Right now the Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo is in its full peacockery. How do we get along with these style crowds? Our first reaction isn’t exactly anti, we just enjoy watching how Japanese sculpture and performance artist Yoshiaki Kaihatsu playfully tears apart Adidas tracksuits – to sew cute little pets out of them for his GIFT project that was exhibited this summer at Berlin’s Galerie Tristesse. A little bit of fashion deconstructed, please!
Written by André Richter
Kaihatsu’s mission: remixing existing designs by recycling tracksuits into cute pets for children…
…to display the fashion style of their parents.
Yoshiaki Kaihatsu: First you should know that his last name, ‘kaihatsu,’ means ‘evolution’ or ‘development’ in Japanese and serves as the artist’s unusual but real family name. Born in 1966 in Yamanashi prefecture, this Japanese artist has been on the art scene for quite a while and is renowned for his fragile as well as futuristic architectural creations made of recycled styrofoam packaging, dust, coffee and milk, used posters – even porno magazines. Not so long ago, his experiments with fashion had only been displayed at Tokyo’s Maru Gallery. Recently, however, he presented his clothing alterations to the hungry crowds at Galerie Tristesse in Berlin – which has been his inspirational base for the last two years. Bridging the gap of his two cities, his works were shown at last year’s Berlin-Tokyo / Tokyo-Berlin exhibition at the prestigious Neue Nationalgalerie.
And the result at the Berlin exhibition: a two-faced kangaroo!
For his GIFT project, he mixed existing pieces he made earlier with items from the Adidas’ Materials Of The World fashion line. The project’s title, ‘GIFT,’ is meant to be the artist’s present to kids – literally: Fashionistas always tend to buy their own mirrors, which last at least until next season’s trend, whereas Kaihatsu tries to remix existing designs by recycling clothing into cute pets for children to display the fashion style of their parents. This way, the toys might last a little longer than some short-lived trend. Or so, he hopes, bearing in mind that kids will play extensively with these cuddly pets…
Tracksuit recycling: a bunny made out of sports fabric…
…and ‘African’ looking patterns for a cute giraffe that goes with the jacket.
But why on earth did he chose tracksuits in the first place? Kaihatsu explains: “First of all, I was a goalkeeper in a football team when I was in elementary school. Back then, I was indeed wearing Adidas trainers, that’s why I feel a sense of closeness to Adidas in terms of presents for kids. Moreover, I lived in Germany for two years, so a German textile maker was the best for me.”
And well, what about kids wearing, and playing with, the styles of their parents? Kaihatsu says: “You know, a training jacket isn’t really a big deal. I’m more interested in its colours and shapes because in these you find the connection between parents and their children. For example, black might be someone’s favourite colour. By re-working this apparel as a doll it gets transferred to his or her kid. So, you can see the parents’ taste mirrored in the dolls – because they chose those very jackets for remaking.”
Two more jackets from Adidas’ “Materials Of The World” line…
…customised for parents and their kids.
But also the Materials Of The World line by Adidas’ served as a conceptual base for Kaihatsu. He made a reference to each country the items originated from, according to the materials of the collection that integrated traditional fabrics from all over the world: From ‘African’ fabric he created a giraffe, ‘Canadian’ fabric was converted into a bear and a ‘Koi’ was attached to the ‘Japanese’ jacket.
But wait a minute! – most of the pets are mutated and have three eyes or two heads! By intentionally deforming the toys, Kaihatsu wants to bring the attention to our addiction to harmony. Good point, especially during Fashion Week! As usual, in our modern media-created reality, perfect men and women are dominating and aesthetics are always given the priority. So, Kaihatsu gives his works a slightly distorting sight, letting them not be just cute or the usual sweet.
Yoshiaki Kaihatsu – obviously after his ‘grey’ phase, wearing a training jacket.
One of his earlier remix actions: a coat with Japanese patterns simply can’t go without a koi carp!
One last thing: The torn apart clothes are pretty colourful. So? You have to know that Kaihatsu’s work is highly conceptual and, for nine years from 1995 to 2006, he chose grey as his colour. Similar to Buddhist monks in Japanese monasteries trying to get connected with a higher power, he aimed to eliminate colours in his private life to achieve the right for other virtues. He also understands grey as an undetermined colour, in-between black and white and kind of visualising the Japanese attitude towards things. For Kaihatsu, Japan is an ambiguous country as its people often refrain from saying a firm ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
Thank you, Yoshiaki Kaihatsu! Okay, now we want to see Beckham don one of the artist’s wearable art pieces!