Kunihiko Morinaga’s Fashion for the Digital Age

The inaugural exhibition of Japan House Los Angeles shines a light on the high-tech, forward-thinking garments from Tokyo label ANREALAGE.

"ANREALAGE: A Light Un Light" at Japan House Los Angeles.

On a recent afternoon at the gallery of the just-opened Japan House Los Angeles, a carefully edited destination for Japanese art, design, and fashion at the Hollywood and Highland Center, laser beams and smartphone camera flashes abound. They’re core elements of “A LIGHT UN LIGHT,” the house’s inaugural exhibition (on view through March 21), focused on fashion designer Kunihiko Morinaga’s experimental label, ANREALAGE. The flashes and beams bounce off of the seemingly all-white, photosensitive textiles of certain garments, briefly illuminating the otherwise hidden kaleidoscopic patterns on their surfaces.

“Taking a photograph of these clothes actually adds another dimension of fashion that’s not visible to the naked eye,” says Morinaga, who was inspired by the digital images that disseminate his work worldwide. Reflecting his fascination with modern technology, the exhibition features clothing that is laser-cut and treated with photochromic dyes alongside pieces that have been painstakingly hand-stitched, beaded, or adorned with 20,000 gold buttons and bells. The recurring thread from season to season is each collection’s engagement with subtle, everyday phenomena, such as the transformative power of light, our habitual impulse to take photographs, or the size and structure of our bodies.

Kunihiko Morinaga, founder and creative director of ANREALAGE.

The immersive exhibition is built on multidisciplinary collaborations, including lasers designed by the high-tech collective Rhizomatiks Research, a soundtrack by Japanese rock stars Ichiro Yamaguchi and Shotara Aoyama, and documentation by renowned photographer Yoshiyuki Okuyama. “Music, photographs, technology—I wanted to push the frontier and incorporate elements into fashion that weren’t considered to be elements of fashion before,” says Morinaga, not only of the exhibition, but of the founding concepts of his entire body of work. For him, fashion is defined by a process of discovery, of “observing and expressing what you might see in daily life, and finding the extraordinary that resides there.”

Below, five of our favorite moments from the exhibition:


The installation features a bank of 24 iPhones programmed to create a series of flashes, which are directed at three garments that use retroreflective technology (in which the light is reflected back to the source). A smartphone is the perfect tool with which to view the clothing because the flash is so close to the screen: the light bounces right back.


Morinaga developed designs that deal with the structure of garments. He went through various processes of taking the outer skin—so to speak—off of a garment, and revealing a skeleton frame. He found a simple beauty there.


ANREALAGE looked at three basic 3-D shapes—the sphere, the pyramid, and the cube—and tried to address how they could clothe the most basic forms and relate to the human body. Even the buttons are fabricated to bend around corners.


The installation incorporates UV lasers that scan patterns on what seems to be a white coat. Thanks to the incorporation of photochromic dye, though, the garment changes color when exposed to UV light. Where the lasers hit the white cloth of the coat, the color changes from white to black. The lasers themselves were created in collaboration between the designer and Japanese media art collective Rhizomatiks Research.


Featuring prints depicting the paths of objects that move in a blink of an eye, this collection represents Morinaga’s interpretation of how shapes change over time. In the ever-changing world of fashion, it’s an attempt to justify pausing time, if just for a moment.

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