Rei Kawakubo

1 January 2017

French fashion has been both disturbed and strengthened by the addition of the “outsider”  forces such as Kenzo Takada, the pioneer designer among Japanese designers. At the beginning of the 1980s the placement of Tokyo on the fashion map became even more pronounced when ? The Big Three? Issey Miyake who can be considered as ? the founding father of the avant-garde fashion? , and other two being Yamamoto and Kawakubo, placed great signi? cance on clothing inherited from the past. This includes Japanese farmers? lothes designed through necessity and adapted dyed textile and quilting from ancient Japan, which Japanese would not consider fashionable. Kawakubo and Yamamoto gained international recognition for their innovative collections by suggesting different ways of wearing garment. They also redefined the nature of Western clothing itself for example the large and loose-fitting garments instead of exposing the contours of the body. Therefore, they simultaneously introduced a new fashion and a new definition of aesthetics.

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Referring to the designs of Kawakubo, Yamamoto said that Kawakubo was his ‘very strong competition’ and ‘the start of my Olympic games’ (The Japanese Revolution in Paris Fashion). Both of them have strong Japanese background applied on their designs until now. They showed monochromatic, torn, and non-decorative clothes, bringing shabbiness into fashion to internationally express a sense of absence rather than existence. Yamamoto has found his own signature by synthesizing European tailoring and Japanese sensibility.

His fabric and structure governed by twisting, piecing, and drapery where Kawakubo is best known for being against normal trends of fashion whose materials were often draped around the body with asymmetric shapes, featured frayed, unfinished edges along with holes, they are also manipulated by shrouding, texturing, and layering techniques. Kawakubo’s design is not about the body but about space around body and the ‘metaphor of self’ (Richard Martin, 1990). The self-taught Kawakubo nods to the romantic subtleties of historic fashion while Yamamoto often experiments with innovations in technical textiles and new synthetics.

In 1981, Kawakubo’s first fashion show in Paris appeared to be uninterested in clothing and conventionally flattering. Moreover, her designs were oversized, distressed and worn with flat shoes. Therefore, it did not have a positive respond from the western market. As the time goes by, she is now regarded as a headstrong fashion personality who is obsessed by the tactile and visual properties of fabric. Her use of black and asymmetry represents a fusion of Western and Asian forms. In 1982, Kawakubo showed the lace sweaters (Picture 1: V&A museum) with irregular, apparently moth-eaten holes.

It consists of a black hand-knitted jumper decorated with randomly placed holes, giving it post-punk eras feel and a black skirt of padded cotton jersey. It uses an asymmetrical pattern and incorporates a deep welt that sits on the hips and gives form to the garment. This outfit is typical of the predominantly black collections produced by Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons, her first company. Her first collections were restricted exclusively to gray, beige, and in particular black. She only introduced colored clothes for the first time in 1989. The two menswear inspired pantsuit below (Picture 2: Fukai.

A, 2002, pp. 641) by Yamamoto are mixed of the Japanese concept of asymmetry with the symmetrical clothes design of the west. On the other hand, Yamamoto made his name designing dark, oversized clothes, principally in black, although he has also favored navy gabardine. Both shades, he has said, are used to ensure that all attention is focused on the intricacy of cut and proportion over and above surface embellishment that is, for the most part, kept to a minimum. His garments are loosely and often voluminous, sometimes carved out of stone, at other times they are fluid.

His garments often offer possibilities for different use, such as reversible jacket, an extra pocket and laces fulfill that are not entirely functional. Oversized clothes and playful diversity of texture is his signature, along with asymmetrical hems and collars, holes, and torn edges. He likes surprise details such an unexpected pocket, a lapel that turns into a long, flowing shawl, and a new placement of buttons. The deconstructionist theme is his largest contribution to the world of fashion: breaking down “fashion” clothing into experimental pieces made of simple materials, where the cut is the main event of the garment.

Yamamoto is only one of Japan’s big three (along with Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo) to achieve this feat, but he separates himself from the others by maintaining a sense of humor, history and wit. “My early work has always made the point: Women should also be allowed to dress like men. When I was studying, women in Japan were always wearing costumes and looked like puppets. I didn’t like that. At the same time I though. Women in military uniform: How sexy! ”- Yohji Yamamoto Picture 1 Rei Kawakubo/ Comme des Garcons Jumper 1982 Jumper of black hand- knitted wool. Decorated with holes randomly places.

In conclusion, Japanese designers have greatly influence the world’s young fashion designers by expressing, consciously or unconsciously, their Japanese aesthetic sense. Part of the reason for their strong impact is that international clothing can come from a culture other than from the west. Kawakubo and Yamamoto prove that imperfection are more valuable for their collection. From the two garments above (Picture 1 and 2) Kawakubo’s design uses asymmetrical pattern and imperfect sewing that give form to the garment itself. In contrary, Yamamoto uses deconstruction theme and perfect sewing for his garments.

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