Kansai Yamamoto Designs Created Seismic Shifts in Fashion

Kansai Yamamoto Designs Created Seismic Shifts in Fashion

Born in post-war Japan, Kansai Yamamoto used his environment to mold a visceral empire built on shape and color. Initially a civil engineering and English student at Nippon University, Yamamoto would leave his studies behind to pursue the art of fashion design. With it came the birth of Basara - a form of style characterized by colorful, attention-grabbing garments, flaunting assertiveness, and individuality. Basara is the sartorial definition of being ‘extra.’ It is directly in contrast to wabi-sabi, a Buddhist ideal of the beauty in imperfection, rooted in Yohji Yamamoto and Rei’s designs Kawakubo.

Though the Western world is more familiar with wabi-sabi designs, it was Kansai Yamamoto who broke through continental barriers. In 1971, Kansai Yamamoto became the first Japanese designer to be showcased in London and the United States shortly after. It was not long after this that David Bowie would take an interest in Kansai Yamamoto and his jarring designs. The sculptural-like garments captured the star’s attention, which ensured that every fan could watch Bowie perform.

Yamamoto’s designs created seismic shifts in fashion; they defied vivid comprehension and created a singular aesthetic overloaded with kaleidoscopic colors and Asiatic inspiration. Though Kansai Yamamoto’s last collection was shown in 1992, his influence can still be found in design today. Basara has inspired a handful of designers ranging from Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga to Phoebe Philo of Celine, and in 2018 Kansai Yamamoto partnered with Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquiere to create Basara prints for the luxury fashion house. The concept of dressing freely might be visually confusing for some, but for others there is no other option.

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