January 19, 2011
Before it ends on 6 February, try and get to London’s Barbican Art Gallery to see the exhibition Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion for a sharp insight into the big players of the 1980s, including Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto, and the pioneers of the following generation including Junya Watanabe and Tao Kurihara. The collection is accompanied by artistic photography, footage from shows and various retro memorabilia from exhibitions of the past; it presents far out and freakish fashion alongside dresses that you or I could wear to a party, making the whole exhibition exciting and way out on the one hand, but also real and accessible on the other.
It was interesting to find out that the founder of Comme des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo, often uses non-professionals as models on the catwalk – albeit sometimes famous people – but she chooses people who express the personality to complement her creations, rather than models that have a certain look. I also found out that the reason why black is so ubiquitous throughout Yohji Yamamoto’s designs is because the colour allows for a full appreciation of the cut and form of the garments without distraction. And, if you do make it to the exhibition, make sure you see Tao Kurihara’s exquisite wedding dress made from paper, denoting delicacy and highlighting that a wedding dress is worn only once.
Well worth a visit. But if you don’t make it, you could always take a trip to Tokyo instead and head for the fashionable Aoyama district, where you’ll find flagship stores for most of the icons of Japanese fashion design. InsideJapan Tours can tailor-make original itineraries to Japan. Mika Bishop.