21st Century Japanese Fashion

Last week we had an opportunity to attend an event sponsored by the FIT office of Alumni and Faculty Relations: a guided tour presented by FIT Museum curator Valerie Steele of the Japan Fashion Now exhibit.  Originally slated to runt ill January, the exhibit has been extended through April 2011 because of the unexpected rapid changes in Japanese street style.

The Museum at FIT is a unique facility, even in New York.  It is the only museum in the City that focuses solely on fashion and it has a collection of about 50,000 garments that span the 1700s to present.  Valerie Steele has been the curator of the Museum for some years now, and she brings an innovative approach to the exhibits presented at the Museum.

We were particularly interested in the new exhibit because of the effect that the Japanese have upon fashion.  From developing new textiles and new ways of handling those textiles, to new apparel technology and equipment, to their unique view of what fashion is and how it should be worn, the country of Japan has a sweeping impact on apparel.

“Japan Fashion Now” focuses specifically on contemporary Japanese fashion with a brief flirtation of the styles of the designers of the 1980s, such notables as Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo.  The rest of the exhibit, in the Museum’s main gallery, focuses on what’s on the streets of Japan now:  street and subculture movements, men’s wear, cosplay and kawaii (cute).

Something we found particularly interesting, and what was behind the decision of the Museum staff to extend the exhibit, was the evolution of a new fashion trend which is a mash-up of Mori (Forest Girl) style with the Princess Decoration style to create a new style, ‘Fairytale’.

What captivated us about this was the evolution we’ve been seeing in virtual goods towards these sort of fairytale looks in Second Life®.  The reason it captivated us is the idea that for many of us, we have an opportunity to see new fashion trends before they are developed at price points accessible to us in our physical live.  The many talented Japanese designers who are currently working in SL and other platforms are providing us with a unique telescopic view of fashion action on the streets of Tokyo, Harajuku and beyond.

There’s been an argument that ‘Second Life designers’ are driving real life fashion (largely by designers of virtual goods who are unaware of the lead time required for physical fashion to be designed and produced).  That’s not really what is happening.  Rather, these ’embedded fashion reporters’ are living in a sort of fashion ground zero. They are imbibing these ideas they see on the streets in their day-today physical world, and they are translating these ideas into virtual goods which many of us can purchase well in advance of these fashion trends making it to our local H&M or Forever 21. Virtual goods do not have the production lead time required by physical goods, so we get to see the concept well in advance of being able to purchase the physical product.

We have had an opportunity to work with some wonderfully talented Japanese designers, one of whose work we show here.  Misteria Loon of Pas de Deux has been exploring the cos play genre for some time and she has a charming rendition of ‘fairy’ style.  Modeled by the ever accommodating Michele Hyacinth, we show Misty’s interpretation of ‘fairytale style’ shot in the Tempura Island region of Second Life.