Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion, is an exhibition of nearly 100 dresses, skirts, gowns and suits that celebrate the innovation of contemporary Japanese fashion designers. The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, will present this stunning collection of clothes from 16 November until 26 January. For decades, designers such as Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto have directed both couture and popular fashion, launching a revolution that marks the first time a non-Western culture has significantly transformed the global fashion world.
Japanese designers have long been at the forefront of rethinking form, technique, material and approach when producing clothes. They have challenged conventional ideas of beauty and have been a strong force in recasting fashion as a central and nuanced art form. For many years the fundamentals of haute couture in Europe and America remained unchallenged, until the 1980s when designers such as Yohji Yamamoto came to the fore. Within Japanese construction there is an absence of the highly sexualised fitted forms, balance, finish, invisible tailoring and complementary color and pattern associated with western work. Instead, the eastern world values imperfection, transience, austerity, asymmetry, roughness, simplicity and subtlety.
An important moment for Japanese fashion occurred at the now legendary Paris catwalk show in 1983 where designers Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto debuted their black and white collections. The two designers amazed audiences with asymmetric and sculptural pieces that enveloped rather than revealed the body, firmly rejecting the obsession with body consciousness and form-fitting silhouettes. Since then, Japanese designers have been a staple on the fashion map, inspiring innovation and alternative ways of approaching the industry.
Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion covers a range of different topics including In Praise of Shadows, Tradition and Innovation, Flatness and Cool Japan. Alongside the immersive, large-scale fashion runway show videos, the exhibition features contemporary Japanese fashion pieces that visitors can try on to experience these unique design works firsthand.
Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion, 16 November – 26 January, The Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square (161 Essex St) Salem, Massachusetts.
1. Koji Tatsuno, Autumn/Winter 1993-94 (detail). Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute. Gift of Mr Koji Tatsuno. Photo by Richard Burbridge.