Art history references in the fashion of Kansai Yamamoto

Posted on Posted in Art and Fashion, Artist Spotlight, Finding visual references, Making an art history comparison

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I saw a brief write-up in the NY Times about “Fashion’s Ultimate Fantasist” Kansai Yamamoto, and the pictures in the article were pretty striking in the bold designs depicted there. They referenced this style as a Japanese concept of “basara,” which means a love of color and flamboyance. I was curious to see more of Yamamoto’s fashion designs, and when I went looking, I found a number of interesting art history references.

Below left is a picture of David Bowie wearing a Kansai Yamamoto design in the early 1970s; the white stripes on black reminds me of Frank Stella’s paintings from the late 1950s and early 1960s, as one can see (with Stella pictured standing in front) below right.

Kansai Yamamoto design for David Bowie alongside stripe paintings by Frank Stella

Here’s another one: a gown designed by Yamamoto featured in a 2013 fashion show based on the woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai circa 1829–1833. You can see Hokusai’s original in the top right (below) along with 3 different looks of Yamamoto’s design.

Kansai Yamamoto fashion based on Hokusai's The Wave

While these last two pictures don’t reference any art historical works, I wanted to include them to give you an additional look at the very creative and artistic style of Kansai Yamamoto’s fashion:

Fashion designs by Kansai Yamamoto

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