Liyun Zheng

The inspiration was derived from a book “In Praise of Shadows” written by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki. The author portrayed various scenarios on how the East views beauty differently compared to the West by a japanese aesthetic called Wabi-Sabi. Wabi-Sabi (restrained beauty, veil of antiquity) is defined as a crude, faded beauty that correlates with a dark desolate sublimity. In one of the sections in the book, Tanizaki used shadow and light to explain the aesthetic. Without darkness, the wonders of light would not be held in such high respect; without dereliction, there would be no beauty.

The allure of beauty in imperfections through Wabi-Sabi depends on every individual. It is not tangible, and can only be felt. Wabi-Sabi is not a concept that focuses on the aesthetics, it can also be interpreted into the way of living by disregarding the materialistic side and focusing on the essence of the object, or in this case, garments. The thought of finding beauty in the most unexpected places resonates personally as this is an indication on the exploration of beauty from an idiosyncratic point of view.

Wabi-Sabi brought my attention to the works of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo shown at the exhibtion “Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion”. The garments in the exhibition were compared to Tanizaki’s book, and the intangible quality of Wabi-Sabi was evident in the deconstruction of their garments. The deconstructed aesthetic shown by both designers was their emotional response to the world from the 1980s onwards. Both gained the attention of many and are still going strong until now. In a primary research conversation with my tutor Janine Hunt, she stated that the works of desolation by designers were a reaction to what was going on in the world, but most of it were focused on the deepest needs and desires emotionally.

The purpose of this project is to use fashion as a medium to explore and portray the idea of beauty in another form. Both primary and secondary research on deconstruction and asymmetry have been conduced and developed simultaneously. From there, I’ve reinterpreted my own perception of beauty by experimenting humble fabrics (pure linen, cotton etc) and silhouette creation through moulage and pattern making. At the same time, the art of handmade craftsmanship will be enforced within this project, leaving the garments finished with tiny, alluring imperfections from hand pleating and stitching.