For over 30 years the confrontational work of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garcons has challenged traditional tropes and revolutionised the course of the international fashion industry. Within a postmodernist context, fashion as visual arts practice has learned to embrace notions of memory, cognitive association and feminist ideology. Previous conspicuous consumptive patterns succumbed to the new left and crossed boundaries of cultural aestheticism, offering to consumers clothing that was more than merely a “second skin”. Yohji Yamamoto’s deconstructive style, in particular, articulated the concept of imperfect beauty: dignity masked in the garb of implied poverty; and underlined the role of simplicity and perishability in Japanese aesthetics. At the same time, Rei Kawakubo questioned Western consumers’ acceptance of banal fashion that was devoid of intellectual reference or symbolism, by offering clothing that embodied individuality and humanity, closely allied to ambiguous, evocative meaning.
This paper will frame Giles Lipovetsky’s argument that identity through individualism in dress has become the primary purpose of fashion design in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In the trend towards syndication and other globalisation strategies, it will consider how this melding of contemporary cross-cultural influences set a precedent on the catwalks of Paris by embracing the strengths implicit in non-Western traditional cultures. The paper will argue that the impact of the Japanese designers was considerable in terms of changing design directions, construction and finishing techniques, presentation, distribution and marketing. Finally, it will position notions of anti-fashion and the anti-aesthetic in today’s society.
|Keywords:||Fashion, Contemporary, Japanese Designers, Yamamoto, Kawakubo, Comme des Garcons, Conceptualism, Deconstruction, Postmodernism, Memory, Meaning, Feminist Ideologies|
Associate Professor, Art & Design Theory Department, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
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