Yuniya Kawamura’s article “The Japanese Revolution in Paris Fashion”, discusses the occupation of designers as the focal point of the fashion system, reiterating the argument that France acts as model to the fashion system that legitimizes designers in a global context. Kawamura addresses the impact of avant garde Japanese designers on the French fashion hierarchy from the late 1970’s to 2003 ( primarily focusing on the mid 1980’s to mid 1990’s). Further exemplifying the many faceted relationships that designers have with the fashion system, mainly; the exoticism of the avant-garde, the amalgamation of traditional Japanese designs with haute couture and the assimilation of the French style and production system (dubbed, “frenchification”).
Japanese designers such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawakubo first became prevalent in the Paris Fashion scene in the 1980’s, harbouring in a new style that Europe had yet to experience. Characterised by asymmetrical, monochromatic, and loose overlays, alluded to the beginning of highly conceptual, post-modernist ideals of clothes that identified the differences of the east and west, “questioning the monopoly of the French in matters of elegance, and the expertise of French Couture.” (i) Furthermore blurring the boundaries of fashion and anti-fashion, and the modern and anti-modern, whilst upholding the model of both artist (this is evident in conceptual idealisms, relevant both to fashion post-modernist art) and designer.
Established in the 1980’s Rei Kawakubo’s iconic Comme Des Garcons successfully began questioning the institution of fashion, at a more technical level. For example the black sweaters of her Lace Collection were strewn inconstantly, embracing the holes that were serendipitous to the garments construction. What was derived from this by the European fashion press was that such a rebellion in construction was an “allegory of mortality: of the decadence and decomposition of Western fashion itself”. (i)
New Japanese avant garde styles such, Comme des Garcons and Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please series, broadened the boundaries of western fashion, re-evaluating previous concepts of clothing and fashion, furthermore the garments have challenged the idea of fashion itself due to the difficulty to wear. (ii)
The Japanese avantgarde utilised the changes in the structures of the French fashion systems and institution to assimilate themselves within it, make an impact, and become internationally recognised. (ii) It has been discussed that the presence of Japanese designers (avant garde) in Paris have threatened the traditional senses of fashion. In BarbaraVinken’s essay “Comme des Garcons: Ex Oreinte Lux”, she alludes to the idea that the influence of the Japanese avant-garde transgressed western (in this case French) notions of elegance, and beauty by challenging the expertise of the French Couture prevalent constructions of “woman” as the beautiful and graceful gender. (i) Despite such criticisms they have actually reinforced notions of French supremacy and power within the the construction of the fashion industry. Vinken further discusses that Kawakubo’s participation in French fashion earned the social and economic capital to which she had utilised on differentiating herself from other Japanese designers (who were not established in France) who did not, further legitimatising Frances power.
Vinken, B. 2004 “Fashion Zeitgeist : Trends and Cycles in the Fashion System. pp .167- 169. ProQuest, viewed 23 August 2014.
Fashion and Power, (n.d.). Blogspot, viewed 21 August 2014,
Kawamura, Y. “The Japanese Revolution in Paris Fashion.”Fashion Theory, Volume 8, Issue 2. viewed 23 August 2014