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Friday, January 11, 2008

Japanese Fashion

Asian Art Museum During my recent trip to San Francisco I visited the Asian Art Museum for the first time. My main reason for going was to see the Stylized Sculpture exhibit which featured 21 works of art by the following Japanese fashion designers: Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, Junya Watanabe, and Tao Kurihara. I would have loved to photograph the garments, however, photography was not allowed in the exhibit and museum security was quite strict. Fortunately, I picked up an informational brochure which gave detailed information on the designers and their beautiful garments. Below are excerpts from the information that I gathered.

"For the past quarter century, Japanese designers have made their mark on the fashion world with avant-garde shapes, stark color schemes, and innovative textile technologies. To anyone familiar with traditional Japanese clothing, those radical contemporary garments nevertheless resonate with the aesthetics of a culture more fascinated with silhouette, surface, and cloth itself than with the delineation of the body - a culture known for its synthesis of artistry and techniques.

In this exhibition, viewers are asked to consider Japanese fashions not as functional clothing but instead as works of art. The galleries are devoid of labels or explanatory panels; instead, the installation encourages visitors to engage with the garments on an intimate, purely visceral level."

The garments in the exhibit were chosen from the eleven thousand objects in the collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute. (Can you imagine how hard it must have been to edit the selections down to 21?) Stylized Sculpture featured Japanese fashion since the 1980s, a time when designers "radically challenged prevailing standards of European elegance, greatly expanding our notions of artificial skin by bringing sculptural textures, colors, and shapes into the world of haute couture." (Excerpt from Hiroshi Sugimoto.) As the exhibit was featured from October 12, 2007 through January 6, 2008, I feel lucky to have seen it before it ended. It gave me a new perspective on how Japanese culture views clothing and the human body. Each of the featured designers has had a dramatic impact on the fashion industry with their innovative designs. I think it will be interesting to look back on their designs in fifty years and see how they've influenced other generations of designers.

I strongly recommend a visit to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco for anyone who has an interest in Asian art, history, or culture, as I learned a lot from my 3 hour visit.