Back in 2012, our team was excited to attend the opening of the “Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective” exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. It’s not that we’re big fashion plates (I’m writing this while in my jammies, if you must know). But we were really intrigued by the idea of fashion being considered art. It was a slightly risky thing for the DAM to do but they had faith, which was well-placed because the exhibit was a success. They tried it again with Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century” in 2014. That exhibit was a tremendous success and it became even more accepted that there is absolutely an art to things we consider apparel and accessories.The Denver Art Museum is at it again with “Shock Wave: Japanese Fashion Design, 1980s–90s,” which opened September 11 and runs through May 28, 2017.

“Shock Wave” shows 70 works by Japanese designers who started a fashion revolution in Paris including designers Issey Miyake, Kenzo Takada, Kansai Yamamoto, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, and Junya Watanabe. If those names mean something to you, then it’s a given that you’ll want to go see this exhibit. But if they don’t mean a thing to you, then you should still go see it because it might just help you understand what the big deal is about fashion anyway.

Shock Wave
Footage from fashion shows featuring the Japanese designers play throughout the exhibit, helping visitors feel like they are part of the show.

Video plays of fashion shows, including behind the scenes where the designers cut pieces from garments moments before the models head out to the runway. Or see how designers experiment with how to drape the garments they have created, this way and that, making fashion almost a living thing that isn’t just putting on pants one leg at a time. It’s pretty darned interesting.

I also found it interesting that the Japanese designers came on the scene in Paris at a time when Parisian and Italian designers where considered “it,” creating clothing that was form-fitting, leaving women tilting on high heels with cinched waists and conical breasts for the purpose of being pleasing to men. But the Japanese fashions, many playing off of the blocky kimono design was about empowering women, letting them be comfortable, bold and dressing for themselves. And when women can express themselves the way they want, it is, indeed, very womanly! “Shock Wave,” indeed.

The exhibit is organized into several sections and themes including how East and West influenced each other, back and forth and Art and Fashion in Dialogue in which fashion influenced other arts like dance and film. I particularly appreciated the interspersed items from the DAM’s architecture and design department including some of our favorite chairs. 

Shock Wave
Here and there, throughout the exhibit, you’ll see items such as this gorgeous and whimsical chair (that I want to sit in so badly), among fashion pieces such as this jacket by Kansai Yamamoto.

Florence Müller, the Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Curator of Fashion, who joined the museum, from Paris, in 2015, organized the exhibit, arranging for loans of fashions and also acquiring items to be part of the museum’s permanent collection. It was Müller who, in 2012, was guest curator for the YSL exhibit.

Shock Wave
Florence Müller, curator of the Shock Wave exhibit, explains the “How East Met West” section of the exhibit. That gray and black item up on the wall? It’s a jacket, modeled after a futon!

Shock wave

Play and explore what goes into designing and making clothing in the hands-on Threads area, adjacent to the exhibit.

Get yourself a Lyft there – Use our exclusive code, IGTD2016 with the Lyft App for a $50 credit toward your first rides. For new users only. 

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