Japan at the International Fashion Showcase 2012
Exhibition: 17 - 22 February 2012, West Wing Exhibition Rooms, Somerset House, Strand, London


In the global fashion scene, Londons place is to provide new designers, new trends and the fashion of tomorrow: it creates culture. International press and buyers come to London to discover emerging talent.

This month from 17 to 22 February, the city plays host to London Fashion Week and the Embassy of Japan presents an exhibition of emerging Japanese fashion talent as a part of the International Fashion Showcase 2012, which is organized in conjunction with the British Fashion Council and the British Council. This new project, developed to celebrate the year the Olympic and Paralympic Games come to London, sees nineteen embassies and cultural institutes across London display the work of over eighty emerging fashion designers.

The Embassy of Japan is showing two designers: milliner KAJI Masahito and recent graduate of Central Saint Martins, KAWANISHI Ryohei. The two designers have created works exhibiting both boldness and sensitivity. Kaji presents his KABUTO collection of hats, inspired by images of samurai armour. Such notions of a Japanese past are reflected in striking, highly-crafted contemporary designs which are immediately wearable. Kajis desire is to see designs for mens headwear take on a new dimension and realistically take their place in the fashion marketplace. He will be travelling from Japan especially for London Fashion Week.

/ Photograph: Yanojin

KAWANISHI Ryohei / Photograph: Niall McInerney

Kawanishi was trained here in the UK. The knitwear he produced for his graduate show in 2011 created a stir, and his work illustrates one very dramatic aspect of the Japanese fashion industry: the one-off art piece. The bright colours of his past works have looked at conflict and chaos. For the International Fashion Showcase, he is producing a new collection of garments inspired by the Japanese sensibility toward impermanence, or what is known in Japan as mujo.

He says, Today's design, particularly of fashion, is obsessed with the idea of newness and commodity fetishism as the main stimuli of the creative economy. This work, however, is about the state of flux within the natural cycle of life and the close proximity to earth which lies at the centre of our relationship with objects of impermanence, as well as memory and trace reminiscent of everyday life.

One cannot ignore the fact that he was completing his final year of studies as a Japanese expatriate in this country just as news came from Japan of the terrible events of 11 March 2011. It is with this in mind that he has created this new collection. It is also part of a larger project involving a series of workshops in textile design led by Kawanishi with pupils from the Moat School in West London and Arnhem Wharf Primary School in East London. The works that these young people have made will be featured at the exhibition in London and will then make the journey to the Tohoku region of Japan, where Kawanishi intends to continue the process and where the textiles will be made into garments in follow-up workshops.

The exhibition JAPAN: International Fashion Showcase 2012 takes place between 17th and 22nd February 2012 in the West Wing Exhibition Rooms at Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA.