You cannot deconstruct unless you know how to construct. - Alexander McQueen

Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts: Final Year Collections - Koji Arai permalink

Koji Arai’s highly conceptual final year collection, “Last Supper”, highlights the intellectual possibilities of transitioning from a background in architecture to garment construction. Perhaps the most well-known example of this type is Miuccia Prada. A lesser-known but equally engaging example is Vincenzo de Cotiis, designer and founder of the “powerfully disciplined” label, Haute. The transition from architecture to fashion unifies these artistic disciplines, resulting in collections that provoke much thought.

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Koji Arai’s “Last Supper”

The basis for Arai’s “Last Supper” collection is the Japanese principle of I-Shoku-Ju: clothes-food-shelter – these being the basic elements of everyday life. This principle brings to my mind Abraham Maslow’s pyramid base for his psychological theory, “Hierarchy of Needs”. Arai translates I-Shoku-Ju into, “…Pinocchio for the clothes, [Da Vinci’s] ‘The Last Supper’ and chairs for food, sitting and shelter.” In using chairs as a representation of shelter, Arai explains that in human evolution, in between the postures of standing for action and lying for rest, sitting is requisite for the evolution of the human intellect from lower primates; specifically as the act of sitting is done when using and developing tools.

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Koji Arai’s “Last Supper”

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Koji Arai’s “Last Supper”

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Koji Arai’s “Last Supper”

“All twelve of my creations are the spin-offs of Pinocchio with a touch of Japanese Karakuri Dolls [that] I adore so much…As Pinocchio forms from a block of wood, he becomes human only when he learns his will and earns a soul - like a chair comes alive when it interacts with the functions of the body. The clothes have a function and a spirit when they drape the human form.” With this statement it seems that Arai is primarily functioning as an architect, demonstrating his preoccupation with the spatial and surface relationships of garments and the human form - the clothes pass through the threshold from two to three-dimensional when a person dresses in them.

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Koji Arai’s “Last Supper”

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Koji Arai’s “Last Supper”

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Koji Arai’s “Last Supper”

The appearance and function of the chairs in this collection is meant by Arai to be an organic extension of the self. “The organic curves follow the contours of the human form. I wanted to create the illusion that the human bone elongates itself into becoming a chair physically and mentally by using leather in the clothing and wood in the chairs. The designs of the clothing come from the authentic [Pinocchio] illustrations of the books by C. Collodi…In order to remain consistent with the Pinocchio motif, birch skin was hand-woven into the textile used for skirts, hats, and shoes.”

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Koji Arai’s “Last Supper”

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Koji Arai’s “Last Supper”, profile

“Most of the pieces were either hand-woven, hand-embroidered, or hand-stitched. Just as Geppetto carved Pinocchio, it was also my intention to re-enact Geppetto’s process and have my pieces be hand-made…All [of] the handwork came together by hands of friends.”
Arai’s work is now on view at the Mode Museum in Antwerp, and the accompanying book will be available for sale there and at select shops in September. The following is a preview of the book:

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cover of Koji Arai’s book and its wooden Pinocchio doll

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Pinocchio sitting inside Koji Arai’s book

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