By Claudia De Salvo

The Japanese avante garde designers of the 1980’s, such as Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe, pathed the way for conceptual fashion design by introducing an approach to fashion which challenged common western ideologies (i). This particular movement is characterized by a new found attention the conceptual potential of fashion and the exploration of new materials and methods of construction. Hiroaki Ohya’s The wizard of Jeans was inspired by the avant garde Japanese designers and theiraapproach to fashion design.

Hiroaki Ohya, The Wizard of Jeanz, 1999

Hiroaki Ohya, The Wizard of Jeanz, 1999

The collection is showcased as a series of books bound in denim, with each book folding out into a wearable garment. Each volume represents the chapter of a narrative inspired by The Wizard of Oz. Beginning with a simple shirt, Ohya’s pieces progress to complex designs constructed from sailcloth and printed fabric. The use of the book format is a literal reference for the capacity for fashion to exceed traditional commercial purposes and contribute to the cultural capital of the art industry. The collection consists of twenty one garments in total, each one becoming continually more sculptural. This gradual transformation alludes to the dynamic relationship between fashion and art as the garments morph from functional day to day pieces to experiments in textiles and new methods of construction. Each volume looks the same as the next when displayed in book form. The two distinct states of each garment represent the fluid nature of fashion, juxtaposed with the concrete characteristics of books as vessels for information and ideas (ii).

Hiroaki Ohya, The Wizard of Jeans, 1999

Hiroaki Ohya, The Wizard of Jeans, 1999

The Wizard of Jeanz also challenges the conventional correlation between a lack of functionality and high fashion. Though high fashion represents the epitome of innovation and technology it often sacrifices wearability in order to push conceptual boundaries and experiment with varying materials and methods of construction. This particular collection identifies with items of clothing that are synonymous with fast fashion and places them on the same level as items that are easily recognizable as high fashion garments. The collection can also be viewed as a reference to Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital as objects and ideas which enrich humanity (iii). As fashion only recently entered the realm of art, Ohya’s utilizes the book as a recognized object of cultural significance, and highlights the relationship between it and the creative and conceptual nature of his designs.

 

(i) Kawamura, Y 2004, Berg Fashion Library, The Fashion Revolution in Paris: Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake, and Yohji Yamamoto Construction of the Japanese Avant-Garde Fashion, http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/9781847888907, viewed 20th of August 2014

 

(ii) Garves, J 2013, Slog, Currently Hanging: Books For Wearing, by Hiroaki Ohya, http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/07/23/currently-hanging-books-for-wearing-by-hiroaki-ohya, viewed 19th August 2014

 

(iii) Bourdieu, P 1986. The Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, The Forms of Cultural Capital, pp. 46-58, New York, Greenwood.

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