Apr 29, 2013 03:15
by Angie Fox
Japanese fashion immediately brings to mind kimonos, sushi chef jackets and the bright yellow Bruce Lee tracksuit Uma Thurman wore when she kicked samurai butt in the Kill Bill movies.
In fact, Japanese designers have been influencing the catwalks of New York, Paris, London and Milan for decades, beginning in the 1950s and reaching a peak in the 80s when the deconstructed look favoured by Comme Des Garcon founder Rei Kawakubo and eponymous designers Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyaki took the West by storm.
Although Japanese designers in the 80s tended to a more austere, layered and unfinished look in a limited palette of just black, white and grey, their influence on the international scene is undeniable. Rei Kawakubo is perhaps the godmother of Japanese fashion, influencing designers like Martin Margiela, Anne Demeulemeester and Helmet Lang to this day.
Kawakubo’s protégé Junya Watanabe, who cut his teeth as an apprentice patternmaker at Comme Des Garcon before launching his own label in 1992, is a red carpet darling for cutting edge celebrities like Rihanna, fashion icons like Victoria Beckham and the perennially radiant Michelle Obama. Watanabe is known for his “techno couture”. His creations often merge unusual structure with modern materials.
Japanese street fashion, with its myriad mind-boggling subcultures has undoubtedly impacted on Western street fashion. Singer Gwen Stefani’s obsession with Harajuku girls – whose look is a mishmash of punk, Goth and Lolita – is well documented. And most celebrities and likely all members of their entourage own a pair or ten of Onitsuko Tiger trainers.
While Japanese designs from the likes of Watanabe and Tsumori Chisato are still being admired on the catwalk, the Japanese aesthetic is always permeating the consciousness designers. Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano and Elie Saab regularly visit Japan for creative inspiration. In 2007, when Galliano was at Dior, he designed the Dior Samurai 1947 Woven Bag to commemorate the brand’s 60th anniversary.
Today labels including Etro, Pucci, Thakoon and Alice by Temperley as well as shoe designer Robert Clergerie are all showcasing their Asian inspired wares.
If you’re trying to infuse a little of Tokyo into your wardrobe, but can’t afford the airfare, head to Australia’s favourite Japanese import Akira Isogawa or try local designers Life With Bird for the pared-back, deconstructed look; or Scanlan and Theodore for their famous silks, florals and this season’s androgynous looks.