A retired ballet dancer flipped the bird to her former profession on Saturday, making her Tokyo Fashion Week debut by laying bare the pain behind the beauty of classical dance.
Chika Kisada fused ballet with punk — leather jackets paired with a gothic-style black tutu-esque skirt — and sent her models out in comfortable pink brogues with large net bows instead of pointe shoes.
Ballet-style net pinafore dresses were worn over knits with a leather-strap harness for a bohemian autumn/winter 2017 collection of little-girl fantasy meets the perils-of-the-real-world look.
Dramatic gold face masks — which mimicked the tiaras worn by ballerinas in classics such as “Sleeping Beauty” — were rustled up with the help of a ballet costume maker whom she knows through her old life.
The 36-year-old turned to fashion after years of gruelling training and prizes failed to lead to the top-flight ballerina career that she had dreamt of “ever since I can remember”.
She danced for 16 years, studying “from dawn to dusk” and ended up at Asami Maki Ballet, one of the leading classical companies in Japan.
Then she quit.
“I didn’t do anything for a while, but when I thought of jobs I can express myself through the body, it came to me that being a designer could be similar,” she told AFP.
While she launched a first fashion line 10 years ago, Kisada won an award last year for her eponymous second brand.
And if you think “elegance of ballet” and “vitality of punk” are an odd combination, then Kisada is out to prove you wrong.
Ballet, she explains, is “not only” the beauty on stage. What the audience doesn’t see, she explains, is the torment and agony that dancers endure in a notoriously competitive and rigorous art form.
“I experienced the gulf between front and backstage, and the frustration. I want to stick my middle finger up at it,” she told AFP.
“So I channelled that feeling into a punk spirit,” she said. “I wanted to express that there is not only beauty. For example you see ugly injuries… and a painful expression behind a smiling face on stage.”
Her ambition now is to dress independent women and crack the European market, having already acquired stockists in Canada, China, Lebanon and Russia.