By Codie Barry
The Crow Collection of Asian Art is currently displaying the Mary Baskett Collection of Japanese Fashion. The exhibit is a private collection of the most influential contemporary Japanese fashion. The designs are bold, daring, and sometimes ridiculous; but these outfits are not “garments packed deep in [the collector’s] closet. They are the clothes she wears everyday,” says the informational panel describing the show, the first thing viewers see as they enter the room. Inside are twenty or thirty mannequins, each adorned with a different, fabulous outfit.
This is not a typical fashion show. These designers toy with asymmetry, anachronism and the unwearable. As Yohji Yamamoto (b. 1943) puts it, “I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.”
His designs take the Japanese elements of sleek edge and incorporate classic European design, featuring swooping fabrics paired with suits. He creates functional clothes, to be worn until they can be worn no longer.
Almost completely at odds with Yamamoto’s designs is Rei Kawakubo (b. 1942). Kawakubo is perhaps the most innovative designer of the contemporary fashion world. Her work is truly one of a kind in that her designs do not often flatter the form of the wearer; instead, they constantly challenge society’s conceptions of beauty.
Issey Miyake (b. 1938) is perhaps the most influential of the Japanese designers. He is in a sense more of a sculptor than a fashion designer. His clothes are made to be comfortable, although eccentric; he has a dress that can fold down into a square.
When Japanese designers took the fashion world by storm, they not only changed garments, but also implicitly changed the way we think about ourselves, society and others in relation to fashion. This mindset depends on what we drape on ourselves and how we judge others on what they are wearing. Clothing is more about expression than ornamentation. But this mindset is a contemporary phenomenon, one not shared 60, even 50 years ago. Innovative Japanese designers really were the ones to make fashion a vehicle of self-expression.
The most striking aspect of the show is the interaction of the East and West. The designers constantly pull from traditional Japanese values, yet are participating in the mostly Western world of fashion. And in turn, the Western world is fascinated by the East, and has vigorously incorporated the Japanese design into Western fashion. What has resulted is a reevaluation of the definition of aesthetic design. These Japanese designs have redefined beauty. The asymmetry, uneven lines, baggy shapes and bizarre constructions seen on our runways today were shaped by these designers, who saw the tight-fitting fashions of 1960s Paris and made them into kimonos.
It runs until Feb. 22, 2015.