Ready to embrace polka dots?

June 20, 2012, Wednesday/ 16:05:00

Reverberations from designer Marc Jacobs’ last year’s polka dot collection still continue this year. But this time the designer has worked in collaboration with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The new collection, which debuted recently, is very chic, even though the story behind artist Kusama’s interest in polka dots is not such a light-hearted one.

Polka-dot outfits, which are so reminiscent of the 1970s, were very popular a few seasons ago, especially in winter-wear. And Marc Jacobs, who brought this trend to the forefront, shows no intention of passing up on it. This time around though, he is presenting polka dots touched by the hands of an artist. Jacobs has cooperated with the 83-year-old Japanese artist, who is also known as the world’s most expensive living artist. In recent months, the fashion house of Jacobs announced that customers would be able to obtain dresses and accessories designed by Kusama, a fanatic for polka dots, from July 10, 2012, onwards. Even now, photographs of the collection are being published on important fashion Internet sites from all over the world.

The first seeds of this cooperation were planted when Jacobs visited Kusama’s studio in Tokyo in 2006. He was very impressed by Kusama’s work, and sought immediately to try and bring some of these memorable polka dots to his label. In a video promoting the collection, Marc Jacobs is very clear about why he chose Kusama. He notes that the Japanese artist’s unending energy is a tremendous source of inspiration. And, as he says, in working with Kusama, he has managed to bring together art and people who might not necessarily be interested in art through the vehicle of fashion.

A life devoted to polka dots

For many people, polka dots might resemble stains that just happen to be round in shape. But in the complicated world of artist Kusama, polka dots actually represent a whole different cosmos. As it is, this deep meaning the artist has placed on polka dots had a very strong effect on Marc Jacobs.

The story that pulls together Kusama and polka dots is very old. This Japanese artist, who was brought up under the watch of a strong and domineering mother, had a string of mental problems that started at the age of 10. She began to have delusions, to hallucinate and see flowers, nets, but mostly polka dots everywhere. In fact, it was as she sat at the dinner table one day that she really began to see polka dots and her signature symbol, red polka dots. At the same time, a design that was on the table cloth, of small red flowers, suddenly appeared to Kusama everywhere, on the ceilings and walls all around her, even right on her own skin, plunging her into an endless feeling of emptiness.

Kusama is someone who was finally able to turn this extraordinary state of mental affairs into real art. And so, the polka dots which appeared to her all over the place became a mode of expressing herself, and perhaps this is even how she wound up healing herself. What you see in Kusama’s work is that she has not allowed this illness to turn her world dark, but rather it has allowed her to put it to use in colorful and movement-filled ways. The most important factor here is her view of the actual polka dots. Kusama compares the polka dots to the sun, and sees them as symbols which reflect the energy of the world. As for the deceptive appearance of the polka dots, this represents infinity -- just like the artist’s hallucinations.

Kusama began at first to work on a smaller level, and later succeeded in bringing her designs to bigger productions in the outside world. Using her own distinctive style, the artist has painted polka dots onto room-sized installations, rugs, furniture, streets, trees and even cars. If you visit the Japanese city of Matsumoto, where Kusama was born, you will even see that municipality buses there are decorated with giant red polka dots, inspired of course by Kusama. In 1977, Kusama decided to leave America, where she had lived since she was 27 years old, and return to her native Japan. Ever since then, though, she has resided in a mental hospital. As for her work, she carries it on in her gallery in Tokyo.

Red and yellow everywhere

In recent times, the collection that Jacobs and Kusama collaborated on was put out to attract investors, and thus the most expensive project yet embarked on by Jacobs was started with Louise Vuitton. A sign of how important Jacobs sees this project as being is that there is a website prepared at www.louisvuittonkusama.com which includes a video of Jacobs’ visit to Kusama, and the whole idea behind the collection. There is also another video with details about Kusama’s life, and with more details about the collection itself.

This collection has indeed really turned into a giant effort to support art, as the label itself now supports the Kusama exhibit up at the Tate Modern Gallery. The collection includes a wide variety of pieces, not just classic handbags and dresses, but also shoes, bracelets, foulards, watches, sunglasses, scarves, small handheld wallets and so on. All of these are covered, or spotted, in polka dots. The bright side to this is that, even if you cannot afford one of those unbelievably expensive handbags, you can at least avail yourself of a more economically accessible polka-dotted souvenir, like a scarf, or a mini accessory. It should be noted that when it comes to color, the dominant colors of these polka dots are, as you might expect, Kusama’s classic red, as well as lots of yellow.

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