Originally Posted by Ivwri
Glad to see you posting on here.
Most of the current crop of Japanese designers now seem to be re-importing their innovations and designs via Europe and in particular via the Belgian designers so I guess that mentality stayed the same as generations passed in Japan. It's just a shame that in a roundabout manner, they are still taking in Japanese DNA and may not have enough that's new.
I was discussing this with asobu a while back about how I cannot see which Japanese designer will be able to carry the torch of either Yohji or Rei once they pass on. Like Yohji said "to be modern is to tear the soul out of everything" and it really feels to me that most of the current crop of Japanese designers are more caught up with being cool and edgy. This can result in some truly beautiful clothes, but they seem to lack that "soul". To me at least at any rate.
I have been thinking about this too and find myself wondering whether there is anybody. There certainly are designers who started at Comme/Yohji - Chitose Abe worked at Comme for ten years before starting sacai
(I believe Rei offered her a line at Comme but she said she wanted her own label), and matohu
is run by husband and wife, he worked at Comme she worked at Yohji. Both are nice enough, but they are determinedly different to Rei or Yohji in approach - Abe wants to make wearable everyday clothes based on 'Tokyo elegance', and Sekiguchi and Horihata base their designs on an interpretation of traditional Japanese beauty. I think they both make beautiful clothes, but sometimes I wonder whether it is too
beautiful and that is why it does not move me as much. With Yohji and Comme I think the clothes challenge you and make you think - it is never straightforward, even though when you wear it it looks and feels easy and natural. It might be clichéd to talk of the cerebral side of Yohji and Rei's work, but I think it does make a difference. I like clothes that raise questions without having to look entirely wacky and Gaultier-ish.
With most Japanese designers today they do not seem to approach fashion with the same sense of questioning that Yohji and Rei did. You have those steeped in their backgrounds in vintage (N.Hoolywood), the process of the fashion dj and streetstyle (Takahashi), and repros from another era or country (denim companies, workwear companies, even someone like Nakamura). They seem to make clothes for the street and for certain fashion subcultures, charging high fashion prices without using the language of high fashion. Yohji questioned fashion from the inside - he was fully literate in fashion and made the effort to go to Paris and show, as did Rei. Yohji references the history of fashion, whilst the newer designers simply reference history. Yohji can 'quote' Balenciaga or Chanel or Vionnet in his dresses and his work, and by doing so, even if the wearer is unaware of these references, he places his work within (and without) the history of fashion. By referencing the past but doing so in a way that is not a simple transplant, but rather a translation into his own design language, as well as shying away from trends, his work is placed outside the cycle of fashion and thus outside of the traditional fashion system. It seems as if designers are happy to make reproductions or clothes for the street without seeking to change anything - as you say they are caught up with being cool and edgy. Yohji and Rei have always rebelled and have done so from the inside, conscious of the language and history of fashion, so their statements are all the more powerful.
I really enjoy the fact that Yohji is always paradoxical - he says he hates fashion, but works within it, he says he starts clothes from the back yet shows from the front, he hates retrospectives yet he constantly references his past work (even if only subconsciously), he says he is not a Japanese designer and yet uses explicitly Japanese influences in his work - makes me feel that for all the accolades he has been given and the analysis his work gets at the end of the day he is only human and possibly doesn't take himself seriously
I love fashion and dress - what we wear, why we wear it, how we wear it, when we wear it, how the fashion system works, how the cycle of fashion works, the design side, the social side, the historical side, the cultural side, the material side, the production side, etc. etc. However I often find myself agreeing with Yohji - I hate fashion. Not the clothes, not fashion design, but rather what the fashion system has become. There is too much noise. "Faster, faster, cheaper, cheaper - people have started to waste fashion". I hate how money has become so much more important than design, where designers have to bend to the whims of an artificial market, keeping the fashion industry happy, or risk going out of business or having to make money designing for a trashy fast fashion house. Like Yohji says "When people are really tired of everything, then come, I can satisfy you." There are too many designers, too many clothes, too many trends, too much money, all clamouring to be heard. I don't want clothes that scream and shout, I want clothes that whisper gently in my ear. I think Yohji provides that.
Fashion seems to be fully in control of the businesses and what Kawamura called the gate-keepers (the fashion mags, press, etc.,). We are told what to like rather than being left to decide for ourselves. I can pick up a magazine or browse a fashion website and all I see are - "Do's and Don'ts for this season", "The Top 10 [x]'s you need this season!", "The hot trends this season". One of my favourite Barthes quotes come to mind "Mass culture is a machine for showing desire: here is what must interest you, it says, as if it guessed that men are incapable of finding what to desire by themselves."
I think he is a worldly (for want of a better phrase) designer. He may have roots in Japan, but his work combines a multitude of ethnic/cultural/geographic/social references. I think it is more to the point that being from Japan he will inherently have that frame of reference and knowledge to use. But it is the same with his use of fashion history - whether making an homage to Vionnet or referencing Madame Gres. I like that Yohji can use such an array of knowledge in his own way. So many designers today seem entirely ignorant of fashion history - not saying they must know it in order to be good, but it could certainly help. Learn from whichever avenues are available. It's like Yohji says - you have to learn the traditions, you need to know how to make a shirt before you can change it and make something new. People seem in a hurry to make something new without having that background knowledge.
But yeah, never take yourself or fashion too seriously! I could wear head-to-toe Muji for the rest of my life, but where is the fun in that?
Originally Posted by asobu
thanks for coming over here to post syed, I like your contributions over at SZ too so I hope you stick around.
Thank you also
his work might or might not start from the back, i think he places a lot of emphasis on it and the curves from the nape of the neck down the back, but I wouldn't assume that he necessarily wants his clothes to presented back first. Didn't he often say that a strong back makes the front, or something in that vein? Either way (unfortunately?), fashion is fed to us from the front, for Yohji as well.
It was more a passing thought really. I wonder how different it would be if show videos were recorded by a camera at the other end of the runway - the models walking away from us before they turn back and face us coming back. I mean, the audience sit on either side, so they see most of the looks side-on. Those close to catwalk start see the back of the looks at first, then the front as the models come back. Those at the far end see the front of the looks, and then the models turn away and they see the back. Sometimes I just wish I could see all the looks in 3D for want of seeing them in person.