Special to Yomiuri Shimbun.

Special to Yomiuri Shimbun.

TOKYO A popular poll among professional fashion designers reveals who admires whom with the names of deceased iconic designers appearing each time, from Christian Dior and Coco Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent.

Among living designers, Rei Kawakubo is outstandingly popular. In my view, she's more like a creator of avant-garde culture rather than a fashion designer.

A number of fashion designers have been influenced by her directly and indirectly. Some of them, such as Marc Jacobs, and others don't hide the fact.

This author interviewed Kawakubo twice and she is truly a problem for interviewers since she is unlikely to say what they want her to but she does have a favorite phrase and a key word.

The phrase is "There are more than necessary, too many clothes in the world," and the word is "strength." To put it simply, she means, "I pursue fashion designs that have true originality and impact."

Kawakubo is over 70 years old and her recent shows at Paris Fashion Week for women were meant to reveal her feelings rather than present new fashions focusing on shapes and other design elements.

For example, in her 2014-15 autumn/winter collection held in March last year, one of her works was decorated with what looked like human intestines. In Japan, samurai warriors committed seppuku - a ritual suicide in which they cut open their own abdomen, redeeming themselves through a literal display of guts. Kawakubo was clearly referencing that, as her expression of anger to society.

She then presented red clothes in her 2015 spring/summer collection. By presenting blood-colored clothes, she was vehemently expressing the image of tragic deaths overflowing across the world.

This year, the theme of her collection presented in the Paris Fashion Week in March was "the ceremony of separation," according to her label, Comme des Garcons. It means the collection is intended to depict separation from living, which is death.

The collection included white cloths, calling to mind Japanese shrouds for the dead. A model appeared wearing a garment shaped like a coffin. Two models also talked to each other on stage, and then separated in a sorrowful gesture. They had an atmosphere of unwillingly separating from life. Some say that sobbing was heard at the venue.

I must say that the show felt like a kind of short drama, rather than a fashion show. Some may criticize the event for being overly literary - but before this show, never in fashion history had I seen or heard of fashion shows in which designers expressed their true feelings. It seems fashion has truly reached the height of art at last. Some will say such matters should be expressed in literature or such visual arts as paintings and films. But I wonder if there's anything wrong in doing that through fashion.


Miura is an editor at large of WWD Japan.

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