Deconstructing Form and Material

Japanese Design and challenging Western Fashion ideologies

How materials we use can interact with forms – always looking at form and function in relation to materials. There are ideologies within my discipline and they can be challenged and modified against the norm.

Deconstructing meanings:
– Functionality
– Form in relation to functionality
– Material and its connotation, re-functionality
– Materials and cultural connotations, narratives, themes and motives

  • need to have the confidence to deconstruct my own work like I would be deconstructing another person work.

Understanding contexts:
(positioning in relation to others works, concepts relating to this academic studies -constellation is about the relationship between different aspects of an object from the research you have learned)
– Forms/shapes
Materials and processes
– Textures
– Themes, motifs, narratives
Always provide a context that has inspired you to draw aspects from it OR to dis it (do the opposite) – break the rules; talk about your work and draw on other contexts
ASK WHY? Create a thought process as to why you made each decision


– Weird: odd shape, doesn’t fit with physical form – not the norm to western dress – he broke the rule; fashion and clothing are embedding with the physical form
– fashion’s function is to dress the body
– he made a decision with the material used: designed so there is clear sharp edges – would be lost if it were silk because it would just drop
– the shape creates a meaning because it’s been purposely creating

Context of your discipline: “need to know the traditions of my subject area.”

“Japanese fashion sustains a dialogue with Western ideas of fashion, thereby creating tension. The fundamentally different relationship between the fabric and the body in Japanese fashion brings home European ideals of fashion” (Vinken, 2010, p33)
– How does my work sustain a dialogue?

“the most valuable lesson learnt from Yamamoto is that sartorial and cultural conventions are flexible not absolute” (Kawamura, 2011, p67)
– Have a dialogue with the materials I use; be flexible with the conventions of the norm within Graphic Design; need to know the conventions before breaking them

“the biggest difference between our Japanese taste and European people’s taste is in the concept of perfection…I’m not interested in that kind of perfection – I’m tired of it” “Perfection is ugly” Yamamoto
– works in an where perfection is strived; whenever he is question on his fashion he uses another context to explain it
– challenging the functionality of clothing; genderless clothing – destabilising Western fashion, no sense of form – making sculptural pieces that extend the form of the body
– his dialogue is constantly questioning Western fashion – how is it hanged? does it fall correctly?

What parts of my work at complying to tradition and what parts are challenging? What materials show imperfection? – Yamamoto uses traditions but also goes against them

Aesthetic principles: form, shape, textiles
– certain materials age and mould within time
– the cut? how do you create form and shape?
– understand materials.

Yamamoto’s use of materials: e.g. his evening ball gown
– complies to all norms of an evening gown but uses felts
– breaking the rules of how a female body is supposed to be displayed in evening wear (according to Western norms)

Deconstruction (ideologies of Western fashion)

“Deconstructed garments are often unfinished-looking, with loose, frayed hems and edges, and they sometimes appear to be coming apart, or look as if they were recycled or made from composite parts…” (Mears, 2010, p181, 183)
– he’s showing the imperfections, showing what’s ‘not supposed’ to be shown

  • normal design: hiding all the imperfections, things you’re not supposed to see
  • e.g. CSAD building; deconstructed – academic building: conforming to European norms of buildings

It’s not always about how it looks, the decisions made to create that piece are just as/more important
“the machines that make fabric are more and more making uniform, flawless textures… we loosen a screw of the machines here and there so they can’t do exactly what they’re supposed to do” (Kawakubo, cited in Mears, 2010, p188)

Gender and beauty

  • “through sophisticated tailoring the body is idealised and sublimated. The simplest form of this idealisation is symmetry, which is regarded as the norm of beauty.” (Vinken, 2010, p27″
    • padding of different parts of the body is tradition of Western ideologies – shown if you researched into past of Western history

Kawakubo disregard all the norm rules of padding and symmetry – using it ‘incorrectly’, the female body is no longer seen as erotic; not appealing to the opposite sex

Their designs are question the normal ideologies of form and function creating a dialogue about their fashion statements.

Ideas and visual expression

  • aesthetic form/shapes
  • textiles/material and their components that influence their function
  • rule-braking



Author: ellenreiddesign

First year Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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