Deconstruction Fashion

by Julia Duthie

“Who would wear that??” is the common thing I hear when discussing runway shows. And the most common answer is no one!! Since fashion is so connected to how people are perceived, the designs can be taken quite literally…… this begins the endless debate, art vs function; What differentiates Celine from Balenciaga? A Capricorn vs a libra? Deconstructed fashion is described as a waste of material from the surface, but the ability to manipulate fabric and designs is the definition of organized chaos

Designers working with this style are not equally remembered. Males are frequently noted for deconstruction fashion. Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, and Yohji Yamamoto come to mind. And though deconstruction philosophy was created by a man, Jacques Derrida, it’s essential to recognize the women who popularized this fashion style, to begin with. Of course speaking of Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garcon and Ann Demeulemeester. Kawakubo introduced the technique to western fashion, and Demeulemeester helped the destruction live on.

Deconstruction fashion is moldable and evolutionary. The artist takes a finished object and breaks it apart to form a unique creation. Less destruction and more of a transformation of matter, repurposed in new forms. However, neither the original object nor the new result holds more merit over the other. They are at a core made of the same materials. The Algerian philosopher Jacques Derrida, explains this in his deconstructive philosophy. In his text, Of Grammatology (1967), his theory introduces challenging unfamiliar ideas and weighing both sides of the argument. He does emphasize that this does not include debates over equality and other human rights. In deconstruction fashion, it also challenges truths known by society and imposes new ideas. There is no right or wrong answer in his philosophy. Derrida created deconstruction philosophy to encourage ambiguity. Highly constructed garments should not be valued any higher than deconstructed; they both hold value. His goal was to erase the binary (good/bad, man/woman) and explain how diverse our world is. This philosophy played into many designers' work as there is a wide variety of artistic expressions separate from the binary.

Avant-garde fashion was popularized in 1986 when Paris Fashion Week showcased Japanese designs for the first time. Here, Issey Miyake, Junya Watanabe, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garcon shocked the world and the former pristine fashion scene. At the time, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto were actually dating!! Surprising since they have vastly different aesthetics with Kawakubo’s moody colours and Yamamoto’s cheerful designs. (they're both libra’s… I’ll let you figure out the outcome). But both those two designers create bulky silhouettes for women, which was revolutionary in the 1980s because Western fashion was used to seeing Versace, a brand based on sexual expression. Kawakubo avoids all press and tries to keep the spotlight on her to a minimum. Still, she did once say in an interview with Judith Thurman from The New Yorker, “I never intended to start a revolution, I only came to Paris with the intention of showing what I thought was strong and beautiful. It just so happened that my notion was different from everybody else’s.” When her designs first hit the Western fashion scene, the models were criticized as “walking garbage bags'', the fit of her garments was her signature design. Kawaubo would also damage her sewing machine to create genuine manufacturing mistakes. She put real effort into being messy, a true punk at heart <3 Her designs were asymmetrical and “Unfinished,” the latter of which is the title of her Spring/Summer 1992 Ready-to-wear collection. In this image, the hem is left raw; there are no attachments for the middle of the shirt, giving the impression of a missing sleeve. She explained her thought process to Vogue, “I wanted to go back to the beginning and show that the finished product isn’t what’s interesting anymore,” she said. “When clothes are in the middle of construction, then there’s always the question of what comes next.” Comme des Garcon is for every little girl that wants to be “like the boys.” A tattered dress from playing in the woods or a straight silhouette to hide the curves she wants to save for herself.

Comme Des Garcon SS 1992, Ready-to-Wear

Antwerp six is a group of fashion designers from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts that significantly impacted deconstruction fashion; consisting of Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, Marina Yee, Ann Demeulemeester and Dries van Noten (the most well known being the last two). Despite widespread knowledge, Martin Margiela, from the house, Maison Margiela, was not a part of the group but attended the same school. Ann Demeulemeester features deconstructive fashion in her work by mix-matching pieces of garments, leaving unfinished edges and exposed hardware. All the right moves to piss off grandma. She has a recognizable aesthetic, sticks to it and expands it further. Demeulemeester retired from creative director in 2013 and Sebastian Meunier took over. Meunier continued her legacy with shocking fashion shown in his Fall/Winter 2005 Menswear collection. Ann Demeulemeester, the fashion house, was recently bought by the Italian entrepreneur, Claudio Antononioli in March 2021 and he is working very closely with Demeulemeester to create a fresh start.

Ann Demeulemeester Spring/Summer 1997

Ann Demeulemeester Fall/Winter Ready-To-Wear 2021

Sebastian Meunier for Ann Demeulemeester, Fall/Winter 2005 Menswear

Maison Margiela upholds all these values but brings his take to the mix. Starting his career in 1988, he is right in between the previous notable designers. He values multi-use garments: for example, a dress that could transition into a coat, thus adding the function into art. John Galliano is the current Creative Director at Maison Margiela. Galliano’s role is interesting because he left Dior regarding backlash against his antisemitic remarks and now uses deconstruction at Margiela, a philosophy created by a Jewish man. He was caught and apologized in 2011 and joined Margiela in 2014. The fact that he still has a job at a significant fashion house shows how quickly the fashion industry moves on and forgets. However he uses the deconstruction technique very well in his Spring/Summer 2019 collection which was a “Co-ed” runway line showing menswear and womenswear. Hopefully, he is learning to celebrate Jewish contributions instead of criticizing them. Co-ed runway shows carry the value of deconstruction as they are pushing the boundaries. These are also becoming increasingly popular as people realize that expression is not related to gender, and anyone can express themselves in any item of clothing.

Maison Margiela Spring/Summer 2017

Maison Margiela Spring/Summer 2019

DIY clothing has become a trend since the start of quarantine and is still steadily rising. Personally, my TikTok feed is overflowing with crocheting , rework and Maison Margiela sock sweater tutorials. Luckily this exposed seams style is found in t-shirts and long sleeves to rework your work attire. The same black t-shirt can feel so bland, so adding these pieces can bring joy to our work-based world.

Jaded London Mix Fabric Panelled High Neck Top

From some designers’ perspective, raw edges on a garment can be sticking it to the man! Take that, grade 8 sewing class teacher, I will not finish the hem on my pyjama shorts! From a consumer’s perspective, they could be confused on why their PJs are now fraying and falling apart… this style may come off as impractical. Making the design not suited for everyone. Some people are comfortable with the roles in place, whether it be gender or social class roles, and may only shop for the function of a garment rather than artistic meaning. I've come to terms in my heart that not everyone is interested in the history behind fashion. It's important not to shame those who may not understand, just as we expect those who dont understand o not shame us. They may just see it as destroyed pieces of clothing for hundreds of dollars, but the messages weigh more. Deconstruction may not be a conventional style, meaning there is a range of customers. There is clearly a market for deconstruction clothing, and shown by all the success from designers previously mentioned

The thought behind deconstruction fashion makes it more than just a destroyed garment. It represents going against the status quo. It is wearable art that can describe your actual values. But I’ll be honest... think I've heard some skater dude say the exact thing after ripping a hole in his Polar Big Boy jeans…