ON THINKING UN-FASHIONABLY
The concept of deconstruction may be at the heart of progressive fashion design in Japan, but it would be unfair to suggest that all who do, do so equally. Deconstruction to one designer might mean reducing a sleeve to its base parts and reconstructing it in one’s own image, while to another it might mean asking some searching questions about how one defines a sleeve in the first place. Even these questions are increasingly tired in the context of contemporary fashion, and design students of the moment should not be satisfied with asking the staid self same questions their parent’s generation were asking when Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto became the reluctant faces of the movement of the 1980s.
The spokesman for a new generation of deconstruction is Anrealage designer Kunihiko Morinaga, a name sure to join the designers above in the annals of Japanese fashion history, not least given that his brand Anrealage is set follow in those illustrious footsteps later in September when he debuts at Paris Fashion Week on the 23rd. His message? To deconstruct not the garments that make up fashion, but the rather the system of fashion as it stands.
His brand’s journey began with a series of high-concept themed collections that recalled the lineage of Kawakubo such as “Kanon” (A/W 2006) where every garment in the line-up became a letter of the roman alphabet when lain flat, or “Low” (A/W 2011) which rendered the entire collection as if through an 8bit pixilated lens, but it was not until “Color” (A/W 2013) that his process as a designer was laid bare. Morinaga set out on a journey to rethink the fashion system he had taken for granted up until now, turning his brand into a vehicle for tackling the biggest preconceptions we hold about fashion as a whole.
That color is a fixed state is an easy assumption to agree with at first, and yet we know it is not true: colors change over time, not just in the long term as wear takes its toll, but in the short term with the play of light. This was to be the first construct that Morinaga dismantled, offering a photo-reactive collection that did not change color in the sense that it fluctuated between two set constants, but rather in the sense that it was in a continuous state of flux. This crucial difference was fundamental to his next shape shifting collection as well, “Size” (S/S 2014), a collection often incorrectly compared to the transformative dresses of Hussein Chalayan. In the latter designer’s work clothing moves between two fixed points, transforming from one defined state to another, whereas for Anrealage it is the very rejection of constant states which is key. Anrealage’s “Size” offered designs that could be worn at every step of the transformative gradient, but over and above that, subverted the idea that garments should be sized for different body types at retail, given that each design could effectively be changed at will.
This focus on deconstructing the business model of fashion came full circle in the brand’s most recent collection “Season”, in a show presented not only outside the official Tokyo fashion week, but also with the subtitle S/S/A/W that freed the collection in its entirety from the seasonal construct. The show climaxed with transformative fashion as in the previous season, but this time a single dress found itself the focus of light and heat, which in turn drove the thick weave to part, regulating temperature in an instant. This temperature control theme rang through the collection. from basics created in NASA “Outlast” textiles that absorbed or emitted heat using paraffin microcapsules in the clothing itself, to wires that lengthened or shrunk dependent on the temperature, and thus either pull away from or to the body. However, beyond the avant garde play of technology, the most revolutionary aspect of the collection was in the simple layering of coordinates. The amount of heat garments provided the wearer was spelled out by Morinaga by the use of thermographic spectrums - red for hot, blue for cold - with each and every item designed to be worn in the summer as a single piece, or in the winter as part of a layered ensemble. Thus in a stroke the idea of a seasonal buy for retail was undone, these were clothes that could exist on any rack in any climate throughout the year.
This approach culminated in a new line set to hit retail this autumn, Anseason by Anrealage, a fixed collection of the brand’s most iconic designs to date, but one that is arguably the most subversive. In a fashion world built on the facade of a forced seasonal construct that necessitates constant renewal for reasons increasingly irrelevant in a globalized fashion market, to claim that one’s products are out of reach of said system could indeed be read as an act of arrogance - but how else can a process be changed, if you are still complicit in supporting it?
Now a new chapter of “deconstruction” begins, and while it may seem as if with Anrealage’s dismantlement of fixed states that we have reached the logical conclusion of this movement, I am sure those whose sensibilities were offended by the shows of Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto back in the 1980s thought much the same.