October 15, 2010

Contemporary fashion – the key to understand Eastern and Western Cultures


let’s discover how Easter and Western cultures dialogue through fashion design:

“The history of European contacts with Japan started in mid-sixteenth century, when to the borders of Japan arrived merchants from Spain and Portugal. After a period of lively trade in Japan, borders were closed to visitors from the West, for almost two hundred years. In the 80’s of the nineteenth century fascination of Japanese culture returned. From that moment the interest of Europeans at that country unceasingly grow. Residents of western countries not only admired the unique art and aesthetics of Japan, but also the decorative motifs of costumes. Originally Japanese kimon worn as an outfit at home or used to sew new western clothing. Japanese pattern also appeared in European textile, such as produced in Lyon, where produced at that time silks with themes of nature, characteristic  for Japanese art. Also, the leading creator of kimonos from Japan (eg, Ida Takashimaya and Mutsokoshi) appeared on the European market with its products. They created not only a beautiful kimons, but also exotic evening dresses and coats. Japan also exported accessories such as handbags, range, decorated combs and sunshades.

In the early twentieth century, European designers have increasingly started to refer a patterns to Eastern culture. They created costumes inspired by the national dress of Japan and the modified approach to the forms, preferring the silhouette in the shape of the letter “s”. This perception was characteristic for fashion of Art Nouveau (in Polnad for example). In the first decade of the twentieth century, the French designers (eg. Paul Pioret or Coco Chanel), created dresses with low status and loose kimon coats. Europeans biggest designers use in their projects, patterns, fabrics and designs from Japanese outfits both from traditional kimons and latest trends. One of the greatest designers and founders of the most popular fashion house in Europe (which brings together the most prominent designers) is Christian Dior.
The designer created a number of collections inspired by the art of the Far East – including Japan. He reached on the designs of the traditional culture of Japan, using not only elements of costumes, but also everyday items (eg rang), ways of makeup and hair styling.

The biggest western designer, who drawing inspiration from Japanese design is John Galliano. In 1998, he created a collection “haute couture” for Dior fashion house, following to trends from the Far East. Galliano used in their designs, both traditional form of Japanese outfits and trends promoted by teenagers from the Harajuku district. John Galliano often talks about his fascination with Japan:”I don‟t want to go to Haven – I want to be a Harajuku girl! Japan is one of the most amazing places and cultures I have ever been to, and every time I go, I want to go again. The Harajuku district is one of my favorite places to explore; kitsch over culture, presented with such a cartoonlike, childlike glee that is has as much of a sugar rush as being shut in a candy store. It is colorful, curious, a blur between reality and fairytale, and where all good Galliano girls go”. Fascinated by the culture of the East, Galliano has created a very colorful collection. Model, like the Japanese geisha scurried along the catwalk in elaborate dresses (make one of them takes from 100 to 400 hours) and  exorbitantly high sandals  Galliano collection quickly gained international fame. In 2008 Pirelli was even publishing calendar inspired by this collection. Other designers reaching for the design of Japanese culture are: Giles Deacon, Jean Paul Gaultier. The first of artists inspired by modern art, architecture and contemporary Japanese design. Gaultier created a collection whole inspired by the subculture of Gothic Lolita. A common practice today is also inviting to the cooperation Japanese designers and artists. Many famous brands, while making a collections they using ideas of the most outstanding Japanese designers. Designer from brand Louis Vuitton – Marc Jacobs, invited to collaborate in creating bags Takashi Murakami.

Nike has hired Hiroshi Fujiwara, to designed new shoe designs. Japanese design and traditional forms of clothing are use in the West also in the film and music industry. In the movie “Star Wars”, Princess Amidala (played by Natale Portman) is wearing a dress resembling a kimono and makeup, as a true geisha. With a futuristic-ins and extravagant hair, chracter of queen of the galaxy became more credible. Another piece referring to both contemporary and traditional forms of Japanese culture is the film “Kill Bill” by Quentin Tarantino. All members of the gang of O-Ren Ishi (played by Lucy Liu) – called the Crazy 88’s, wear costumes referring to the classics sensation of Japanese cinema. Male members of gang dress as Kato, the hero of the show “Green Hornet” (this was the first big role of a young Bruce Lee). Personal protection of O-Ren Ishi, a Gogo Yubari – girl in school uniform with cruel-faced, refers to the popular Japanese TV series “Sukeban”. Colors costumes used in the film are not incidental. The director here has refer to the tradition of Kabuki theater. Yellow suit of Black Mamba (played by Uma Turman) in traditional Japanese theater, symbolizes jealousy and revenge. In the final scene – the duel, O-Ren Ishi dressed in a white kimono. This color symbolized in Japan, death and mourning.  Apart from references to traditional Japanese culture Tarantino also reached to the modern forms of communication. A scene of “describing” childhood O-Ren Ishi is animated. Here the director has established pictorial tradition of manga and Japanese culture. The film “Kill Bill” perfectly illustrates the mutual relationships and influences of cultures of East and West. Both Japanese music and fashion trends promoted by the stars of the American and Poland music scene. Forerunner of this trend was Madonna. The singer from the early 80s was based her reputation on the Japanese trend of Harajuku. In the 90s Madonna recorded a video for the song “Frozen”, in which she used the black dress in the style of Gothic Lolita. Similarly, Marilyn Manson did. For video to the song “Antichrist Superstar” has bought clothes from young designers in Harajuku. In Poland, singer Natalie Leszcz used in music video manga (Japanese comics) and the costumes of contemporary Japanese youth. In some publications, writers emphasize that the fashion world is divided into Japanese and European. These are definitely two, the most influential “centers” fashion styles, shaping the “face” of the contemporary fashion market. However, current trends both in Japan and Western culture has evolved through mutual inspirations.”

Article by Magda Piecyk- Life Beyond Tourism® University Delegates Program – October 2010.

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