Fashion in Japan 1945-2020 | TABlog
Considered the world’s first large-scale exhibition on the evolution of the Japanese fashion industry, “Fashion in Japan 1945-2020” is on display at the National Art Center in Tokyo until September 6.
The huge exhibition incorporates models, fashion accessories, photographs, videos, magazines and music videos in a retrospective of historical fashion trends from the postwar period to the present day. It explores how the Japanese consumer economy, social lifestyles and customs have influenced dress styles over the years. Over 65 famous Japanese fashion designers and brands such as Hanae Mori, Kansai Yamamoto, Junko Shimada, Issey Miyake and Kenzo are represented, which makes the showcase really interesting. The narrations of the audio guides by some of the designers also provide useful information.
The exhibition consists of nine rooms organized chronologically. It begins with documentation of traditional Japanese clothing and its early use in the making of clothing since the Meiji era. The models portray the growing middle class, as European design ideas were introduced to the local clothing industry. The growing influences of jazz music and Hollywood movies began to shape the personal image with stylish accessories, such as machiko-maki scarves wrapped around the head, or the taiyo-zoku beach fashion. The era gradually gave birth to the concept of the “modern girl” who thought independently and dressed fashionably in the Western style. Chikatoshi Enomoto’s painting Spring at the edge of a pond (1932, Iwami Art Museum) is a clear example of the fusion of traditional and Western looks. Two women wear chic long western-style dresses, one supporting a Japanese haori tracksuit and holding a film projector. Japanese designs are illustrated with rabbit-eared irises and mandarin ducks rendered in the Nihonga style. With the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, even the fashion of war, called kokumin-fuku, and monpe women’s work pants have become widespread.
Immediately after the massive destruction caused by World War II, the Japanese were forced to contend with the scarcity of the fabric supply. Women had to rely on the kimono for everyday wear. You can spot many kimono fashions ranging from monotonous variations to multi-colored patterns in the exhibit, such as those by Chiyo Tanaka, Yasuji Hanamori, and Junichi Nakahara. The 1950s era section also features a large collection of fashion magazines, books and novels, which dictated the fashion trends. It includes the popular Sun Women’s magazine by Junichi Nakahara, who is also widely credited for shojo manga culture.
Hanae Mori is one of the designers widely represented in the exhibition. This can be attributed to his remarkable contribution to the Japanese fashion industry. For example, she became the first Asian woman to be awarded an official haute couture house by the French fashion industry. She designed flight attendant uniforms for Japan Airlines from the late 1960s to the 1980s. Mori created the official uniforms for several Olympic games. She also designed hundreds of costumes for 1950s films and became the dressmaker to the Crown Princess of Japan and several foreign first ladies, among other accomplishments. Many of these collections, such as Jumpsuits, kaftan, chrysanthemum pajama dress and Hawaiian shirt for men (costume from the film “This Scorching Sea”) can be seen in the exhibition.
It is fascinating to wander among the clusters of mannequins, which reveal dynamic style variations based on significant social and cultural events. For example, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics increased mass production and promoted ready-to-wear. Harajuku street fashion also flourished during this period and many designers set up their studios around this neighborhood and Aoyama. Global youth culture in the UK and US has spread the ‘Ivy’ look of elite college uniforms. The displays of Kurosu Toshiyuki, VAN and Kent illustrate this young trend. With the rise of protests for human rights and student activism in the 1970s, fashion turned to t-shirts and jeans. Until the 1990s, so-called zoku (tribe) fashion groups gradually emergedâboso-zoku (wild tribe), a masculine look with leather jackets, chains and garish shirts; takeoko-zoku (bamboo shoot tribe) with bright and colorful dance outfits; komori-zoku (bat tribe) with dark suit jackets and black umbrellas, among others. This included the gyaru kawaii fashion prevalent among young girls, as seen in the dresses by the Baby the stars are shining Mark.
From kimono to mini skirts, jeans, cosplay and glamorous fashion, to cutting edge technology using synthetic fibers, vinyl, glass beads and digital printing, the fashion of the 21st century as featured in the exhibition, absolutely sculpted a more individualistic style and experimental approach while reflecting the complex ideals of a changing society.