press release

Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion is the first exhibition in Europe to comprehensively survey avant-garde Japanese fashion, from the early 1980s to now. Japanese designers made an enormous impact on world couture in the late 20th century. Visionaries such as Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto redefined the very basis of fashion, challenged established Western notions of beauty, and turned fashion very firmly into art. Kawakubo’s protégé, the techno-couturier Junya Watanabe also features in the exhibition, together with the acclaimed Jun Takahashi, and the new generation of radical designers including Tao Kurihara, Matohu and Mintdesigns. Future Beauty opens at Barbican Art Gallery on 15 October 2010.

Kate Bush , Head of Art Galleries, Barbican Centre, said: The great Japanese designers – Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto – changed fashion forever in the 1980s. The tight silhouettes of Western couture were jettisoned for new fluid shapes. Out went the magnificent ornament and extravagant techniques of the post-war tradition and in came a stark, monochrome palette and an entirely new decorative language – holes, rips, frays and tears – emerging from the stuff of fabric itself. I am delighted that Barbican Art Gallery is the first gallery in Europe to chart this fascinating and influential period in design history, as well as the first gallery in Britain to present the Kyoto Costume Institute’s legendary collection.

Curated by the eminent Japanese fashion historian Akiko Fukai, Director, the Kyoto Costume Institute (KCI), and designed by acclaimed architect Sou Fujimoto, with sound installation by Janek Schaefer, the exhibition explores the distinctive sensibility of Japanese design and its sense of beauty embodied in clothing. Bringing together over 100 garments from the last three decades – many rarely lent by KCI, some never seen before in the UK – the exhibition also includes films of notable catwalk shows and documentaries.

Future Beauty explores the work of these designers in relation to Japanese art, culture and costume history. The lower galleries are arranged into four sections: In Praise of Shadows; Flatness; Tradition and Innovation and Cool Japan. Each area focuses on a different characteristic that pervades the work of the featured designers.

The first section, In Praise of Shadows, takes inspiration from the seminal text of the same name written by acclaimed Japanese author Juni’chirō Tanizaki in 1933. In Praise of Shadows reveals the enduring interest in a monochromatic palette, and nuanced textures and forms prevalent in contemporary Japanese fashion which –Fukai argues – arise from a cultural sensibility attuned to light and shade and the power of black. It features pieces by Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto from their revered collections of the early eighties to their work from recent seasons, alongside garments by Junya Watanabe, Jun Takahashi and Matohu.

Flatness explores the simple geometries and interplay of flatness and volume in the work of Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo. This section includes a series of specially commissioned striking photographs by Japanese artist and photographer Naoya Hatakeyama.

In the next section the relationship between Tradition and Innovation is considered – from the radical reinvention of traditional Japanese garments and techniques, such as kimono and origami, to the technological advances in textile fabrication and treatment. It includes a series of paper garments by TAO, OhYa and Mintdesigns; Watanabe’s seminal autumn / winter 2000 collection Techno Couture; examples of Kawakubo’s deconstructionist work; as well as modern takes on traditional Japanese techniques and garments by Yamamoto, Kenzo and Matohu.

The final section in the lower galleries focuses on the phenomenon that is Cool Japan. Featuring works by TAO, Jun Takahashi for Undercover and Naoki Takizawa, for Issey Miyake, among others. Cool Japan examines the symbiotic relationship between street style, popular culture and high fashion. There are also a series of rooms showing catwalk collection films, interviews and Wim Wenders’ classic documentary on Yamamoto Notebook of Cities and Clothes.

The upper galleries of Future Beauty are dedicated to focused presentations on each of the principle designers in the show featuring a range of archive and recent works: Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Junya Watanabe, Jun Takahashi and Tao Kurihara, as well as Mintdesigns and a number of emerging designers such as Akira Naka, Anrealage, N é -Net, Sacai , Somarta, Mikio Sakabe , and Taro Horiuchi . Also included in the upper galleries are catwalk collection films, and a wealth of rare books, catalogues and magazines, which highlight Yamamoto, Miyake and Kawakubo’s collaborations with artists, photographers and designers.

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Future Beauty
30 years of Japanese Fashion
Kurator: Akiko Fukai, Kate Bush

Künstler: Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Junya Watanabe, Jun Takahashi, Tao Kurihara, Matohu , Mintdesigns , Naoya Hatakeyama, Naoki Takizawa, Akira Naka, Anrealage , N é -Net , Sacai  , Somarta , Mikio Sakabe, Taro Horiuchi

15.10.2010 - 06.02.2011 Barbican Centre
04.03.2011 - 18.06.2011 Haus der Kunst, München