“All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players / They have their exits and their entrances / And one man in his time plays many parts …”
Considering they’ve unveiled past site-specific collections in an office furniture display room, a luxury day spa, a stretch hummer, a shipping dock and a rural dairy farm, one never knows exactly what an invitation to a Theatre Products event will lead to.
For their last collection ‘Boutique’, friends were invited to Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store where we were directed to the theatre on the sixth floor, which happens to be the oldest surviving theatre space in Tokyo and the site where the city’s first fashion show was held.
We were then assigned a team and taken on tours of the legendary building with the resident department store tour guides who told us the history of the site (while Tokyo has been completely annihilated several times with earthquakes, wars, floods and fires, Mitsukoshi has miraculously remained since the seventeenth century) and the architecture (including the thousands of prehistoric fossils embedded in the walls), and led us to a performance at the huge old pipe organ.
Arriving back at the theatre on the sixth floor, we were asked to come on to the stage where we faced out, looking at the empty seats, our invisible audience. Then the designers talked everyone through the collection, piece by piece. Besides several Australiana motifs like a kitschy-cute koala print, a running theme of the collection is the Mitsukoshi department store itself:
The designers Akira Takeuchi and Tayuka Nakanishi started collaborating on costume design for theatre in 2000. Wanting to form a label that would treat fashion as theatre, they joined with Kao Kanamori (whose background is in performance) in 2002 and started Theatre Products.
Their aim is to consider clothes not as fixed, pre-existing objects, but as things that are formed only contextually, through the process of being worn. According to them, fashion exists not in physical commodities but in the interactions of bodies, spaces and experiences. To articulate the idea of fashion as live and participatory, their projects have often played with the idea of interactivity – like their installation/shop at Rice Gallery where they built a carnival tent out of pieces of clothing, requiring customers to tear items away from the architectural structure, rendering their act of consumption a performance. The project was launched with a concert by the 17-member horn and percussion band Chanchikitornade, with images of clothing factories projected on the walls.
They have often collaborated with contemporary performing artists and ensembles, including ‘Japan’s smallest magician’ Mame Yamada, and KATHY, the faceless dancers who came to Sydney for Big In Japan last December. They also worked several times with the legendary art director Nagi Noda, creating the 100 identical dresses for this wild clip for J-pop star Yuki.