I watch you watch me… – kawaii culture according to Joanna Hawrot

Polite silhouettes, oversized collars, white knee socks and innocent uniforms – “KAWAII” – joanna Hawrot’s new collection – is a proposal to rewrite multicultural rhetoric into the language of fashion, design and pleasure and at the same time part of the author’s exhibition “Kimono as experience. The new language of art by Joanna Hawrot”, which will be on show at the National Museum in Wrocław from 18.06.

The word ‘kawaii’ itself means ‘charming_y, sweet_and_lovely_y’ – in the 1960s it was mainly used by men to refer to attractive women, but already a decade later it was young girls who used the category to describe anything pleasant and exciting. The kawaii phenomenon quickly crossed Japan’s borders. The distinct aesthetic and the elaborate and multi-layered world it represented became a global phenomenon manifested, for example, through cosplay culture, which brings together people who dress up as fictional characters from Japanese anime and computer games. The dynamics and the very process of crossing borders and the accompanying cultural fetishisation fascinated Joanna Hawrot. – For me, kawaii culture and its creative representations became an excuse to stop and reflect on my own needs and the changing language of pleasure, to settle anew into what gives respite and to listen to the voice of what is closest to me. The metaphorical ‘room of one’s own’ is thus given a new, textile dimension ,” emphasises the artist.

In her new collection, the designer has taken the school girl kawaii variant under the microscope , not only engaging in a dialogue with Japanese pop culture, but conducting an intimate monologue in parallel. Exaggerated collars, white knee-length socks and innocent uniforms only seem at first glance to be rather conservative propositions, but already situating them in a collection designed for female bodies imbues the whole thing with a delicately erotic energy. Its dispenser is, in the first instance, the designer herself, and in the second, every body that will wear the clothes from this collection.

Joanna Hawrot’s costumes do not yield to the external regulations of the so-called malegaze, which organises images of the female body for its own pleasure. This time there is a recovery of the imaginative spectrum, which embeds the gaze in a world of its own rules flowing from multisensory, bodily experience. In this way, clothing can empower and emancipate the one_who_ wears it(female gaze) – I look as you look at me…

Proposals from the new collection will become part of the insert ‘Kimono as experience. Thelanguage of art by Joanna Hawrot’. This is the first such large-scale solo presentation showing how the artist combines the worlds of fashion, art and design. On 370 square metres, amidst a set composed of 1,800 metres of fabric, the author’s kimono collections inspired by the works of Maurycy Gomulicki, Sonia Hensler, Angelika Markul, Wojciech Ireneusz Sobczyk and Honza Zamojski will be presented. The dramaturgy of the exhibition has been tailored as a journey through the spaces of encounters, work (and collaboration) of imagination, desires, fears and fetishes that make up the new language of art, the alphabet of which the artist has been working on for two decades. The exhibition can be seen at the National Museum in Wrocław from 18.06 to 25.08. 2024.

See also: Editorial | Blouse | New collection | Fashion | Designer

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