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The M Dash

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Miyako’s Mood Board: Chasing the Aesthetic Phantom

May 19, 2014

Every Monday, MM.LaFleur’s designer Miyako Nakamura ruminates on what’s inspiring her this week.

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I first watched Yves Saint Laurent’s retirement speech in 2002 while I was studying fashion design in college. I found it touching to see such a well-known designer bringing his career to a close, but at the time, I was just starting to learn about fashion and didn’t know much about the enormity of his contributions: Le Smoking, the safari look, and most importantly, the power he gave to women through his creations.

Despite my naïveté at the time, there is one idea from his speech that struck me and has stuck with me: the “Aesthetic Phantom.” In this video, it’s translated as “aesthetic ghost”—an entity that he relentlessly pursued, sought, and hunted down.

“Le Smoking”—YSL’s tuxedo jacket for women. 

Every now and again, this word comes to my mind when I am searching for an image. But to me, my phantom is like a liquid, always changing. Fashion is so deeply related to people and society that it can never be defined or captured for more than a moment. As long as society evolves, fashion changes with it.

A few of our recent posts about passion made me realize: I’ve never doubted my commitment to fashion as my profession. I have been in love with what I do all along. I cannot imagine doing anything else. Am I lucky? Or am I cursed? I’m still not sure.

When you love your profession, it consumes you. Your entire life philosophy evolves around it. I am constantly thinking about beautiful women, beautiful clothes, beautiful moments when clothes come alive, what that means, what I want to say, what I want women to feel. Do we want to be different or accepted? Immediately understood or shocking? What does it mean to be unique? Commercial? What is business versus art? What does it mean to be popular? How do we define beauty? I am constantly wrestling with these questions. It’s exhausting.

The more time I’ve spent working, the more I understand and think about YSL’s phantom. This is what drives my passion: I want to see the face of this thing, photograph it, and capture it—even if it’s just for a moment.

I think YSL called it a phantom rather than a “dream” or a “muse” because, in addition to being inspired, we are haunted by it. We keep searching and chasing our own phantoms, and as YSL noted, we encounter ourselves during the search. Maybe that’s what is most important. If we manage to know ourselves in the end, that would be a beautiful life.

– Miyako

See Miyako’s designs for MM.LaFleur here.


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