Denver Art Museum’s Fashion Curator on Japanese Fashion and Shock Wave

Muller in front of a fashion show projection.

Shock Wave at the Denver Art Museum opened their doors to the public on September 11, 2016 to showcase a ground-breaking exhibition never-before-seen in Denver. The exciting exhibition showcases the work of Japanese fashion designers who made their way to Paris and shook up the international fashion scene. Spanning the ’80s and ’90s, Shock Wave will give event-goers some major fashion envy as well as educate them on this important period in fashion history.

But all this was only possible under the Denver Art Museum’s new fashion curator, Florence Müller. A well-known fashion historian and author, Müller first came to Denver when she curated the Yves Saint Laurent show in 2012. Fast-forward to 2016; Shock Wave has made its debut and is Müller’s first show as fashion curator of the Denver Art Museum. 303 got the opportunity to sit down and chat with Müller about the exhibition, its influence in fashion today and what she’s stirring up at the DAM next. Go here to see photos of the full exhibit.

Shock Wave at the DAM – Conversation with Fashion Curator Florence Müller

303: Can you tell our readers about Shock Wave and why you found it important to debut an exhibition like this?

Florence Müller: Shock Wave: Japanese Fashion Design, 1980s-90s focuses on Japanese fashion designers who launched a fashion revolution in Paris, including Kansai Yamamoto, Kenzo Takada, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe. Their influence was a phenomenon in the fashion industry, which still resonates today.

With this exhibition, we acquired more than 20 pieces by these designers, which showcases how the textile and fashion collection at the Denver Art Museum is evolving.

303: How do you think Denver audiences will react to this exhibition?

FM: My hope is that Shock Wave will evoke thought-provoking conversations about fashion design as art, as well as will inspire creativity. You see, these designers challenged the norms of haute couture, influencing a new design aesthetic that affected a new generation of European designers.

“Japanese designers pushed the boundaries of the feminine image by shattering the conventions of the late-20th-century avant-garde design. The designers introduced a radical play on a-symmetry, deconstruction and conceptual fashion approaches.” 
Curator of Fashion - Florence Muller
Curator of Fashion: Florence Müller – All Images by McKenzie Coyle 

303: What pieces are your favorite from the collection and why?

FM: The “bump dress” from Kawakubo’s 1997 collection for Comme de Garҫons is one of my favorite looks. It’s an extreme representation of the female body, which challenges the form-fitting, seductive norm that was typical in fashion at the time.

A black coat from the Hiroshima Collection is another favorite because of the shattering and destructive look used in the design. Journalists at the time dubbed this collection as the Scandal Collection because of the non-conforming and end-of-the-world look the designs presented.

303: Are there any special fashion trends you see popular today that may have been influenced from these Japanese designers?

FM: There are so many trends you see in fashion that were influenced by these designers. The return of oversized looks, ready-to-wear jumpsuits, graphics on street wear, straight-silhouetted dresses where the shape disappears and unfinished stitching on clothing.

“What I love about the Rocky Mountain spirit is the free-ness and openminded-ness about the people in Denver and this region. This spirit has provided for a creativity platform to explore concepts and ideas behind different fashion presentations.”

303: What should our readers look for when visiting Shock Wave at the DAM?

FM: I’d encourage your readers to look at the details. Use the art of slow looking to observe cuts, stitching, unique textile fabrics and structure to discover sophisticated design.

303: This type of exhibit is quite different for Denver; what else do you hope to bring to the DAM in the next few years?

FM: I plan to bring the element of surprise. While I can’t share exactly what I plan to curate next, I can share that the following exhibition will be dramatically different by showcasing the rich aesthetics of fashion and helping rediscover another historical era.

303: Anything else you’d like to add?

FM: Having just moved to Denver from Paris about a year ago, what I love about the Rocky Mountain spirit is the free-ness and openminded-ness about the people in Denver and this region. This spirit has provided for a creativity platform to explore concepts and ideas behind different fashion presentations, such as Shock Wave, presenting new perspectives that are not always as mainstream, which I hope visitors will enjoy.

Muller in front of a fashion show projection.
Muller in front of a fashion show projection
A sample of garments from the show
The exhibition opened to the public on September 11 and runs through May 28.

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