- The resurrection of Ziggy Stardust at the V&A – Japanese fashion at it’s best, John Duku reviews V&A’s latest Fashion in Motion show with Kansai Yamamoto.
The Victoria and Albert Museum’s ‘Fashion in Motion’ series has brought catwalk couture to a wider audience since 1999, attracting shows from the likes of Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood to its iconic Raphael Gallery. The latest exhibitor in the series – Kansai Yamamoto – became the first Japanese designer to hold a fashion show in London in 1971, laying the foundations on his way to becoming a leader of Japanese fashion through the 1970s and 80s.
At his V&A show on the 1st of November, Yamamoto called upon a carefree, flamboyant extravagance with his designs, a concept he defines through the term ‘basara’, which translates as the inverse of the understated, traditional Japanese aesthetic. Yamamoto often includes layering to mesh colour and pattern, paired with the subversive use of traditional Japanese iconography to create walking works of theatrical, post-modern art.
Existing fans and visitors to the recent ‘David Bowie is…’ V&A exhibition identify Kansai Yamamoto as the man behind a number of iconic costumes from David Bowie’s lauded Ziggy Stardust Tour. Alongside make-up artist Pierre Laroche, hairstylist Suzi Fussey and Bowie’s then-wife Angela, Yamamoto helped fuel the bisexual fantasy of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ The aim was to produce the ultimate ‘pop icon’; the product was a rock star alter-ego who “looked like he landed from Mars”.
The Yamamoto-Bowie bond was created through the catwalk, and was placed front and centre at the start of the show – the first model patrolled the catwalk in three Ziggy Stardust outfits, each one tearing away into the next, live on the catwalk. This thrilling montage paid homage to the Aladdin Sane album leg of the Ziggy Stardust tour, ending with the iconography of Bowie’s famed wide-legged leather jumpsuit.
The remainder of the show tickled at the upright backs of traditional catwalk shows, employing a detached cool to normalise the chaos. Behind the sound of tribal drums, distorted trumpet blasts and Yamamoto’s own chanting, models strode the catwalk adorned with neon hair licks, glittering Kabuki makeup and bright Doc Martin boots. Beige macs were reinvented through acidic dip-dyes and three-quarter length tassels and one model echoed Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in a futuristic brilliant white corset, a tablet screen grafted to her midriff. This was urbanity under attack.
The creation of a cult hero is perhaps the most substantive a catwalk collection can be. The crowd had witnessed a brief resurrection of an icon, over 40 years since the birth of Ziggy Stardust. Invoking the emotion of an era of resistance is no mean feat; for whoever is up next to continue the V&A ‘Fashion in Motion’ story, Kansai Yamamoto has set the bar high.