The 1970s was a decade of cultural change – marked by everything from Watergate to Star Wars. In the fashion world, hallmarks include the rise of Japanese designers. Western fashion had appropriated some elements of Eastern culture. However, until the 1970s designers from these cultures were largely unknown in Europe and America. Early pioneers took different paths into the French fashion system.
Kenzo (Kenzo Takada) moved to Paris in 1964 and worked for a number of established French designers. He opened his own boutique in 1970 and was in American Vogue (above) within a year. Many of his early designs incorporate elements of traditional Japanese clothing. The bodice of the dress below takes inspiration from the kimono. He is also known for his bold prints, seen in the all-over-floral pattern of the ensemble below.
Ensembles by Kenzo – Cotton dress, 1970-1977, Gift of Virginia Carlson (above);
Wool and silk ensemble, 1983-1989, Gift of Masami Suga (below)
Issey Miyake began as an assistant designer for fashion houses like Givenchy. In 1970, He established his own studio in Tokyo before showing his collection in Paris in 1973. The heat-set, horizontal pleats on both the dress and jacket below have since become a signature of Issey Miyake - one of many examples of the designer's high level of experimentation.
Pleated garments by Issey Miyake – Silk dress, 1990-2004, Gift of Kay Opitz (above);
Polyester coat, 1994-1995, Gift of Dayton Hudson Department Stores (below)
Despite different routes to prominence, the work of these and other Japanese designers all influenced the fashion industry. The 1975 “fashion observation” below indicates the impact the Japanese designers quickly had on fashion houses like Dior, Valentino, and Saint Laurent. Kenzo utilized symbols that were common in Japan but appeared new to Western audiences. Others like Miyake introduced more avant-garde designs, which also contributed to changing perceptions of fashion and clothes in Western culture.
“Vogue Observations: Chinoiserie '75” in Vogue (Jul 1, 1975, p. 40) – Issey Miyake is featured in the upper left and Kenzo across the bottom.