The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is the exclusive East Coast venue for Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion, an exhibition of nearly 100 dresses, skirts, gowns and suits that celebrate the ingenuity and innovation of contemporary Japanese fashion designers. Since the early 1980s, designers such as Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto have reshaped couture as well as popular fashion and launched a revolution that marks the first time a non-Western culture has significantly transformed the global fashion world. Through innovations in form, technique, material and approach, Japanese designers have challenged conventional ideas of beauty and helped recast fashion as a vital and nuanced art form. Co-organized by the Kyoto Costume Institute and Barbican Art Gallery, London, Future Beauty is on view at PEM from November 16, 2013, through January 26, 2014.
The fundamentals of haute couture in Europe and America -- highly sexualized fitted forms, balance, finish, invisible tailoring and complementary color and pattern -- are noticeably absent from contemporary Japanese fashion. Instead, imperfection, transience, austerity, asymmetry, roughness, simplicity and subtlety are valued. As designer Yohji Yamamoto affirmed, “I think perfection is ugly. Perfection is a kind of order … things someone forces onto a thing. A free human being does not desire such things.” The avant-garde visions featured in Future Beauty carve a new aesthetic path forward, one that bridges tradition and innovation while charting a new understanding of what beauty can be.