David Bowie, who died this year, was a well-known Japanophile, adopting many elements of Japanese culture into his stage performances.
“He was someone who knew how to express himself both with music and with fashion. Someone like that may not be so rare these days, but he was one of the pioneers to do both.” – Kansai Yamamoto.
Mr. Yamamoto, met Bowie in 1970 and was the creative force behind some of the most iconic dresses of the artist, especially in the period of his conquest of the American market.
The androgynous appearance of David is married well with the oriental style and unisex design Kansai Yamamoto, to the point that in New York appeared descending from the ceiling wearing clothes of the women’s collection.
The interest of Bowie for the Japanese theater was certainly influenced by his mentor, mime Lindsay Kemp, whom he met in 1960. The latter was characterized by the traditional kabuki style, with its exaggerated gestures, elaborate costumes, make-up d ‘effect, and the traditional roles of the actors playing “onnagata”.
Bowie explored the ideas of masculinity, exoticism and alienation, applying make-up of the traditional kabuki, which is a famous example the colored lightning on white background drawn on Ziggy’s face, reaching a perfect interpretation of androgynous style, which makes it so powerful catapulted him to the empire of the iconic images of an era.
“There was a kind of rionanza between us, something that was beyond nationality, beyond gender. Through its style and performance, Bowie broke a sexual taboo after another,
bridging the gender gap, in a gesture that continues to this day “- K. Yamamoto
Among his most famous creations to Bowie: the Samurai space suit, a black suit, red and blue hakama adaptation, a type of loose trousers that the samurai lead and are still worn by martial arts practitioners.
The dress was sometimes worn with a kimono robe embroidered with traditional Japanese characters, which translate its name, but also the phrase: “Fire retch”.
References to Japan were not confined to clothing, but they are scattered through the music of Bowie – for example in the album “Heroes” of 1977. The creativity of Bowie merged
East and West in a post-war period, with a homage to Japanese culture, that Japan appreciated very much, considering it a glam-rock hero, a great reference in today’s music culture.
The chameleon-like avant-garde style of Bowie is currently on display at the Mambo in Bologna, in the Show of the records submitted by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The event after having made stops in Chicago, Paris, Berlin and other capitals, will end in Italy in November. I invite you to visit it, noting in particular the appearance of the costumes worn by Bowie and which will be discussed again in “Absolutely Stylish Rockers – Rock Icons in Fashion” on TuttoRock, in a second episode dedicated to the artist.
“Put on your red shoes, and dance the blues.” – David Bowie
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Elena Arzani è Docente presso la University of the Arts London di Londra. Specialista in marketing, comunicazione, digital strategy e social media management del settore culturale e moda, è Art Director, fotografa ed editor professionista. Master di Laurea in Design Studies, presso il Central Saint Martin's di Londra, ha completato la sua formazione tecnica al Sotheby's Institute of Arts di NY ed alla 24Ore Business Schoold di Roma. Tra le sue collaborazioni, illustri aziende ed iconiche personalità della cultura contemporanea, da Giorgio Armani, Tina Turner, Aubrey Powell, a Guerlain, Fondazione Prada, e molti altri. Elena Arzani, Art Director di Tuttorock - firstname.lastname@example.org