"Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams" features 350 haute couture dresses—including Japan-inspired gowns. Image: Photography Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP
A hit exhibition showcasing Christian Dior's work opens in Tokyo this week with a focus on the French designer's fascination with Japan and the country's influence on his pieces. "Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams" arrives in Japan after drawing huge crowds in Paris, London and New York.
Opening Wednesday, the exhibition features 350 haute couture dresses—including Japan-inspired gowns displayed in settings intended to pay tribute to Japanese culture.
Architect Shohei Shigematsu created structures including a room covered with an undulating three-dimensional facade constructed from translucent traditional washi paper pasted over wooden frames.
"When Dior makes a skirt, there is a structure and then the fabric is laid on top of it," he told AFP.
"I was asked to create a Japanese traditional structure, so I thought about shoji screens, for example, which have a wooden structure and are covered with paper."
Each section features a different interior design intended to show various parts of Japanese culture.
"There is a section inspired by an orderly tatami room separated by sliding doors. But not everything in Japan is simple and minimal," he said.
"We have different designs like Japanese gardens and flashy kimonos. I wanted to show the sides of Japan people don't know."
The Dior house first presented a show in Japan in 1953, and the designer had a well-known fascination with the country.
"Dior had a lot of respect for traditional Japanese culture and he wrote about it in his memoir," curator Florence Muller told AFP.
"I think there is a mutual fascination between France and Japan."
Starting in the 1950s, Dior also collaborated with Japanese companies, giving them the rights to adapt and reproduce Dior looks to cater to local tastes.
In a sign of the brand's popularity, Japan's former empress Michiko chose a Dior gown made from Japanese textiles when she married then-prince Akihito in 1959.
The Tokyo show, which runs until May 28, includes archive pieces as well as works by more recent creative directors, and showcases several items inspired by Japan. Also read: Is the reign of top models coming to an end? Among them is a John Galliano coat with "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa" print emblazoned on the base of its full skirt, and robes cinched with Japanese obi-style belts created by Raf Simons.
Dior's austere jacket dress named "Rashomon"—the name of a Japanese novel and film directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa—is also on display.
"This exhibition shows the mutual respect between Japan and France in their approach to crafts, fashion, design and art," said Shigematsu.