East­ern prom­ise A new ex­hi­bi­tion dis­plays the Ja­panese in­flu­ence on Ir­ish fash­ion, writes Deirdre McQuil­lan

From John Rocha to Issey Miyake, we’re turn­ing Ja­panese writes Deirdre McQuil­lan

The Irish Times Magazine - - NEWS -

In a re­mote part of west Mayo in the early 1980s, an old l ace- mak­ing school that had been con­verted into a knit­ting fac­tory was mak­ing sweaters for Kenzo Takada, the Ja­panese de­signer then mak­ing his name in Paris. One of the sweaters was Kenzo’s ver­sion of an Aran knit with fa­mil­iar lines of re­lief ca­bling and pat­terns but with a ma­jor dif­fer­ence. In his de­sign, the lines were hor­i­zon­tal rather than ver­ti­cal and far from be­ing white or cream wool in the tra­di­tional style, the colours cho­sen were bolder – emer­ald green and pink. These knits, form­ing a di­rect aes­thetic link be­tween the two coun­tries, il­lus­trated the ef­fect of a Ja­panese sen­si­bil­ity on an iconic Ir­ish cul­tural ar­ti­fact see­ing it in a new and fresh way. This was at the same time that other Ja­panese de­sign­ers in Paris were shock­ing au­di­ences in other ways. It is hard to­day for a new gen­er­a­tion to un­der­stand the im­pact of the work of what be­came known as The Big Three in Paris, when avant garde de­sign­ers Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yo­hji Ya­mamoto showed a new way of dress­ing with their sen­sa­tional all black col­lec­tions. In­stead of cut­ting the clothes to the shape of the body in the con­ven­tional west­ern way, these gar­ments were baggy, roomy and all en­velop­ing. Their aes­thetic changed fash­ion and had a pro­found ef­fect on west­ern de­sign­ers that con­tin­ues to this day. A new ex­hi­bi­tion in Kilken- ny, Hi Fash­ion, part of Kilkenny Arts Week and one of the events mark­ing 60 years of diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween Ire­land and Ja­pan, celebrates 60 years of sar­to­rial his­tory jux­ta­pos­ing gar­ments from de­sign­ers in both coun­tries. The Ja­panese Aran gar­ments are not there, but the Ir­ish de­sign­ers i nclude Sy­bil Con­nolly, John Rocha, Lainey Keogh, Una Burke and ris­ing stars like Michael Ste­wart and Richard Malone.

Ja­panese de­sign­ers in­clude Issey Miyake, Kan­sai Ya­mamoto ( de­signer of David Bowie’s cos­tumes dur­ing the 70s), milliner Maiko Takedo ( favoured by singer Bjork) and con­tem­po­rary mak­ers like An­re­alage and Nori­taka Tate­hana.

Gemma Wil­liams, the Lon­don- based Ir­ish cu­ra­tor who has as­sem­bled the 23 out­fits which are pre­sented to­gether, says the ex­hi­bi­tion “is not about com­pare and con­trast, but a vis­ual es­say. It is loosely struc­tured and I would like vis­i­tors to see be­yond each ob­ject; there will also be a va­ri­ety of film and cat­walk footage to show­case gar­ments through another lens.”

Fash­ion ex­hi­bi­tions in Ire­land are few and far be­tween and this one presents a spe­cial vis­ual feast from de­sign­ers over the decades. An as­pect of Wil­liams’ ap­proach is to show how fash­ion is an out­ward- look­ing in­dus­try and how, for in­stance, John Rocha and Lainey Keogh “cre­ated an Ir­ish fash­ion mo­ment in the 1990s the same way as Ja­pan was spot­lighted in the 1980s, both leav­ing their own coun­tries to cre­ate an im­pact else­where”, she says. How fash­ion is un­der­pinned by the fu­sion of con­cept and craft and dis­tilled by the in­ti­mate na­ture of

in­di­vid­ual ap­proach and process is also high­lighted.

“Ja­pan’s sup­port of its cul­tural pat­ri­mony when it comes to fash­ion is bet­ter than ours,” says Wil­liams. “They see it as a mas­sive com­po­nent of cul­ture which Ire­land is only start­ing to do. Here in­dus­try sup­port is min­i­mal; fash­ion is not seen as a proper dis­ci­pline. I wanted to keep the ex­hi­bi­tion as broad as pos­si­ble and show how in­spi­ra­tion and con­nec­tions are made across bor­ders.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion, which has been de­signed by Steven McNa­mara of ROJI, runs at The Na­tional Craft Gallery, Kilkenny, un­til Novem­ber 12th and dis­cus­sions are tak­ing place about a pos­si­ble trans­fer to Dublin. Photography by Sarah Doyle, styling by Gemma Wil­liams, hair and make- up Leonard Daly for MAC cos­met­ics. Mod­els: Hi­lary, Eabha and Anas­ta­sia @ Mor­gan the Agency.

Op­po­site page: Or­ganza pleated dress, col­lar and hat by John Rocha from AW 2014 col­lec­tion and Dress by Richard Malone from AW 2015 col­lec­tion. This page clock­wise from top left: Re. Treat cape by Úna Burke from Re. Treat Con­tin­ued col­lec­tion; Flo­ral print shirt by Issey Miyake from ‘ me Issey Miyake Cau­li­flower, 2016’ col­lec­tion; Round wreath dress from AW 2017 col­lec­tion; and ‘ At­mo­spheric Reen­try’ hooded cape by Maiko Takeda from 2013 col­lec­tion.

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