Sunday, January 25, 2015


Japanese designer Mihara Yasuhiro celebrates fifteen years of collections with a '15-'16 Fall-Winter show at Paris Fashion Week which took for its inspiration--and how is this for a wild cross-temporal, cross-cultural hybrid--hobo culture from Depression 1930s and "Be Here Now" by Ram Dass, the seminal consciousness-raising book that brought Buddhism to America in 1971.

Naturally what caught my eye first were the little graphics of 1920s-30s caricatures, cartoons, and advertising illustrations peppered on trousers and shirts. I am actually a devotee of that time period and the visuals it produced, so I immediately knew the context--then, as now, the wealth gap was a deep and wide chasm. Then upon closer inspection, I spotted patches with the identifiable phrase "Be Here Now." I read Ram Dass' book in the late early 80s, about 10 years after its release, and it was still relevant then... and it is just as relevant now.

But what do these two things have in common--or rather, what has Mihara Yasuhiro created out of the confluence of these two disparate elements? Well, the suits, jackets, and trousers that came down the runway were not so much "ripped" as they were simply worn. Collars, pockets and edge details were frayed with age, and models wore layers of double trousers (something homeless men and women have figured out as a way to keep warm). A motif in the patchwork sections of these pieces showed the names of cities and states in the United States. And thus the narrative emerges of itinerant men (and women), traveling the States during the Depression, looking for work where ever they could find it, whether helping to build a road in Wichita or picking fruit in San Diego. With the additional layer of Ram Dass' book title, "Be Here Now," Yasuhiro alludes to a kind of dignity in such a situation. As the saying goes, "Where ever you go, there you are." You are only here now. That is all. Whether in Kansas or California, you are undeniably here. You are the center of the universe, as each of us are. Stand proud.

It is true that over the years we have seen so many designers present collections based on or inspired by a homeless/hobo theme, and while this Miharayasuhiro collection may not be anything new, it is still interesting enough for me to take notice. But the psychological and political tension in the meaning is something that troubles me. I am positive it is not Yasuhiro's intention to diminish the very real struggles that the homeless must contend with, so we are left to conclude that the sense in which he means it is more of a cartoon hobo from a more naïve time...a conclusion that is supported by the cartoon-y graphics from that period.

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