The question is often asked: ‘Where are the next generation of influential designers, who will follow in the wake of Yohji, Rei, Kenzo and Miyaki, going to come from?’ But are we asking the wrong question? There already is a younger generation of Japanese designers establishing themselves, Junja Watanabe and Matohu, who imbue their work with the Japanese aesthetic of layering and fabric and clothes that push the definitions of how clothes relate to the body. They bring a particular understanding of fabric, of the power of textiles and the sense that clothes can be about the body without exposing it. They too are about the artistry and it is here that some of the tensions lie and where I think the wrong question is being asked.
In today’s contemporary fashion industry, the effects of increased consumption of fashion, the fact that the industry needs its bottom line, the constant need for the new, makes it increasingly difficult to develop artistry, innovation and elements of the bespoke in fashion design. fashion artisans of this sort still need to break into the market and to get the financial support that they need to develop new business.
For established designers they have their teams, client and consumer base. A viable market that allows investors to back them. But for new designers who across the world are interested in making, in the craft and artistry of clothes be that tailoring in the UK, couture in France or the specialist embroidery of India or Morocco and the fabrics and designs of young Japanese designers. How you create clothes that people can afford to buy and that has a viable business model is the challenge. The designers are there. They do bring a particular understanding of fabric, of the power of textiles and the sense that clothes can be about the body without exposing it. As Yohji has said, these designers perhaps do not see themselves as Japanese designers.