The Great Wave off Kanagawa par Hokusai (1760-1849)

Hokusai is probably the most famous Japanese artist. I’m sure you’ve seen The Great Wave, the gigantic and threatening wave looming over a tiny Mount Fuji, while three small boats are braving the foam. Hokusai’s refined, delicate, and accurate style had an impact on the modern world in general and on the world of fashion in particular. Here’s how!


Dior (spring-summer 2007)


Hokusai, Year-end accounts, 1824–1826

This splendid coat created by John Galliano represents the ultimate Japanese elegance: a shape resembling a kimono falling down to the ankles, large sleeves, a highlighted waist, a collar that reminds us of origami, and of course the pattern of Hokusai’s wave.

Japan had a major influence on Christian Dior. Japanese prints used to adorn the designer’s childhood home, and he developed and disseminated this imaginary world in his creations. This connection endured after his death – the Empress Michiko chose Dior to create her wedding dress; Japan has hosted Dior fashion shows over and over again and the brand has organised several exhibitions to showcase the work of Japanese artists.

The Great Wave is the achievement of a lifetime. Did you know that Hokusai painted it when he was 70?


Hokusai, Le Fuji par temps clair, 1830–1832


Raf Simons (spring-summer 2015)

Actually, the former designer for Dior, Raf Simons, was able to rely on the help of Japanese distributors when he started out. In this collection, Simons shares his personal story, and pays tribute to them through the use of Hokusai’s prints symbolizing Japan.

At the back of the jackets, views of Mount Fuji are combined with images evoking Raf Simons’s childhood and life. This intimate collection pays tribute to some of the major sources of inspiration when it comes to the creative act: memories.

Mount Fuji was one of Hokusai’s favourite subjects – he created more than 100 prints representing it!


Alena Akhmadullina (spring-summer 2016)


Hokusai, Umezawa Manor in Sagami Province from Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji, 1831

Here, you can identify Hokusai’s style through the fine and delicate lines of the pattern created by Russian designer Alena Akhmadullina. The clothes seem to be in motion, highlighting the power of the wave.

The blue colour chosen by the fashion designer strongly reminds us of the Prussian blue used by Hokusai. This pigment was new at the time, and was imported from Holland to Japan – it is more intense, deeper, and more durable than the pigments used until then which quickly turned brownish. This blue pigment is particularly emblematic of the Japanese artist’s work.

Hokusai was a very bold creator, always looking for ways to improve his technique. This will to reinvent himself is also apparent in his own name – throughout his 70 year-long career, Hokusai adopted almost 120 pseudonyms and artist names! Hokusai was also known as Katsukawa, Sôri II, Taitô, Litsu, or Manji – and the list goes on!

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll be happy to learn that the British Museum is currently hosting a beautiful exhibition on Hokusai’s work.

Photos credits : Vogue and British Museum