TOKYO — On the tenth anniversary of his brand’s founding, Yoshikazu Yamagata is realizing one of his dreams. From Saturday, he will participate in an exhibit at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, and to mark the occasion he showed his spring 2018 collection for his brand Writtenafterwards in the museum’s garden on Friday night.
“For many years I have thought that I would one day like to do something at the Teien Museum, so when I was approached by the museum it was extremely exciting,” Yamagata said. “I did think that I had to have a very high level of creativity [in what I show there]. It’s been both exciting and nerve-wracking.”
The Teien Museum is the former home of a Japanese prince, and contains a wide range of interior decor in the Art Deco style. It’s one of Tokyo’s smaller, less famous museums, but recent renovations have increased its profile. Yamagata said he has always loved the museum’s atmosphere, and that he found it to be a wonderful backdrop for his avant-garde designs.
“I really like classic things and things with history, and I think that by putting new things together with those things, we can feel the newness even more,” the designer said. “I like to weave together nostalgic things with new things.”
The exhibit, the museum’s first after seven months of being closed for renovations, focuses on decoration. Seven artists from around the world who work in very different mediums have displayed their pieces throughout the grand house, often making use of existing furniture and fixtures. For his part, Yamagata chose styles from various seasons across his brand’s first ten years to be included in the exhibit, while also creating some new pieces.
“I thought about the theme of this exhibition being decoration, and I wanted to update the general concept of decoration,” he said. “For example, in my own mind there are some things that I thought, ‘this is decoration too,’ and I wanted to show things about which I could say that.”
Yamagata’s pieces on display in the museum include items from a 2012 collection entitled “The Seven Gods: Clothes from Chaos,” which draws heavily on religious influences, and a dress from Writtenafterwards’s fall collection, inspired by the wreath Barack Obama laid at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial during his visit there as president in 2016.
“I don’t really think of art and fashion as different things,” Yamagata said. “In their basic expressions they are very similar.”
This sentiment was emphasized in the show Yamagata staged outside the museum Friday night.
The theme of the collection was “After Wars,” and the designer said he was inspired by the period immediately following World War II, particularly in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. But there were modern influences as well, as Yamagata wanted to explore the idea that history is connected to the present.
The show was punctuated with some very conceptual pieces, as is Yamagata’s custom. Many of these items had heavy themes, such as a domed cage — reminiscent of the dome on the famous building in Hiroshima that was one of the very few to survive the atomic bomb blast — covered in tatters of burnt fabric. Similarly seared items of clothing were hanging from looks made up entirely of tree boughs, and one man pulled a trio of coffins down the runway.
But the collection itself had a much lighter, more hopeful feeling. Chiffon and patterned mesh in navy and pastels were crafted into voluminous pants, sweet long dresses, and loose tank tops. A material resembling bubble wrap was used in some of the more artistic pieces to create unconventional shapes. Many looks were accessorized with pale pink ballet slippers on a platform sole that called to mind traditional Japanese geta sandals. There was also a nature theme running throughout, with lots of flower-accented headpieces.
Preparing for a full-scale fashion show while also setting up a museum exhibit was quite a feat for Yamagata and his team, but the final result was impressive.
“To do a fashion show and an exhibit together at the same time has been a lot of work and quite trying,” the designer said. “For fashion shows you think about what is happening in the moment, but museums have to think a little more permanently or long-term. Since I was doing both of these things at once, it has been quite a challenge.”
Still, Yamagata said he would like to do more work with museums in the future. His dream venue? London’s Tate Modern. Perhaps that’s something to look forward to for Writtenafterwards’s 20th anniversary.