The tension between tradition and innovation is explored in modern reworkings of traditional Japanese garments (see Matohu's take on the kimono) and in how designers incorporated techniques like weaving, dyeing and origami with advances in textile fabrication. Finally, the exhibition looks at the interplay between Japanese street style, high fashion and popular culture in the playful works of the new generation of Japanese designers.
The interplay between an Eastern and Western fashion ethos is also felt in the work of designer Kenzo Takada, whose Kenzo label celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The brand not only mixes elements of Japan and France (the fashion house is based in Paris), but current creative director Antonio Marras also infuses the clothes with influences from his native Sardinia. The designer told MyDaily that the Japanese fashion ethos is defined by "a sort of outsider vision - a conception of beauty that is far away from the Western codes. A talent for simplicity is essential, along with a very focused and specific vision."
On 12 November, the Parisian fashion house is the focus of the V&A's Fashion In Motion, with a day of catwalk shows featuring clothing from the Kenzo archive. Marras tells MyDaily how the brand forged its identity over the last four decades: "When Kenzo Takada arrived in Paris, he could hardly speak any French and had no connections or money. Fashion was at the time a very closed world dominated by a few French designers. It was just impossible to think that someone like him could cause a revolution, but he did.
The Kenzo house continues to pay tribute to Japan with Marras at its helm, and spring/summer 2011 saw the creative director mixing traditional elements like Geta-style woodblock shoes and Hokusai wave prints with Mediterranean graphics and breezy, patchworked silks. As for the future, the creative director plans to make Kenzo a global lifestyle brand with women's, men's, children's, accessories and home lines. "I felt a need for the whole brand to regain some of its original spirit and primitive strength," Marras explains. "Even today, which other brand gives women and men freedom? They all try to impose elegance codes! Kenzo stays true to its vision that gives dream and escape, not a dress code!"
If you're feeling inspired by Japanese style, bring it home with you. Books for both Future Beauty and Kenzo's 40th anniversary are available alongside the exhibitions.
Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion is at Barbican until 6 February. Tickets, online from £8, available at www.barbican.org.uk.
Fashion in Motion: Kenzo at the V&A is on Friday, 12 November at 13 at 13.00, 15.00, 17.00, 20.00, www.vam.ac.uk