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Sobocki, Swatch, etc.

by Misha Janette

Sobocki, so good

Poland native Przemek Sobocki has carved himself a niche in the fashion world with eye-catching illustrations for magazine features. Balenciaga, Prada and Yohji Yamamoto are among the designers from which Sobocki has drawn inspiration for his dreamy landscapes in which young girls flounce around in their two-dimensional designer duds. Using a technique in which blurry photographs are merged with sketches, Sobocki acts as the stylist, the model and the photographer in his fashion narratives.

Trained in architecture, interior design and fashion, Sobocki taught illustration before he teamed up with underground magazines Hint Mag and Krash Japan. In 2004, he came to Japan for an exhibition with streetwear publication NYLON, during which he was approached by his current business partner Bertie Russell to create a new line of graphic T-shirts called FouR.

The men’s and women’s brand has put out its first collection this season, with Sobocki’s experiences in East London serving as a base for his quirky but simple illustrations of women’s stockings and dresses and men’s neckties. Available in such trendsetting shops as Loveless in Aoyama and Color By Numbers in Daikanyama, no fashionably astute doodle fan should be without one of these fun tees.

tel.: (03) 5772-2401; www.sobocki.com

From where?

Sustainable fashion is something that you don’t always associate with the bright lights and neon of Ginza. However, tucked away on the third floor of the Opaque store is a small collection by environmentally friendly fashion pioneers Orsola de Castro and Filippo Ricci. Having garnered attention at London Fashion Week, their up-and-coming label, From Somewhere, is making waves in Tokyo.

Taking cutoffs and unused material from Italy’s leading fabric mills, the label creates stylish, modern garments for environmentally conscious fashion mavens. The one-off creations are elegant with an eclectic mix of materials and summery fluorescent colors.

This season’s collection, which, according to the label, skips between village fete and Studio 54, is perfect for summer festivals, relaxed dinner parties and swinging Tokyo clubs.

An interesting play on boho with natural sensuality, From Somewhere have created something special for the summer that shows fashion doesn’t have to cost the earth. (Paul McInnes)

3-5-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; tel: (03) 5250-1184; www.fromsomewhere.co.uk

Je aime Jane

Although many Japanese know her only for the Hermes bag named in her honor, Jane Birkin is best remembered elsewhere for the scandalous 1960s song “Je T’Aime,” performed with Serge Gainsbourg, her then lover. In France, Birkin is a cultural icon with a stellar career as an actress and singer. She was in Tokyo last week to celebrate the opening of “Touchline by Gabrielle Crawford: Including a Retrospective of Jane Birkin,” an exhibition showing till June 17 at the Tokyo branch of exclusive Parisian fashion boutique L’Eclaireur. Photographer Crawford has been Birkin’s best friend and “visual biographer” for over 40 years. Besides images of Birkin, which display an intimacy only such a close bond could create, the exhibition showcases snaps of mostly British celebrities. (Martin Webb)

4-21-26 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo; tel: (03) 6406-0252

Time in spaces

Swatch’s first building in Japan is an ideal place for those with a little time to spare. Designed by architect du jour Shigeru Ban, this latest temple to consumption in Ginza is the Swatch Group’s Nicolas G. Hayek Center. Unobtrusive and chic, the complex is a watch aficionado’s dream, offering seven small boutiques catering for prestige brands such as Blancpain and Jacquet Droz and affordable names like Swatch and Tissot.

Ban has created a space which allows each brand to have its own specially designed elevator departing from the ground floor. More conservative high-end brands like Breguet and Leon Hatot opt for jazz and classical background music with lavish velvet and gold interiors, while relative upstart Swatch opts for a kaleidoscopic wall of its watches in a treat for children and adults alike.

The fifth floor’s Jardin du Temps offers a breather from the hurly-burly. A tranquil oasis, the seats have great views of the Ginza cityscape. (Paul McInnes)

7-9-18 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-8188; tel: (03) 6254-7200; www.swatchgroup.jp

It’s in the can

Uniqlo, which made headlines recently with the launch of a New York megastore, is refocusing on its hometown with the opening of a concept shop, UT Store Harajuku.

Situated in the same location as the Uniqlo shop that sparked the craze for the brand’s simple fleece jackets in 1998, UT Store Harajuku takes a more fashion-forward approach than its predecessor by crossing a T-shirt boutique with the kind of futuristic convenience store that the cast of “The Matrix” would feel at home in.

The three-story playhouse (the fourth floor is a free gallery not operated by Uniqlo) is lined from floor to ceiling with shelves of clear capsules that house one of 500 printed T-shirts. You can browse the traditional way by taking a gander at the display racks or, instead, tickle your cranium by using a digital search that zips through a flurry of sizes, colors, fits or prints to find the perfect match for even the pickiest T-shirt connoisseur.

To commemorate the opening, Uniqlo has tapped a gob of artistic innovators such as Yayoi Kusama and Nagi Noda, as well as fashion designer crazies Gareth Pugh and Kim Jones, to contribute to the project. There are also designs that pay tribute to Atom Boy creator Osamu Tezuka and a line from bad-boy fashion photographer Terry Richardson. Each year, 1,000 new designs are planned to be introduced, and, at only 1,500 yen a pop, it wouldn’t be hard to create an impressive collection of these tops. (Misha Janette)