The unique aesthetic of the Japanese way of dress

'Clothes more like sculpture or a physical manifestation of Zen thought', says Colin McDowell
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Tao Kurihara/Tao Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter (2009-10)

1 / 16 Tao Kurihara/Tao Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter (2009-10)

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer (1997)

2 / 16 Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer (1997)

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer (2008)

3 / 16 Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer (2008)

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter (1983-84)

4 / 16 Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter (1983-84)

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter (1995)

5 / 16 Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter (1995)

mintdesigns, Autumn/Winter (2008-09)

6 / 16 mintdesigns, Autumn/Winter (2008-09)

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter (1983-84)

7 / 16 Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Autumn/Winter (1983-84)

Lambda Print (2009)

8 / 16 Lambda Print (2009)

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer (2009)

9 / 16 Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer (2009)

Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer (1998)

10 / 16 Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer (1998)

Final Home / Kosuke Tsmura (1994)

11 / 16 Final Home / Kosuke Tsmura (1994)

mintdesigns, Autumn/Winter (2008-09)

12 / 16 mintdesigns, Autumn/Winter (2008-09)

Mikio Sakabe, Autumn/Winter (2008-09)

13 / 16 Mikio Sakabe, Autumn/Winter (2008-09)

Issey Miyake, Spring/Summer (1995)

14 / 16 Issey Miyake, Spring/Summer (1995)

Isabella Blow in Hiroaki Ohya, Spring/Summer (2000)

15 / 16 Isabella Blow in Hiroaki Ohya, Spring/Summer (2000)

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer (2007)

16 / 16 Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Spring/Summer (2007)


The emphasis on material is at the root of the Japanese aesthetic and is seen in dress through the use of utilitarian and even 'poor' ones - felt, boiled wool, nylon, polyester - even for statement dresses.  So says Colin McDowell in his review of the Barbican's exhibition Future Beauty, dedicated to 30 years of Japanese fashion (until 6 February, 2011).

Japanese design, although informed by a unique sensibility, is not all the same. Issey Miyake is as bold and original as ever with his geometric experiments with intricately folded polygons of recycled material, while Rei Kawakubo, earth mother of Japanese modernism, founded the label Commes des Garçons with a unique personal aesthetic thirty years ago, and she has never deviated from her own standards of a controlled but voluptuous elegance.

Beautifully cut and consummately understated in elegance, the Japanese clothes on display at the Barbican's exhibition - and highlighted within this gallery - reveal the depth and originality of the Japanese way of dress.

Read Colin McDowell's review of Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion.


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