Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guest Blog by Amie Kershbaum...A Lesson in Japanese Vintage!

As a self confessed vintage fiend, I pride myself on my ability to recognize the work of couture designers and their influence on contemporaries. I do a fairly good job with English, French and Italian designers, but when it comes to Japanese designers I can't tell a Comme des Garcons when it is staring me in the face as Meika (owner of Another Man's Treasure) can attest from experience. Well I should amend that hopefully to couldn't now that I've been to a fantastic exhibit at the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology).

Comme des Garcons at the Japan Fashion Now exhibit

The exhibit, titled Japan Fashion Now is focused on contemporary Japanese fashion but sets the stage with a gallery of 1980s garments from the groundbreaking Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo (of the aforementioned Comme des Garcons), and Yohji Yamamoto. I was lucky enough to attend a tour of the exhibit led by Dr. Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of the Museum. She shared her memories of just how shocking the work of this troika was even to the fashion community. It wasn't just the women on the street who balked, fashion industry peers were shaking their heads too.

Here's a great video interview with Dr. Steele that includes a quick glimpse at the 1980s gallery:

Miyake, Kawakubo and Yamamoto were the first non-Western designers to have a major impact on global contemporary fashion when they showed in Paris in the early 1980s. Their collections were a sea of black and navy with the occasional taupe. Very few fashion lovers are shocked to see all black ensembles today, but at the time such a palette was revolutionary. And speaking of revolutionary, the deconstructionism these three championed was a huge departure from Western couture tradition. Oversized, asymmetrical, garments with distressed and unfinished details are now regular fixture of not only runway fashion, but also in subtler form at retailers in malls across the globe.

I was pleasantly surprised to see tucked in the back corner of the gallery a traditional Japanese textile and pieces from Hanae Mori and Kenzo who helped lay the foundation in 1970s Paris for the recognition of their countrymen (and women). This provided a fantastic bridge to the main gallery, which I encourage vintage lovers to visit particularly for the great men's workwear section and Han Ahn Soon's take on Yves Saint Laurent, the Hello Kitty Mondrian dress. And if you appreciate future vintage as well, one of my personal favorites was the skull motif in Jun Takahasi's Undercover.

By Amie Kershbaum

The Japan Fashion Now exhibit at the Museum at FIT is extended through April 2nd 2011.

Thanks to AMT customer and guest blogger Amie Kershbaum! With your appetites for vintage Japanese fashions sufficiently wetted, here are some pieces we'll be bringing to next month's Manhattan Vintage Show :

1980s 'Hanae Mori' asymmetrical wool jacket

1980s 'Kenzo' drop waisted cotton dress

1980s 'Hiroko Koshino' black & white knit cardigan

1980s 'Midori Matsumoto' embroidered denim puff-sleeve jacket

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