THE EXUBERANT WAY TO BE DESIGNER – Kansai Yamamoto’s aesthetic of wild maximalism

If design is self-realization

In the way she dresses and uses bright colors, her name has become synonymous with avant-garde design, emphasizing a sculptural tailoring that wraps the body in layers. He was born a year before his city was firebombed in the war. Born in 1944 in Yokohama, Kansai Yamamoto majored in English and dropped out, to focus on fashion apprenticing at ateliers of designers Junko Koshino and Hisashi Hosono. He designed for David Bowie a special bodysuit, Tokyo Pop. In the early Nineties, around the world he focused on live entertainment events that combined music and dance with traditional Japanese festivals. At the Edo-Tokyo Museum, in 2008, was exhibit Passionate Exhibit: The Energy Principle of Kansai.

After studying fashion on his own, in 1967 Kansai Yamamoto was award the Soen prize by the Bunka Fashion College. He is also best know for his avant-garde kimono designs. Reviving interest in a Japanese classical fashion, in 1999, he created a modern version of the kimono. A major retrospective of his work was exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2009. He designed the Skyliner train that connects Japan’s Narita Airport with central Tokyo. Self-expression through the dress was her special way of conceiving fashion. He created memorable stage costumes also for Elton John and Lady Gaga.

Beginning in 1971, the kind of Japan he brought to the world was build with natural materials, synthetic lamé tattoos and even woodblock prints of ghosts dressed in purple. After his 1975 debut in Paris, start his Kansai Boutique, and after two years he received the Tokyo Fashion Editors award. Kansai Yamamoto‘s work it has been described as transgressive excess. In Kokopo (Papua New Guine), in 2013, he comeback to fashion with a showing in a New Britain Mask Festival. In 2018, he stated in a speech at the Brooklyn Museum of Art that people had looked at him strangely.

A 1970 issue of Vogue includes a photo shot of him wearing a creamy snakeskin suit. In 1971 London, entering the Boston 151 boutique on King’s Road you would have seen clothing halfway between the East and pop art: it is impossible not to be seduct by that style of hers which offered women’s clothes in stock. In 1971, Kansai Yamamoto opened his own Tokyobased Company, rapidly follwed by his first collection not only in London, but also in a United States department store renowned for its many avant-garde collections. His first major client was a Westerner, who enjoyed Japanese Kabuki Theater; his name is link to that of David Bowie, since they began to collaborate in 1973, creatively united in dedication to the radical aspect of dressing.

He did not like expensive boxy dresses; therefore, by rejecting rigid social norms, he became a staunch supporter of the fluid way of dressing. Kansai Yamamoto became famous also for creating androgynous and futuristic stage costumes for David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust Tour. His 1992 final collection for fall/winter, then, he began a career as an event producer. In 2018 and together Louis Vuitton, he worked to create classic Japanese art and Kabuki-inspired patterns and prints. He died on a 2020 July day, at the age of 76.

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