Deconstructed fashion has made a huge comeback in recent years, from powerhouse brands like Yeezy, Margiela and Vetements, down to the high street. If you’re not 100% sure on what deconstructed fashion actually is, it’s garments that generally look unfinished as if the designer is in the midst of working. Key features of deconstructed garments include exposed stitching, raw edges, loose thread and distressed textiles.
The Origins of Deconstructed Fashion
The actual term “deconstructionism” came from French philosopher Jacques Derrida who proposed the concept in the ‘60s. He coined the term to mean the process by which established forms are broken down. In relation to fashion this means challenging and contradicting what is considered the norm, through the breaking of conventions. One example of this is that hems are added to clothing in order to finalise a look and generate a clean, polished aesthetic; deconstructed fashion often plays with this idea by adding raw, unfinished hems to garments creating a distressed effect.
Who Brought Deconstructionism to Fashion?
There are 3 designers who immediately spring to mind as the uncrowned royal family of deconstruction: Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, and Martin Margiela. During the ‘80s, a time when the fashion world was consumed by form-fitting dresses, polished glamour and flashy supermodels, Yamamoto and Kawakubo sent shockwaves through the industry with their avant-garde distressed fashions. They sent deliberately shapeless clothes that enveloped the body down the runway, complete with frayed scissor cut hemlines, layered fabrics, and obvious rips and tears, challenging the Western world’s concept of beauty. These pioneering designers revolutionised fashion, paving the way for the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Martin Margiela who looked to this distressed punk look for inspiration. Margiela helped fuelled the fashion revolution, taking the baton from Yamamoto and Kawakubo, and making a name for himself by experimenting with proportions, seams, hems and stitching.
Image Yohji Yamamoto, Masaki-H, flickr
Politics and Deconstructionism
This new radical aesthetic divided the fashion press with The Washington Post stating that fashion’s new trend bore “resemblance to the homeless shopping-bag ladies who sleep on hot air shafts in winter and on park benches”. Deconstructed fashion led to demonstrations outside new York’s Bloomingdales with activists branding the garments as “high-priced clothing [that] mocks the poor.” Whilst politics was very much at the core of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo’s designs mocking the poor was far from the designer’s intentions. The creative powerhouses used their clothing to comment on female beauty standards, classism, and the effects of war, amongst other things. With deconstructionism making a comeback is it really surprising given the current political climate? With the recent shift towards right-wing governments, combined with ongoing catastrophic issues, including climate change and a surge in violence and hostility towards minorities, the political climate today is not too dissimilar to that of the ‘80s. Cue the resurgence of ‘anti-fashion' designers, like Demna Gvasalia, creating clothing with a strong social and political agenda.
THE 10 EMERGING DECONSTRUCTED FASHION DESIGNERS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Seoul-based clothing brand Zonon was founded in 2020 by Yunjin Cho. The designer focuses on cultural and generational conflicts and how those influence beauty and aesthetics. Her clothing is characterised by asymmetrical designs, cut-outs and ruched detailing, all created using a beautiful mismatch of fabrics and textures.
With her affectionate look at the twisted and rebellious souls of subculture, she draws images of unfamiliar yet realistic characters into the brand's clothing each season. For SS21, Cho was inspired by The Cure’s 1989 track Disintegration, with the collection narrating failed relationships of raw, distorted youth-hood, with romantic, grunge and punk vibes.
Drawing inspiration from the people she’s met, places she’s been, and stories she’s heard, Giorgiandreazza's eponymous brand carries a message of self-expression. The primary focus of the brand is to create captivating unisex clothing made from company’s fabric waste.
Her designs centre around deconstructed forms, inspired by Andreazza’s love of transformation and evolution. Dynamism and creativity mix with precise tailoring and skill to produce truly unique and one-of-a-kind items, catering to anyone who is not afraid to stand out from the crowd or express themselves. Her designs exemplify deconstructed fashion, incorporating themes of androgyny, punk and queer liberation.
