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Review: Japan Fashion Now Japanese fashion is often known for its use of black fabrics and clean lines, but Japan Fashion Now, an exhibition currently on display at The Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology, begs to differ. Japan Fashion Now is “the first exhibition to explore contemporary Japanese fashion in all its radial creativity, from high fashion to street style.” Throughout the exhibit, about one hundred of iconic Comme des Garcons, Issey Miyake, and Yohji Yamamoto are accordingly placed next to Gothic Lolitas and punks. Curated by Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at FIT, she spent two years preparing the exhibit to present Japanese fashion to the American public and in all honesty, has done an amazing job. Enter the basement of The Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology and it is a familiar scene. A group of twenty or so mannequins dressed in various black ensembles stand in the center of the dimly lit room. It features three of Japan’s most popular designers to date: Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, and Issey Miyake. Together, they began the Japanese “fashion revolution,” helping to put their country in the global fashion scene. The looks are arranged to start off with the strong, iconic “deconstructed” garments from Kawakubo and Yamamoto and end with avant-garde designs of Miyake. While the ensembles by Kawakubo and Yamamoto epitomize Japanese fashion for the past thirty years with their dark color choices and creating a new way to look at “sexy,” Miyake’s over-exaggerated evening ensemble and red molded bustier gives an introduction to the wide range of different fashions that are seen today. The main gallery focuses on 21st century Japanese fashion. Within the large room it is broken up into four platforms each representing a different theme and city. The first long platform is inspired by boutiques of Omotesando. It is here where some of the most eyecatching ensembles stand. I was quickly drawn to the first ensemble by Naoki Takizawa for Issey Miyake. From the umbrella, to the dress, and down to the rain boots, it is a complete garment reproduction that features the painting of Japanese pop artist Aya Takano. A great example of fashion and art crossing paths, Japanese designers are widely known for doing this. Other looks standing on the platform include more cute, edgy, colorful ensembles by Kawakubo and Yamamoto, structured designs by Junya Watanabe, soft, fantastical looks from Tao Kurihara, and the cute and scary dresses from Jun Takahashi’s Undercover. The next platform focuses on menswear, one of the most exciting categories within contemporary fashion. Some of the most popular designers include Miharayasuhiro, Whitemountaineering, and Phenomenon, the latter being a personal favorite. One of the looks on display is a green jacket, a white blouse, and a pair of leather pants. Sounds simple, but it is nowhere close to it. Phenomenon’s Takeshi Osumi, also known by his hip-hop stage name Big-O, stated that his most recent fall collection was inspired by garage rock and insects. The details of the look include jagged cuts and puffed sleeves on


the jacket, a tailored blouse that drops down to the ankles, and a pair of grey leather pants tucked into thigh high silver boots. With designs like these that push the limit are now being watched with keen interest by many in the industry. The third platform introduces the street and sub-cultural styles of Japan. In the streets of Harajuku, Shibuya, and Ginza, cute, Goth, and punk are intertwined. Probably the most recognizable are the “Hangry & Angry” dresses by Naoto Hirooka. Better known as h.NAOTO, he has been called the “most visible and successful of the label fixated on [Japanese punk and gothic Lolita].” The baby dolls dresses are edgy yet cute. Though, what are most interesting about the dresses are the dolls that hang on side of the waistline, one representing Goth and the other punk. Usually seen as an accessory, the dolls are a part of the dress, something you don’t often see. Other styles include kamikaze suits worn by Japan’s notorious Speed Tribes in the 1990s, schoolboy and schoolgirl uniforms, and the latest Forest Girl looks. The last platform is a quick look to cosplay, or costume play. Although it is not really fashion, rather a type of performance art and fan culture associated with anime and manga, we get an idea of what is on the streets of Akihibara. Japan Fashion Now also included the ensembles of “Orientalist” fashions by Kenzo and Hanae Mori, pop-culture jumpsuits by Kansai Yamamoto, looks by newer designers Matahu, Iwaya33, sacai, menswear by N.Hollywood, Factotum, John Lawrence Sullivan, and Number (N)ine, and accessories by Takashi Murakami for Louis Vuitton, BAPE, and Noritaka Tatehana. According to Steele, more than any country in the world, their culture is focused on fashion and I think the Museum of FIT puts it the best when they say, “Japan continues to be on the cutting edge, maybe even the bleeding edge of fashion.”


Japan Fashion Now