Yumi Sakugawa Imagines a Beautiful Future with Fashion Forecasts

Community Parade Outfit from Fashion Forecasts by Yumi Sakugawa image via Retrofit

Fashion Forecasts

Yumi Sakugawa
September 2018

It can be difficult to look forward to a new year, especially as the world moves in a downward progression politically and morally. There’s a pressure to reflect on the past year, which means considering how we’ve grown, but also remembering all the negative experiences and difficulties. Fortunately, there are zines out in the world that can help us look toward the future with hope, zines like Yumi Sakugawa’s Fashion Forecasts.

Fashion Forecasts was initially commissioned as both a zine and a physical installation piece by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center for Crosslines: A Culture Lab on Intersectionality. It conveniently comes with a mission statement, presented on a large screen at the gallery show and photographed for the book.

“In addition to paying tribute to Asian American history and culture, FASHION FORECASTS proposes a future where fashion is intergenerational, spiritual, accessible, community-interactive, and celebratory of all body types, all gender expression, and all ethnic backgrounds.”

The zines weaves each of these ideas into numerous outfits, maintaining a hopeful and celebratory nature throughout.

Fashion Forecasts Cover by Yumi Sakugawa image via Retrofit

Out of the 11 total sections, 9 feature actual fashion forecasts, one contains photographs of the installation, and the final, titled “The Final Fashion Show,” presents a series of questions surrounded by illustrations that encourage the reader to find their best self through clothing. The bodies that inhabit the clothing celebrate the variety of which the human body is capable, in silhouette and shape, skin, age, and any way imaginable.

What struck me most strongly about my first flip through Fashion Forecasts was the complete lack of shame. Shame is tied so heavily into the world of fashion we’ve always known, and it’s striking to see it absent from the page. Sakugawa’s models are always joyful, confident, or at least neutral, like a typical model. The first section of the zine, “Face Hair Body,” makes a point to celebrate body hair that typically carries shame, like uni-brows and armpit hair. Pubic hair is a central piece of several outfits in later parts of the zine, and in one of my favorite sections, “Menstrual Fashion Edition,” Sakugawa transforms periods from an embarrassing event to hide into a key part of various tongue-in-cheek ensembles. I would especially like the “Resting Demon face masks for relief from polite emoting and small talk” to exist ASAP.

Menstrual Fashion by Yumi Sakugawa from Fashion Forecasts via Retrofit

This purposeful elimination of shame from the future world of fashion made me think of an earlier work by Sakugawa, a zine called Ikebana. In Ikebana, an art student named Cassie uses her own body as her work for the final critique of class. She appears before her fellow students in nothing but underwear and plants, standing in a bowl of water, and eventually takes a walk into the outside world. Cassie is catcalled, verbally and physically attacked by her mother, and judged and looked upon with incredible violent intensity. Fashion Forecasts feels like the opposite side of that story. It’s a subversive future that loves and embraces Cassie and her body rather than tearing her apart.

Ikebana Cover by Yumi Sakugawa image via Retrofit

Sakugawa makes the zine feel not just subversive but hopeful by imbuing her clothing with a sense of celebration. For example, the “Community Parade Float Dress/Outfit” allows its wearers to bring their community together for an actual parade. Community capes—made in real life and displayed at the public installation—allow friends to share a piece of clothing, to talk, or sit in respectful silence, celebrating their bond. “Food Inspired” features outfits that celebrate culturally specific food, like the Pho Dress, also created for the installation, or Boba/Bubble Tea Dresses, which allow wearers to inhabit their favorite treats.

Each outfit becomes especially lively and joyful thanks to Sakugawa’s attention to color, pattern, and texture. The swirls of noodle on the Pho Dress feel as if they’re truly swirling, the Boba dresses have a delightful sense of weight thanks to their silhouettes, and the big parade outfit is incredibly vibrant and warm, with browns and reds creating that sense of warmth and helping pinks, purples, and greens really pop off the page. The visual experience of looking at Fashion Forecasts is powerfully happy, sometimes delicious and always inspiring.

Pho Dress from Fashion Forecasts by Yumi Sakugawa image via Retrofit

The future Sakugawa envisions and offers through the clothing presented in Fashion Forecasts has gone beyond acceptance of difference and moved into a realm where personal identity and self-esteem are valued as part of the simple act of wearing clothing. That’s pretty exciting! Get this bright, joyful vision of the future from Retrofit before the new year brings us more horrors.

Alenka Figa

Alenka Figa

Alenka is a queer librarian and intense cat parent. They spends their days reading zines and indie comics, and twittering about D&D podcasts @alenkafiga.