May 1st, 2017, 08:17 PM

Contemporary Japanese Fashion: A Reinterpretation of Beauty

By Jewel Goode
Rei Kawakubo. Fall Collection 2017, "Future of Silhouette"
A new aesthetic: Challenging antiquated notions of beauty and fashion

Fashion is a constantly evolving, subjective phenomenon.  Its extreme level of malleability allows it to easily bleed into tangential domains, especially those of art, design, and architecture.  Nowhere is this concept more evident than with the creations of avant-garde Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo, CEO and founder of Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, and Issey Miyake. 

These designers' unexpected entrance into the Paris fashion scene in the 1980’s caused a whirlwind of excitement.  Even in contemporary society, they continue to challenge traditional concepts of beauty and fashion. Kawakubo's Fall 2017 collection, Future of Silhouette, includes a nebulous creation (left) with wire headdress which fully encapsulates its model.  The traditional female silhouette has been conspicuously replaced by indistinct, metallic bulbous elements.  The second creation (right) masterfully blends a monochromatic palette, various textures, and shapes, thereby creating a new feminine aesthetic.  Black leather is tightly stretched over the human form and juxtaposed with voluminous, polyester ruffles.

 Image Credit: Erik Madigan Heck for The New York Times. Headpiece by Julien d'Ys. Model: Saskia de Brauw.

Unconventional pieces reflect a reinvention, reinterpretation, and re-contextualization of antiquated notions of beauty and acceptable forms of Westernized attire.  This particular concept is achieved by systematically deconstructing the female form and subsequently integrating traditional Japanese silhouettes, shapes, forms, and fabrics.  In addition, the skillful manipulation of volume, weight, and color add to the enigmatic characteristic of these designers’ creations.  Yohji Yamamoto's elegant and modern Fall 2017 collection (below) relies predominantly on black and technical, architectural draping.  The designer heavily references Japanese origami as well as kimonos while experimenting with proportion and volume.

Image Credit: Yohji Yamamoto, Fall 2017 Collection by Monica Feudi /

Issey Miyake's Fall Collection 2017 (below) reflects many the same characteristics of Kawakubo and Yamamoto.  However, use of color is more prevalent, and feminine, curvilinear forms are more visibly identifiable.  In addition, the designer pays hommage to origami and fans with clever textural layering and modified feminine silhouettes.  Ultimately, the deconstruction of traditional Western elements serves to create a new, contemporary aesthetic which draws inspiration from Japanese society and culture and continues to evolve. 

 Image Credit: Issey Miyake Fall 2017 Collection, courtesy of Vogue.