A/W 1992-93 designs, in this case the section is enriched with further pieces, such as Rei Kawakubo's Autumn/Winter 2012-13 voluminously flat red coat with vivid pink flowers.
Among other examples of "flat yet expanding" garments there is Hiroaki Ohya's red polyester film ensemble, which, moving from the Japanese tradition of origami, can be folded flat or can be extended to resemble a beehive, establishing a new relationship between the wearer and the space surrounding her.
"Tradition and Innovation" features ground-breaking construction techniques: the possibilities offered by padding, extending, folding, or sculpting fabric are analysed here via a series of iconic garments, the result of collaborations between designers and textile manufacturers to develop innovative materials, creating new weaving, dyeing and synthetic textile construction processes.
This part goes from Yamamoto's S/S 1995 silk crepe kimono coat and Kawakubo's body morphing designs with bumps in unexpected areas of the body from Comme des Garçons' S/S 1997 collection to Watanabe's A/W 2000-01 "Techno Couture" collection, with its honeycomb or bell-shaped structures and exaggerated yet ethereal ruffs in blue, yellow and red polyester organdie, and Koji Tatsuno's iconic cloud-shaped copper brown nylon dress created by combining two huge circles.
The fourth part, "Cool Japan", showcases instead the influence of the vibrant youth subcultures of Japan, as seen in the streets of Tokyo's Shibuya and Harajuku districts, with designs that include Tao Kurihara, Hiroaki Ohya and Akira Onozuka and trends that go from the Gothic Lolitas to the use of manga characters such as Hello Kitty and Astro Boy.
The work of six key designers is showcased in the final section of the exhibition: Rei Kawakubo (for Comme des Garçons), Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Junya Watanabe (for Comme des Garçons), Jun Takahashi (for Undercover), Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi (for mintdesigns).
The suits and gowns included in this final part are well known to fans of modern Japanese fashion: there are Kawakubo's designs in stretch nylon fabric and internal extreme padding ("Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body" Collection, S/S 1997); Junya Watanabe's distressed denim designs (A/W 2002) and padded polyester orange, red and black dress (A/W 2004-05), and Jun Takahashi's suits inspired by tartan and tapestry ("Melting Pot" Collection, A/W 2000-01).
Accompanied by a rich programme of collateral events, workshops, talks, and a fabric and garment swap, the event at Brisbane's GOMA also boasts a "Comme des Garçons Pocket" pop up store, selling the Play line, small accessories and fragrances.
Another interesting surprise is a special lunch package available throughout the duration of the exhibition at the gallery restaurant, with a dessert created by QAGOMA's Executive Chef Josue Lopez who took inspiration from Koji Tatsuno's design feature in the exhibition (the caramelised white chocolate attempting to recreate the movement and colour of Tatsuno's creation...).
Last but not least, "Future Beauty" is accompanied by the "Up Late" series of events, a great idea to mix live music performances with fashion.
The line-up features international, national and local bands and DJs and, while you may have missed Harajuku band Broken Doll who played last November bringing their kawaii-style to GOMA in their first ever Australian show, on 23rd January 2015, the "Up Late" series continues with a performance by Japanese iconic all-female trio Shonen Knife, followed on 30th January by Japanese avant-garde musician Cornelius presenting salyu x salyu.
Though this is not a new exhibition, the way it has been reinvented and retailored for another country and another gallery/museum space, sounds like a great opportunity to chart not only the rise of non-conformist Japanese fashion and culture in general, but also their impact on Western culture.
"Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion", the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane, Australia, until 15th February 2015.
Image credits for this post
1. Comme des Garçons (Rei Kawakubo), Autumn/Winter 2012-13, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Masayuki Hayashi
2. Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1993–94, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Richard Haughton
3. Undercover (Jun Takahashi), Spring/Summer 2006, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Masayuki Hayashi
4. Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter 2009–10, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Masayuki Hayashi
5. Comme des Garçons (Rei Kawakubo), Autumn/Winter 1992–93, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Taishi Hirokawa
6. Ohya (Hiroaki Ohya), Spring/Summer 2000, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Masayuki Hayashi
7. Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter 2000–01, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Takashi Hatakeyama
8. Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter 2000–01, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Takashi Hatakeyama
9. Undercover (Jun Takahashi), Spring/Summer 2007, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Kazuo Fukunaga
10.Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 1995, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Takashi Hatakeyama
11. Comme des Garçons (Rei Kawakubo), Spring/Summer 1997, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Takashi Hatakeyama
12. Koji Tatsuno, Autumn/Winter 1993–94, Gift of Mr. Koji Tatsuno, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Taishi Hirokawa
13. Akira Isogawa, Autumn/Winter 2005, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute
14. Astro Boy by Ohya (Hiroaki Ohya), Spring/Summer 2004, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: QAGOMA
15. Undercover (Jun Takahashi), Undercover, Autumn/Winter 2000-01, Photograph: Takashi Hatakeyama
16. Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer 2003, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Masayuki Hahashi
17. Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter 2004–05, Collection: Kyoto Costume Institute, Photograph: Taishi Hirokawa
18. Broken Doll
19. Shonen Knife
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