Last year, a special exhibit featuring items from the Mary Baskett Collection of Japanese Fashion opened at the Crow Collection of Asian Art. The former Curator of Prints at the Cincinnati Art Museum discovered three Japanese fashion designers—Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, and Yohji Yamamoto—on a business trip. She began collecting and wearing their clothes, and in 2007, her collection made its debut in Cincinnati. Although the exhibit has already closed in Dallas, you can enjoy some of the pictures I took and a bit about each of the designers.
From left: Comme des Garçons A/W 2009/2010 dress, Yohji Yamamoto x Cyborg 009 A/W 2012 wool sweater and underdress, and Issey Miyake A/W 2010/2011 132_5 Dress
All three are well-known today for being fashion innovators, melding traditional and avant-garde, East and West. When their designs first appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, Western critics were shocked by the oversized silhouettes, raw edges, and monochromatic palettes. They introduced the Western fashion world to Japanese aesthetics and new techniques and have been fashion powerhouses ever since.
Issey Miyake made his debut in 1971 in New York and is known for experimenting with layers and space in his designs. He created the infamous black turtlenecks that Steve Jobs wore, and he developed a new method of pleating fabric that made garments easier to wear and launder. After “retiring” from design in 1997, he focused on textile technology, leading to the creation of A-POC (A Piece of Cloth). Over a decade older than 3-D printing, this customizable garment emerges from a piece of cloth that is cut into the finished product, no sewing required.
This is an example of Miyake’s A-POC with the cloth transformed into a skirt.
Founder of Comme des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo founded the company in 1973 and is involved in all aspects of it. Her clothes challenge the ideas of fashion and beauty with their raw edges and bulky shapes. Until the late 1980s, she stuck to mostly black to bring focus to form and structure. Comme des Garçons often changes styles each season, as Kawakubo constantly reworks her ideas. This eccentric designer is thought to be one of the inspirations for Edna Mode from The Incredibles.
The dress on the left is from the 2005/2006 Broken Bride collection and is a collaboration between Kawakubo and Christian Astuguevieille.
Yohji Yamamoto debuted alongside Comme des Garçons in Paris in 1981. He too featured deconstructed elements, asymmetry, and a monochromatic palette. His influences include both traditional Japanese clothing and the Belle Époque fashions, and he designs with the idea of making menswear look good on women. In 2003, Yamamoto teamed up with Adidas to create his sportswear line, Y-3.
The middle wool suit from Yamamoto’s 2006/2007 collection consists of a jacket, bodysuit, and skirt/trousers.
Throughout the exhibit were quotes from each designer about their aesthetic, which tended to challenge conventional beauty and design. There was also an area for those who have been inspired to draw their own outfits.
Listening to: “DON’T STOP” by Tanaka Alice