Dior devotees will well remember the influence of Japanese art forms on the French luxury brand over the years; Japonisme fashion took centre stage at Christian Dior’s Spring Haute Couture show in 2007, when John Galliano, then arguably at the height of his popularity, drew his inspiration from the Puccini operatic tragedy Madama Butterfly. Galliano staged a show that translated traditional Japanese art into fashion—the ensembles included elements of Japanese porcelain, origami (paper-folding), lacquer ware and ikebana (flower arrangement).
One gorgeous creation followed another and the audience was enraptured—the piece de resistance was Galliano’s Japonisme bridal gown, designed to resemble the iconic origami crane and modelled by Shalom Harlow in modernized Geisha makeup.
Now, several years down the line, top designers are once again drawing inspiration from the Far East; and we’re not talking kitsch kimonos emblazoned with stylized dragons, that ubiquitous and unfortunate by-product of Western brands adopting Eastern influences. We’re talking about a full range of ready-to-wear Japonisme fashion pieces from the most prestigious designers, in styles ranging from the ornate to the discreet.
Japanese-inspired ensembles have become a catwalk staple, making numerous appearances at the “Big Four” Fashion Weeks in New York, Paris, Milan and London. And of course, each designer brings their own distinctive style to the modern re-interpretation of long-established Japanese art forms.
Designers like Emilio Pucci, Joseph Altuzarra and red carpet favourite Caroline Herrera have taken the traditional Japanese techniques of knotting, fringing and intricate embroidery, and applied them to tailored trouser suits and shirt dresses. These versatile pieces are designed to help the wearer make an effortless transition from corporate chic to after-hours elegance.
Marni and Stella McCartney have taken traditional garments like the kimono and the obi (sash), and re-imagined them with crisp, sharp lines and architectural shapes crafted from contemporary couture fabrics from satin to neoprene. These elegant ensembles include a variety of silhouettes from streamlined to asymmetrical; some opt for more traditional-looking floral prints while others rely on color blocking for that contemporary twist.
It’s the start of a New Year and there’s no better time to experiment with a new trend; add a touch of Japonisme fashion to your wardrobe with a bold, versatile statement piece like a kimono jacket or an embroidered blouse. It’s not the first time Japonisme has risen to prominence in the fashion world, and it certainly won’t be the last; why not embrace this trend and add an exotic touch to your everyday look.