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Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942), Comme des Garçons, Red Gingham Bump Ensemble, 1997, Private collection. © Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons
Oct 18, 2017
throughJan 28, 2018

WAR-DROBE: Fantasy & Exaggeration in Contemporary Japanese Fashion

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WAR-DROBE: Fantasy & Exaggeration in Contemporary Japanese Fashion is on view in the Harnett Museum of Art, October 18, 2017, through January 28, 2018. The exhibition features clothing by four leading contemporary Japanese fashion designers, and the clothes will be changed out during the middle of the exhibition. Ranging in date from 1990 to the present, the works focus on fantastical exaggeration and whimsical fantasy. Through ingenious shapes, varied textures, and innovative construction, these designers demonstrate that while still wearable, although perhaps not on an everyday basis, their clothing provokes the imagination, the spirit, and the individuality of the wearer.

About the exhibition

Often noted for its dour silhouettes and prominent use of black by some designers, contemporary Japanese fashion is much more. The work of Issey Miyake is colorful, sculptural, ethereal, and fun, inspiring pure joy. Rei Kawakubo’s designs, under the label Comme des Garçons, while often intellectually challenging, are also aesthetically fearless, and surprisingly whimsical. In contrast, Yohji Yamamoto’s clothes are haunting, mysterious, classical and timeless, often referencing great Western designers of the past. And Junya Watanabe’s work, while outwardly youthful and edgy, conceals an innovative technical mastery of his craft.

“The influence of Japanese designers on modern fashion cannot be overlooked,” states the curator Audrey Yoshiko Seo.  “Through their technical innovations and aesthetic fearlessness they have been able to exert a profound and revolutionary effect on the definition of international fashion in the later twentieth century.  In doing so, they provided new impetus to Western fashion, partly by reiterating cultural and aesthetic East-West conflicts from the past, and more significantly by resolving them on their own terms.”

By redefining and transforming the methods of making clothing and the meaning of fashion, these four Japanese designers have significantly impacted Western fashion, giving rise to a widespread avant-garde movement lasting from the late twentieth-century through today.

Organized by the University of Richmond Museums and curated by Audrey Yoshiko Seo, independent scholar, the exhibition is made possible in part with funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 6 to 8 p.m.
Opening Reception, Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
6 to 8 p.m., Reception and previews of the exhibitions
6:30 to 7 p.m., “Curators Remarks” with Stephen Addiss, Professor of Art History Emeritus, University of Richmond, and curator of Unexpected Smiles, and Audrey Yoshiko Seo, independent scholar and curator of WAR-DROBE
Harnett Museum of Art, University Museums, Modlin Center for the Arts

Friday, November 3, 3 p.m. & 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, November 5, 7:30 p.m.
Film Screening, Ukrop Auditorium, Robins School of Business
Miss Hokusai (2015)
Introduction on Friday, November 3, 3 p.m., by Kristopher Kersey, Assistant Professor of Art History, Department of Art and Art History, University of Richmond

Sunday, November 5, 1 to 3 p.m.
Family Arts Day Celebration! Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
Join the University Museums and Modlin Center for a FREE arts-centered family fun day with exploration of exhibitions, hands-on art activities, and refreshments!
3 p.m., Performance, Alice Jepson Theatre, Modlin Center for the Arts
Featuring Click, Clack, Moo by Theatreworks USA (paid tickets required for performance), for information visit

Monday, November 27, 2017, 4 to 6 p.m.
4 to 4:30 p.m., Gallery Talk, Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
“Humor in Contemporary Japanese Fashion” Audrey Yoshiko Seo, independent scholar and curator of the exhibition
4:30 to 6 p.m., Happy Hour reception

WAR-DROBE: Fantasy & Exaggeration in Contemporary Japanese Fashion (Parts 1 & 2)

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