Much is quite rightly made of the enormous influence that Japan had on David Bowie, characterized best perhaps by his iconic stage outfits designed by the bombastic Kansai Yamamoto. However, long before Bowie set foot on Japanese soil in the early 1970s, his stylistic influence had spread with his music, and his lithe androgynous appearance injected something more romantic into the hippie fashion that spread from the live houses of Shinjuku to the then-burgeoning Harajuku.
His contribution to Japanese fashion in the decades that followed is lamentably rarely acknowledged, though his flirtations with glam rock and his appearance in the film “Labyrinth” are frequently cited as formative influences by those in the Japanese visual–kei genre of music, which places the aesthetics of the performers on par with the music. Then, as we head into the later years of the artist’s life, the disheveled dandyism of the early 2000s became a fixture of Japanese menswear, a flamboyance that continues to this very day.
Paying homage to this undeniable force is the “David Bowie is” exhibition, originally curated and organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Now on show at Tokyo’s Warehouse Terrada G1 building, it spans the scope of Bowie’s cultural contributions with a healthy focus on fashion. Japan will be the only country in Asia to host the exhibition and it’s hoped that it will not only enlighten visitors about Bowie’s effect on a country that he so clearly cared for, but also the influence it had on him.
Tickets are ¥2,400 on the door, but advanced booking is recommended at ¥2,200. davidbowieis.jp
Fashion’s forgotten models
Mannequins are the unsung heroes in fashion, designed on the whole to fade into the background to let the clothes sing. Having said that, an archaic mannequin is as instantly recognizable as the trends of yesteryear, which brings home just how much they change with the era and how important they are to the shopper.
Marking its 70th anniversary, Nanasai, the respected merchandizers and mannequin purveyors to all strata of Japanese fashion, is offering a unique glimpse into the world of mannequins in the museum space of its Osaka hub. The remarkable collection includes mannequins that have been featured in the work of photographer Bernard Faucon as well as the focus of this special exhibition, a curated history of Japanese mannequins through the eras.
Store models are mirrors of their eras, allowing visitors to time travel through Japanese retail history from the few surviving mannequins that first displayed Western clothing dating from the early 20th century, through the body-proportions that fluctuated with the fashions of the 1960s and ’70s, and the awkward power poses of the ’80s to Nanasai’s own interactive mannequins, which you can expect to find in stores in decades to come.
The exhibition is free and it is currently planned to be a permanent one, but advance booking through the company’s website is required.
The new global mastermind
King of luxury streetwear and a cult unto himself, Masaaki Homma has emerged from his studied hiatus to unveil Mastermind World at men’s Paris Fashion Week this month. This juncture will also see the surprise resurrection of Mastermind Japan, which he announced an end to before his break in 2013. With Mastermind Japan specifically for the domestic market, the two labels are united in their quality and occasionally obscene luxury (which in the past saw real diamonds used to embellish tags,) but differ in design. At first glance, this appears to be a novel approach to balance the demands and tastes of the Japanese market with diverse expectations abroad, but Homma is in fact following the path of many international heavyweights who produce items and occasionally lines for the Japanese market only.