“The Survival of Elegance- 50 Years of Jun Ashida” exhibit was held at the National Art Center, Tokyo from Dec 3 to 8.

Jun Ashida, the head designer of his namesake brand and once an apprentice to illustrator Junichi Nakahara, debuted as a fashion designer in 1953. He was appointed to the design council of Takashimaya in 1960, after which he served as a personal designer for ten years from 1966 to the Crown Princess (the current Empress Michiko). Since, Ashida has been designing clothes for the Imperial House of Japan, ambassadors from around the world and prominent figures in politics and business. The designer is also the Japanese pioneer of the shift from haute couture to ready-to-wear fashion.

The exhibit, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the brand, was directed by the designer’s daughter Tae Ashida, who also happens to be a fashion designer. The exhibit expressed the history and future of the Jun Ashida brand in seven different sections.

Zone 1: What is Elegance?

This section introduced the encounter between Jun Ashida and charismatic illustrator Junichi Nakahara in the form of a three-minute animation. Videos of past and recent collections were also seen in this area with the opera music Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni playing in the background.

Zone 2: The Conditions of Elegance

This segment showcased the design process of the maison. Five monitors provided a close-up of the hands of artisans handling the various stages of the process. A cocktail jacket from the 90s and two other masterpieces exhibited the essence of the brand.

Zone 3: The Crystallization of Elegance

Signature wedding dresses were displayed here.

Zone 4: The Memory of Elegance

The things that Ashida adored, the people that he cherished and the events in his life were presented here along with the history of high fashion in Japan. Video messages from Japanese celebrities such as Ruriko Asaoka, Norika Fujiwara and Ichikawa Ebizo, who are fond of the brand and its designer, were also screened. Sketches from the time Ashida designed children’s clothes and the actual designs were displayed, along with sketches and photos relating to the work handled for the Imperial House of Japan and works of his master, Junichi Nakahara. Glimpses of Ashida’s childhood days were shown through sketchbooks, favorite books, letters and records of tennis games.

Zone 5: In Search of Elegance

“The Survival of Elegance” was addressed here through fifty past designs divided into the themes- Spirit of Jun Ashida, Wedding Dress, Gold, Dazzling, Pastels and Flowers, Art, Sculptural, Graphical and Fluid. The tiered Bambou (R) pants, sequin dress and sculptural tiered dress recreated the colorful high fashion days.

Zone 6: “Elegance in its Most Developed Form”

Here, key items from the latest 2015 S/S were presented through videos.

Zone 7: The Possibilities of Elegance

The magnificent Compass (R) stole with a donut-shaped cut in the center of the design was introduced in the form of collaborations with Christian Lacroix and professional dancer Takahiro Ueno. Lacroix, who previously worked at Jun Ashida, contributed a fuchsia dress fusing the Compass. An orchid corsage and ribbon made the final touches. In a video, Ueno performs a graceful dance wearing the elegant Compass.

The venue was decorated throughout with messages of Jun Ashida’s philosophy of life. The exhibit was concluded with messages on fashion by contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, fashion design specialist Kaori Nakano and Tae Ashida.

“I wanted to observe my father’s works objectively and grasp a sense of where the brand should be headed for the future. The exhibit traces back on the nature of the Jun Ashida brand, something created in collaboration with the brand partners. My father doesn’t like to reflect back on the past, and so he didn’t take part in directing the event, and I was truly touched to see him shed tears when he visited the exhibit on the final day,” said Tae Ashida.

See the special 2014 S/S Tokyo collection presented at Tokyo Fashion Week in commemoration of its 50th anniversary here, and the video of its latest 2015 S/S collection on the brand's official website.