Two Japanese designers give heartfelt shows with collections that merge art and music with fashion
Yohji Yamamoto: Contemporary Contemplation
Painterly splashes of white, a drape of scarlet on inky black, pure white, deep black — Yohji Yamamoto's exceptional collection was written in familiar colours but seemed to transmit this message: once more — with feeling.
"It's about my feelings," admitted Yohji Yamamoto, tilting his hat as he received a deluge of praise backstage.
"We're looking at the sense of the avant-garde", he said.
"It's been all general fashion, but I wanted to make something new," the designer continued.
What Yohji meant was surely that balance between creativity and reality — so difficult to gauge in fashion where the argument is always if the clothes are not wearable, are they clothing at all?
But this perfectly balanced show answered all the questions. There were drapes to shape and flesh seeping out from a sleeve, a cut-away skirt or at the midriff as a jacket shifted. Yet every single one of these off-kilter cuts and scissored-away shapes looked impeccably wearable and quintessentially Yohji.
The story was played out in black, white and red — the latter colour featuring coats worn over only one arm. Paint effects, such as white brush stokes, became full-blown artistry to complement the beauty motif, which was created with white splashes on the hair and face.
But these were never thoughtless splashes of colour. Everything was done with such delicacy that a white dress, cut on a flat triangle and splattered with black, seemed graceful and reasonable.
It was a show for contemplation and a realisation that fashion can be art while still holding fast to the tenet of 'real clothes'.
Undercover: Jazz Age
The saxophone started its plaintive notes at the Undercover show and before even one 1940s style hat or shoes with musical notes had walked the runway, the audience was on message.
Jun Takahashi was channelling the Jazz Age — and it made for a straightforward collection of sporty clothes with a wistful sense kept, well, undercover.
The idea seemed to be a balance between the playful reality you get from faking a pearl necklace in a pattern on a sweater while using the original designs of the 1920s period to re-create pleat-front trousers or the squashy Pork Pie caps.
Unlike most of this designer's shows, there did not seem much more to understand than the sum of its parts — sportswear given a ping of modernism with digital printing, but otherwise following the music theme, right down to printing names of jazz players on a jacket.
It was one of those shows when you knew that there was emotion in the clothes for the designer, but it did not translate easily to the audience.
The piano notes made striking graphic patterns, even on socks; big violin patterns on soft pants probably worked less well.
But even if you do not want to walk around advertising a Miles Davis Sextet, the show was cool in its hybrid of fabric and prints — and the designer's skill as a creator lies in his ability to exchange high concept for the fashion equivalent of easy listening.