Ryunosuke’s clothes stand out for their bold futuristic and architectural design. Commanding geometric shapes protrude from the body in all directions and surrealist ruffles swathe models from head to toe. The designer graduated this year with an MFA in design from Tokyo University of the Arts, where he gained acclaim as the first prize winner at the Graduation Exhibition. His graduate collection, JomonJomon, took inspiration from Jomon-era pottery, where vessels were imprinted with elaborate designs using rope, making them more decorative than functional. The people of the Jomon era channelled their wishes and prayers into these creations. They saw God in nature at the same time as fearing the sublime threat posed by natural disasters, knowing ultimately that the whims of nature were beyond their control.
The pandemic that has ravaged the world for almost two years now has been a stark reminder that we are still at the mercy of nature, no matter how socially and technologically advanced we become. It’s easy to feel powerless in these circumstances. To counteract this feeling, Ryunosuke turns to prayer. For thousands of years, cultures around the world have used prayer to find hope in the bleakest times. While prayer alone may not be as effective in creating real change as education and activism, having faith in the possibility for a better world is essential to find the motivation to push for peace, justice and equality.
Ryunosoke’s latest collection, Pray, shown at Tokyo Fashion Week in September, showcased his signature otherworldly sculptural dresses while centring these ideas. Drawing from Shintoism and his own spiritual relationship with nature, the custom pieces focus on the importance of coexisting with and respecting the natural world. As in the Jomon era, we are approaching a time of increasingly violent natural phenomena if we don’t do what it takes to slow the pace of climate change. In response, Ryunosuke feels like sustainable design is his responsibility as a human being in the natural world. His approach is the opposite of mass production, with garments more like works of art, principally custom made for film and editorials.
The clothes themselves bring to mind the supernatural and phantasmagorical, and the inspirations exist in a similarly spiritual world. However, Ryunosuke’s work is also rooted in the very real impact of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War. One of his earliest pieces, Wearing Prayer, was crafted from paper cranes. It references the Japanese peace symbol and tragic story of Sadako Sasaki, who died in 1955 aged 12 from radiation-related leukaemia, or ‘atomic bomb disease’ as it was called at the time. Sadako survived the blast with no apparent injuries, but, nine years later, she fell ill.