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Indepth Arts News:

"Made in Japan"
2001-03-24 until 2001-06-17
Centraal Museum
Utrecht, , NL

The work of Japan's rising generation of fashion designers has attracted little international recognition. Made in Japan, an exhibition at Utrecht's Centraal Museum from 24 March to 17 June 2001 showcases their designs in the first presentation of their work to appear in a Dutch museum. Of these young designers, Junya Watanabe is the only one to have worked at international level for any length of time. His career received a major impulse when Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons) offered him the opportunity to develop his own label within her house. Work by this designer - the only pieces purchased by the Centraal Museum - will be shown in the exhibition. What's so special about these Young Japanese? The first generation of Japanese designers came to Paris in the early 1980s, where Kenzo and Issey Miyake had already opened a shop in the 1970s. When Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons) and Yohji Yamamoto presented their first show in Paris in 1981 Japanese fashion became an instant success.

The sober black, the loose, flowing garments, the flat shoes: it seemed almost anti-aesthetic and yet it also represented a new approach to the body. The play of cut and fall and the fantastic new fabrics were a major source of inspiration for Western fashion. Successive generations of designers have drawn their ideas from them. They provided the basic ingredients for designers like Martin Margiela of Belgium. Today's conceptual Dutch fashion designers owe many of the details in their work to this group of Japanese designers. And of course Yamamoto and Kawakubo have also influenced the young Japanese designers, not least because almost all of them have trained or worked under them.

Besides the present generation, Made in Japan also focuses on the first generation of designers. Designs will be featured by Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake as well as Yohji Yamamoto. The people who wore them in the 1980s have lent some. Attention will also focus on their stories - What was it like to wear these extreme garments in publicNULL It's not fashion I'm interested in, it's research, says Hiroake Ohya (30), a young Japanese designer who earns his salary as chief designer for Issey Miyake Haat. His job gives him the freedom to develope conceptual fashion designs under his own name in limited production runs that do not need to be commercial. For example he produced a series of dresses packaged in a book. After all, Ohya reasons, bookshops attract an entirely different public to clothes shops, which is why he prefers selling his garments in book form. A fun idea, which means that each design, is a triumph of technical inventiveness. And that is precisely the quality that unites these Young Japanese designers. They create technically ingenious designs based on a theme, a gimmick or a concept. To them content is more important than commercial results.

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