Before I had scouted out the pastel My Little Pony-tinged furisode kimono in Kyoto for my Halloween outfit last year, my original idea was to go down a sort of cyber geisha route, reason being that I had typed it a few months earlier when I wrote about the Maison Margiela S/S 16 show. It was in reference to my favourite, and the dominant part of John Galliano’s second ready-to-wear collection for the house.
Sure, the cyber geishas were preceded by sci-fi Stepford Wives and cyborgettes who lunch, clutching their coats together and hanging their handbags on the crook of their arms. But for me, the collection’s appeal kicked in, when those abstracted obis, worn high up below the bust added yet another notch in Galliano’s finely fleshed out repertoire of Chinoiserie and Japanaiserie-entrenched clothes. He is of course adept at the language of obis, kimono wraps and cherry blossom and koi carp motifs but the question was how would Galliano, Margiela-fy that language though. In one of the most famous trademarks of the house – the tabi boots – Margiela already has an instantly recognisable twist on Japanese traditional dress.
Galliano’s application of bulked out bonded volumes, sheeny paint-streaked fabrics and safety pin and button embroidery is almost the opposite of his previous sartorial trips to Japan. Here, the point wasn’t perfection, cultural accuracy or seamless lines (in that a kimono has to be worn without any lumps or bumps). And that approach mirrors the unexpected union between tabi sock and shoe. There was a spirit in this collection, that reminded me of the way Kansai Yamamoto or cult label Angel Takyua designed by Takuya Sawada disrupted Japanese motifs and then subsequently the way teenage mavens would segue cyber/neo/techno/raver with traditional dress. The unusual colour combinations seem to have stemmed from the fantasy palettes of anime characters and manga fan art. You can’t really use the ubiquitous (and often misused) k word (that would be kimono) when talking about the technicality of these clothes. It’s about overt suggestions rather than obvious iterations, hence why a fairweather Japanophile like myself is raving about it. It’s all in the neo.
Jotaro Saito A/W 12-3 from Tokyo Telephone
Marie Helvin in Kansai Yamamoto in 1971
Fashion model Lorraine Naylor wearing gold and red brocade in London, to introduce Japanese dress material to British manufacturers in 1969
Hybrid kimonos by designer Serge Mouangue from 2008
Stills from Wong Kar Wai’s 2046
Various anime fanart
Photograph by Nick Knight of Devon Aoki in Alexander McQueen for Visionaire, 1997
Photograph by Nick Knight of Bjork in Alexander McQueen for the cover of Homogenic
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki
Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion
Streetstyle images of cult label Angel Takuya
Streetstyle images from TokyoFashion.com
Photographed by Ishi for Vogue Netherlands March 2013