One Nation Under a Groove

By Roxanne Robinson & Dao Tran


Three Japanese-Parisian designers display their craft in the context of global, especially Western, politics

Chitose Abe of Sacai, Kunihiko Morinaga of Anrealage, and Satoshi Kondo of Issey Miyake designs for Spring are a reaction to unsettling politics and disenfranchised peoples around the world, the former with a positive view and the latter with a darker point of view.

SACAI

Roxanne Robinson

Lining the Sacai runway were blue light panels that switched one after the other to a bright white light just as the show began, running along like dominos topping over. Or perhaps, signaling a movement to begin. Chitose Abe likes to make a statement on her runway, who can forget the New York Times T-shirts from the Fall 2018 mens/pre-fall collection that said, “Truth it’s more important than ever.” Abe had a message this season showing her softer side both in the looks themselves and personal views.

“I wanted people to come together and to convey this message of harmony and unity. The collection started with the map print which made me associate with this idea.” The Japanese designer told The Impression backstage through an interpreter, “And then I discovered the music of George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic.” His famous hit “One Nation Under a Groove” (and many similar-era dance tunes provided the just-try-to-stay-in-your-seat soundtrack for the show.) The album art from that vinyl disc graced T-shirts worn by the designer and Clinton while his wife, Carlon Thompson-Clinton, wore a custom-made reversible satin jacket. Both the T-shirts and satin jacket will be sold with the collection.

Abe wasn’t only unifying people but also garments that were unified into one piece but resembled several – enormous tailored pants, a sheer shirt and coat were actually one big spring overcoat. There were several slights of the eye with trousers that look like skirts and vice versa and one-item pieces that looked like several combined together.

The 78-year-old singer was happy to take in the whole scene including backstage expressing his enthusiasm for his first Paris fashion week and runway show. “Oh, hell yeah! This was beautiful, all of it. The clothes are fabulous and with the music. It’s classy but funky.”

Abe’s inspiration was of course the very un-unified global population. Perhaps the designer and musician just did their part to move the needle a touch in the right direction. As Clinton’s song suggests, “Ready or not here we come, gettin’ down on the one which we believe in.” And nothing beats spreading a message like the combo of music and fashion.

ANREALAGE

Dao Tran

Kunihiko Morinaga of Anrealage – a combination of the words REAL, UNREAL and AGE – is a master of playing with subtle twists in the fabric of our perception to create a sense of unreality. For SS20, he shows us how different and unreal things can look when seen from a different angle or perspective, in other words, a different point of view. He calls attention to the fact that “in today’s digital-junkie world, what’s real or virtual, normal or anomaly, trompe l’oeil or sleight of hand is all simply a matter of perspective.” We take it further as a highly effective visual metaphor to remind us to check our biased filters and blind assumptions in this age of #FakeNews, where facts, truth and reality have been completely undermined by the gaslighter in the highest office in the United States.  

Morinaga presented preppy classics in groups of three, each one depicting variations on the same outfit as viewed from above, below or the side. A t-shirt is a t-shirt is a t-shirt, but when seen from these different angles, it has a different shape. Morinaga plays with the distortions wrought by perspective and foreshortening, and further collapses the boundaries between 2D and 3D, ultimately giving these familiar pieces new forms altogether. He breaks through our visual habits and expectations the way Picasso did with cubism.   

The styling and presentation evoked Boris Johnson-meets-alien children in “Village of the Damned,” perhaps hinting at the dangers of populist rhetoric and a hive mind. 

ISSEY MIYAKE

Dao Tran

Satoshi Kondo, the new designer at Issey Miyake, offered an Ode to Joy with his debut collection, a much-needed injection of joie de vivre – literally, joy of living – in our troubled and divisive times. The central proposition of the collection was of “bringing people from different regions and generations together, forming circles and holding hands, as we all share this joy intrinsic to who we are.” This positive, uplifting and unifying message felt like the warmth of the sun in these dark days of precarious politicking, bullying brinkmanship and impending impeachment. 

Kondo wants to remind us of a sense of joy that is primitive and intrinsic, like when we are awed by the beauty in nature, feel what our hearts and bodies desire, or the excitement that causes us to break out in song or dance. The show was a joyous dance performance instead of haughty catwalk, opening with an awakening sequence reminiscent of Matisse’s The Dance and Stravinsky’s Le sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) for the Ballets Russes. There was an irresistible, infectious good energy that was palpable in the performers, some who skateboarded around in streetwear-compatible wingsuit looks; twirled like colorful spinning tops; bounced up and down in Slinky outfits that descended from above (think the metal spring toy that descended the stairs, not sleek and form-fitting); pirouetted like music box ballerinas in fluttering gowns; culminating in a type of ring-around-the-rosie to Ravel’s Bolero in breezy, caftan-y ensembles. These clothes were made for movement, and came with comfortable, practical shoes to boot.

Kondo has set an exuberant tone for his start at the house, which fills us with optimism for a brighter, kinder and more inclusive future of extending mutual support and bridging communities.