We thought there was something in the air when we blogged back in July about Chloë Sevigny channelling a cocktail of vintage, 1970s David Bowie in Miu Miu’s autumn/winter 2012/13 campaign. Well how prescient of Miuccia Prada, because 2013 is turning out to be the year that Mr Bowie fell back to Earth. First there was the release of his first single in ten years, Where Are We Now?, on his birthday this month, with an album, The Next Day, to follow in March. Then there’s the much-awaited David Bowie Is retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (from 23 March). He’ll also be getting a look-in at Tate Liverpool’s forthcoming Glam! The Performance of Style exhibition (from 8 February), which celebrates the style and sensibility of the early-70s movement and its influence on fine art and pop culture.
Bowie was, of course, Glam’s poster boy, zeroing in on the alternative tastes of what was originally an avant-garde subculture – androgyny, artifice, kitsch (for more, see the Avant Garde chapter of 70s Style & Design) – and delivering them to a mainstream audience in the shape of Ziggy Stardust in 1972. Crucial to the Ziggy persona were the stage costumes created by Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto, who started working with Bowie in 1973, some of which will be appearing in the V&A show.
Yamamoto, Kenzo, Sayoko and co
Yamamoto was one of a new wave of Japanese designers, including Issey Miyake and Kenzo Takada, taking the fashion scene by storm in the 70s, all of whom feature in 70s Style & Design. Yamamoto opened his own house in 1971 and was renowned for fusing traditional Japanese clothing styles with ultra-pop, Western motifs, while, at his dynamic catwalk shows, his dancing models swirled and hurtled down the runway. One year earlier, Kenzo Takada, founded his label, simply known as Kenzo, and soon after opened his cult Paris boutique Jungle Jap, which boasted murals in the style of painter Henri Rousseau. Miyake trained as a graphic designer in Tokyo, subsequently moving to Paris in the early 70s. All these designers shook up the stuffy world of Parisian fashion with their funky, vibrant fashions.
A favourite model of all three designers was the late Sayoko Yamaguchi, who was named by Newsweek as one of the world’s top models in 1977. She was also a catwalk star for many other high-profile designers, including Yves Saint Laurent. Her razor-sharp, jet-black bob, with its low fringe covering her eyebrows, her graphic carmine lips and angular cheekbones were her trademarks. Designers in the 70s increasingly used black and Asian models and Japanese-born Sayoko was at the forefront of this trend.
Artist Duggie Fields, one of the major movers and shakers featured in 70s Style & Design, remembers, ‘I met Sayoko in Paris in the early 70s, and I did her portrait after seeing her again in Tokyo in the 80s. She was Japan’s first international supermodel. I’ve never forgotten the show where she came out alone, followed by ten models wearing variations of her outfit. It was impossible to take one’s eyes off her, such was her presence.’