Prioritising the concepts of deconstructionism and modernism through her designs, Jenny Nattakarn is the brainchild behind Natta. Focusing on the female silhouette, Natta explores innovative new ways of constructing garments down to the intricate details.
Nattakarn prides herself on embracing different cultural backgrounds, and incorporates politics into her work by creating clothes that mirror society and the people within it. Through the combination of uniform elements with contemporary features, Natta produces timeless designs that are modern with classic components.
Images Courtesy of BALMUNG
Designer Hachi Balmung is the brains behind the Japanese cult brand BALMUNG. The brand grabbed the attention of the Tokyo fashion community with its first installation show which was performed using 8 dolls made of garbage bags, adorned with the brand's debut collection.
Inspired by the city of Tokyo itself, with its abstract, chaotic atmosphere, BALMUNG's clothes experiment with texture, colour and proportions, shown through oversized, asymmetrical fits, combined with layering and avant-garde stitching.
Drawing inspiration from Tokyo and New York streetwear, whilst keeping traditional Japanese craftsmanship at the core, Cycle by MYOB has been creating edgy garments for over a decade. By experimenting with shape, patterns and cut-outs, the brand has developed a signature style. Their garments feature exposed hems, oversized proportions, and cut-outs, combining key elements from the deconstructed fashion movement.
The brand values sustainability with the use of fair-trade and recycled materials, as well as using sustainable manufacturing processes. Through their designs, Cycle by MYOB aim to inspire and encourage a new generation to think ethically about the clothing we wear.
One of Korea’s leading sustainable fashion brands, RE;CODE was launched in 2012 as an up-cycling fashion brand. Launched with the slogan ‘This Is Not Just Fashion’ the brand has implemented innovative solutions through its use of up-cycled deadstock.
RE;CODE manipulates and experiments with traditional ideas, shown by the stitching of garment patterns onto shirts and the mixing of unconventional fabrics. Through its use of discarded fabric, RE;CODE is encouraging shoppers and brands alike to join the movement towards a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable society.
Based in Barcelona, Laia Canales is a recent fashion graduate from Westminster. Her designs show an exceptional knowledge for deconstruction, with Mugler and Margiela-esc elements.
Stand-out pieces from her latest collection include a crop top that defies all conventions, experimenting with structure, shape, and the overall silhouette, as well as a breathtaking trench coat. Speaking about her recent project Act 1, Laia experiments with concepts of objectification stating that “objectifying means treating someone as an object without any regard to its personality/dignity”. She goes on to write “I don’t want to objectify clothes but give them personality.”
el/if. produce one-of-a-kind creations, which begin with a sketch and the search for neglected clothing. The clothes are then cleaned, deconstructed and rebuilt to form an entirely new garment and style.
The clothes are handmade in the south of France single-handedly by the brand’s namesake Elif. She explains that “having an up-cycled piece means supporting a new philosophy of life, close to our environment, while appreciating a fashion that emphasises the handmade.”
Another brand that’s still in its early stages, we expect a bright future for the emerging designer.
RUA CARLOTA by Charlotte Rose Kirkham is another brand centring its creations around second-hand or deadstock materials. Beginning “with something rendered useless by society and end[ing] with something beautiful”, RUA CARLOTA deconstructs and reconstructs garments with confidence.
With a background in art, the designer describes her creative process as viewing "the fabrics she uses as if they were her palette, with the stitching acting as her paintbrush”. Her experimental and construction-led approach led to her developing a signature style through lettuce hemmed clothing, which has already been featured in the pages of Vogue.
Designed by Giuditta Tanzi in Milan, Garbage Core produce handmade deconstructed garments. Tanzi bases her practise on constant experimentation through fabrics and the concepts of wearable art and sustainability. Her creations are made almost entirely from up-cycled fabrics and pieces that she picked up at the local Italian markets, making each item completely unique.
Her pieces have a wonderfully rustic feel, complete with uneven seams and patchwork detailing. With most items on her store sold-out, fear not the designer is happy to reproduce any creation.
Text: Sam Pennington