The Mesmerizing world of Japanese Folds

Unravel the Japanese practice of ‘folding’ and ‘unfolding' spanning traditional decorative arts to contemporary fashion from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ collection.

Exhibition (2015/2015) by MAASPowerhouse Museum

The Mesmerizing world of Japanese Folds 

Unravel the Japanese practice of ‘folding’ and ‘unfolding’ in this display spanning traditional decorative arts to contemporary fashion, and featuring more than 30 objects from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ collection.See beautiful avant-garde contemporary Japanese fashion including Issey Miyake’s pre-heated pleats garments, Reiko Sudo’s ‘Origami Pleats’ textile length, and Hiroaki Ohya’s ‘The Wizard of Jeanz’, a collection of books that transform into clothing.The display also provides an insight into traditional Japanese aesthetics, through objects such as a folded kimono wrapped in ‘tato-shi’ (wrapping paper for a kimono); traditional Japanese fans; a wood block prints book which can be unfolded up to four metres; and a contemporary porcelain sculpture that reflects the beauty of origami.

Exhibition (2015/2015) by MAASPowerhouse Museum

Folding and unfolding

The practice of ‘folding’ and ‘unfolding’ is a fundamental aspect of Japanese culture and design. This section displayed examples of Japanese decorative arts and fashion that explore the deeper meaning of folds.

Exhibition (2015/2015) by MAASPowerhouse Museum

Sculptural forms

Two-dimensional shapes can be changed into three-dimensional objects, such as a piece of fabric into a wearable outfit. Sculptural forms, such as clothing worn on the body, can also be geometrically layered back into a flat, folded object.

Exhibition (2015/2015) by MAASPowerhouse Museum


Kimonos are made in two-dimensions but when worn, the fabric is draped around the body to create a sculptural form. When removed, the kimono can be folded neatly back into compact layers. Kimonos are stored flat in a paper 'tatoshi'.

Folding Fan (1880/1888) by unknownPowerhouse Museum

‘Japanese Folds’ showed the practice of folding and unfolding recurring throughout traditional decorative arts.

Dress (1996/2007) by Issey MiyakePowerhouse Museum

Japanese avant garde
Dress by Issey Miyake and Yasumasa Morimura

Since the 1980s, Japanese designers have had a significant impact on contemporary international fashion and challenged the conventional Western concept of clothing.

Dress DressPowerhouse Museum

Dress by Issey Miyake

The exhibition showed a sample of contemporary Japanese fashion which demonstrates a distinctive aesthetic of folding. This dress can be folded flat into circular form like a paper lantern.

Dress DressPowerhouse Museum

The exhibition provided an insight into the concept of folding design and the link between Japanese cultural traditions and contemporary transformations.

Jacket (1991/1991) by Issey MiyakePowerhouse Museum

Geometry and folding

While western fashion design has customarily focused on simulating the contours of the body, Japanese designers instead have tended to focus on designing garments that use geometry and folding to retain the two-dimensional nature of the fabric.

Book and dress (1999/2005) by Ohya, HiroakiPowerhouse Museum

'The Wizard of Jeanz' collection designed by Hiroaki Ohya

This is the a series of 23 books which transforms into 23 different garments.

Dress (1999/2005) by Ohya, HiroakiPowerhouse Museum

The book number one from the series of ‘Wizard of Jeans collection’ transforms into a voluminous skirt. The book cover made of denim hangs at the back.

Fabric (1997/1997) by Sudo, ReikoPowerhouse Museum

The fabric of folding

As Japanese fashion designers’ strong focus on the fabric, they closely work with textile specialists such as Reiko Sudo of NUNO Corporation.

Sculpture (2011/2011) by Shigekazu NagaePowerhouse Museum

Folding in design

Folding can be seen not only in fashion but also in many other aspects of Japanese culture. Origami-like geometric design has profoundly influenced Japanese aesthetics.

Forms In Succession #5Powerhouse Museum

Porcelain sculpture by Shigekazu Nagae, 'Forms in Succession #5', 2011

Credits: Story

Curator: Min-Jung Kim
Digital Producer: Ryan Hernandez
Photographer: Marinco Kojdanvski, Geoff Friend, Sue Stafford, Sotha Bourn

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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