Toby Slade

Toby Slade

Research & Teaching Website

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Sherman Centre for Culture and Ideas Keynote

Saturday 13 April 2019

Centuries of tradition, ritual, poetry and craftsmanship, informed by socio-philosophical currents, characterise the art of dressing in Japan. From the codes of ceremonial dress in the Imperial Court of the Edo Period, to the groundbreaking experimentation initiating the country’s fashion renaissance of the 1980s, complexities in construction and ideology underpin Japan’s truly individual fashion legacy and its subsequent ripple effect. 

The Kimono: An Ongoing History

Professor Toby Slade of Bunka Gakuen and Keio University explores the nuanced history of the kimono and its associated accessories, unravelling the role that dress (both formal and informal) continues to play in public life. Accompanied by rich visual material, Slade traces the development of traditional dress, analysing its ongoing impact on contemporary fashion design in Japan and abroad.

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Transboundary Fashion Seminar

Conference in Tokyo

On 15-16 February 2019 the RCDF co-organized the seminar ReThinking Fashion Globalization in collaboration with the Transboundary Fashion Research Project at Bunka Gakuen University in Tokyo. As with the Morocco (2012) and Hong Kong (2014) conferences, it was a single room event with sixteen papers being presented over two days. A broad range of perspectives were presented, not just purely academic, but also pedagogical, and institutional, and from the front lines of fashion enterprise and design.

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Introducing Japanese Popular Culture

40 Great Chapters of the Latest Research on Contemporary Japan

Japanese and Korean Mediascapes: Youth, Popular Culture, and Nation
The University of Oregon
Keynote Paper: Spectacular Ordinariness: Expectations in the Idolatry of Contemporary Japan 

Global Fashion Seminar in English 2016
Bunka Gakuen University
Special Guest Lecture: What is Kawaii?  

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Hosting Andrew Gordon at Bunka

Bridging Technology & Desire: Sewing Machines, Consumers & Fashion in Postwar Japan

24 June 2015

Global Fashion Seminar in English 2015
Bunka Gakuen University
Special Guest Lecture: What is Kawaii?  


International (Non) Western Fashion Conference
The University of Hong Kong
Keynote Paper: Sartorial Tightness and Asia Authoritarianism  

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International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes Conference
Bunka Gakuen University, Tokyo
Kawaii: Cute Fashions and the Pleasures of Irony in Japan 

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Second International Non-Western Fashion Conference
London College of Fashion
Cool Biz and Sumptuary Regulation in Japan


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Toby Slade on Radio Adelaide Breakfast with Tim Brunero
Discussions on Japanese politics, economics, news and culture
Weekly on Wednesday mornings

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Japanese Fashion: A Cultural History

Japanese Fashion examines the entire sweep of Japanese clothing history, from the sophisticated fashion systems of late-Edo period kimonos to the present day, providing possible theories of how Japan made this fashion journey and linking current theories of fashion to the Japanese example. 

The book is unique in that it provides the first full history of the last two hundred years of Japanese clothing. It is also the first book to include Asian fashion as part of global fashion as well as fashion theory. It adds a hitherto absent continuity to the understanding of historical and current fashion in Japan, and is pioneering in offering possible theories to account for that entire history. By providing an analysis of how that entire history changes our understanding of the way fashion works this book will be an essential text for all students of fashion and design. 

Berg Publishers, Oxford & New York

192 pages

ISBN 978-1847882523

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Japan Fashion Now Symposium
Fashion Institute of Technology, New York
Modernity in Japanese Fashion 

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Japan has a long and unique history of self-imposed cultural isolation that continues to influence how sartorial fashions are received and used as props in many areas of Japanese social life. It is particularly hard for an island nation to realize that they are not unique. It is impossible to assess contemporary Japanese fashion life without reference to Japan’s unique history. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japan developed a complicated double life of outwardly embracing modern fashions while at home maintaining Japanese modes of dress that were also not ‘traditional’ but subject to change and reform. Both modes were dynamic. Foreign influences were always kept at bay and thus also controlled, and the degree to which foreignness was allowed to co-mingle with what was conceived as a Japanese central core was restricted.

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Asian Studies Conference Japan
Waseda University
Notions of Foreignness in Japanese Fashion

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The adoption of foreign fashions by Japan was not simply a process of imitation and innovation but an adjustment in the relations of practices, styles, institutions and hermeneutic structures of clothing and indeed about all interpretative judgements concerning how bodies, people and society should look. Unique geography, language and culture have naturally mediated the relationship Japanese fashion has had with the fashions of the rest of the world. From the official reengagement with foreign cultures and with their dress codes in the Meiji period Japan has adopted a variety of positions with relation to international fashions from seemingly complete integration to utter rejection. Despite the multifarious flows of information in modernity, the homogenizing corporate and advertising imperatives, and the more universal lifestyles and appropriateness of certain sartorial forms to fit those lifestyles, Japanese fashion remains, almost stubbornly, idiosyncratic. While often a subject that is studied from the perspective of its fragment components, the scope of this panel is deliberately broad in an attempt to identify the continuities and major themes of the entire history of Japanese fashion in the modern and postmodern eras.

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Hymn to Beauty: The Art of Utamaro
, Art Gallery of NSW
Fashion in Utamaro’s Edo

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Essential to the way fashion was conceived in Utamaro’s Edo was the concept of iki or chic refinement. Evocatively portrayed in Utamaro’s work and formally described by Kuki Shūzō, iki attempts to give philosophical meaning to the sensibility, lifestyle and fashions of Edo Japan. Analogous to dandyism, though open to women too, iki was an extension of fashion to life itself. It valued impermanent beauty and the freedom from all kinds of necessity. Its erotic allure came from maintaining a state of unfulfilled tension between man and woman. Things like stripes act as a metaphor for such incomplete flirtations. The stripes never meet so the beautiful part, the fashion moment, continued whereas if there were a completion of coquetry or final satisfaction with a form it might lead to domestic happiness but it would lose its chic. In Edo Japan iki acts as a metaphor for fashion itself, valuing instability and constant renewal of taste and life.

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Toby Slade on the Oxford Comment, Episode 6, Beauty

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Copyright © 2019, Toby Slade. All rights reserved.