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Agosta anniversary, Swedish cool, disc hats and more

by Paul Mcinnes and Misha Janette

Well-preened

Japanese apparel brand Agosto threw a big bash last month to celebrate 15 years of success in the industry. The label has garnered a slew of followers through online distributors and boutiques from Fukuoka to Niigata stocking a range of clothes from the casual to the unconventionally cool. Fashion aficionados scramble to pick up original and edgy casualwear from their successful in-house labels such as Fullnelson and Praha, as well as the more cerebral highend pieces they stock from import labels including Jean-Pierre Braganza, Annhagen and London-based Preen. Preen’s designing duo of Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi (pictured right) were on hand to help celebrate the anniversary against a video backdrop of their shows over the years and with a selection of their past works on display. As could be seen from the exhibit, the label’s clothes get the stamp of outre approval as they stretch, cup and slither around the body’s frame. This almost artificial intelligence they display stems from the use of complex designs and fabrics. (Misha Janette)

Tel: (03) 3770-6141; www.agosto.co.jp

Swedish cool

The mention of Swedish design may conjure up nightmare images of being dragged round interior giant IKEA or high-street chain H&M. A few weeks ago the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo opened its doors to “Fashion Sweden 07,” an exhibition celebrating both established and emerging clothing brands, dispelling the image that Swedish design is just DIY cabinets and discount togs.

The organizers claimed Sweden shares a design aesthetic with Japan, citing simplicity, functionality and naturalness as a common thread between the nations.

Although compact, the showcase was filled with everything from images courtesy of photo agency LundLund and Swedish fashion magazine Bon, videos from the recent Stockholm Fashion Week and exhibits from many up-and-coming Nordic labels.

Big names such as J. Lindeberg and Nudie Jeans were represented, but it was the relative upstarts that caught our attention. Tiger of Sweden, Our Legacy, Dauphin and Odd Molly demonstrated the rich potential of Scandinavian design.

With a mix of Swedish sophistication, sharp tailoring, quality patterning and edgy streetwear, these labels are causing quite a big stir in the fashion world. Keep your eyes peeled for some of these brands of the future at various trendy Tokyo boutiques, such as Loveless and Midwest, and bigger stores such as Isetan and Beams. (Paul McInnes)

www.swedishlifestyle.jp/

Blickfang at Tokyo Designer’s Week

Blickfang is a huge design and trade fair held annually in Vienna, Zurich, in Switzerland, and Stuttgart, Germany, that has established itself as a key player in the international convention scene. Bringing together mainly German, Swiss and Austrian designers, the fair is unique because it allows participants to both market their wares to industry insiders and sell to casual customers.

Marking their second effort at staging a scaled-down version of the original in Tokyo, Blickfang joined Tokyo Designer’s Week (which was held from Nov.2-6) in Jingu-Gaien touting new wares by young hopefuls.

Some standouts at the Tokyo show included Elke Peeter’s fawn-inspired jewelry of smooth silver antlers and Silvia Schneider’s decidedly German winterwear in wool plaids and checks, looking very snuggly.

The designer whose booth had the most oglers, however, was certainly Eva Kim Heu’s ( www.evakimheu.com ), with her felt “disc” hats and soft helmet caps. Kim Heu was making a return to Tokyo after last year being picked up by local fashion press, such as fashion magazine SO-EN, and winning the Blickfang Tokyo Grand Prix. Her hats are simple in principle, but the urge to place one of the playful discs — in vibrant colors and adorned with felt butterflies or pompoms — on one’s head is undeniable; making them the proverbial cherry on top of a fabulous and fun ensemble. (M.J.)

www.blickfang.com/tokyo2007

Bags of French chic

Along with Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, leather-goods brand Le Tanneur adds to the global image of French fashion with its philosophy of natural elegance and its quality materials.

Having been around for more than a century, the brand is now rolling out ambitious, expansive plans — including wider distribution in Japan. Le Tanneur’s stores — filled with chic handbags, billfolds, luggage and briefcases — are a classy addition to the Japanese retail market. With boutiques in the Shinjuku, Sapporo and Hiroshima Mitsukoshi Department Stores, the label has become a firm favorite with Japanese who love to flaunt their fashion knowhow.

The stores aim to reflect a philosophy of “elegance, brightness and coziness,” and they feature some quirks that add to the shopping experience. One is a “mirror gallery,” which enables customers to check their handbag from any angle due to the completely mirrored walls. The room also comes with adjustable lighting so customers can see how their bag looks in daylight and evening settings. It is sure to be popular with clutches of ladies who lunch.

If handbags maketh the woman then Le Tanneur could be the choice for those looking for a little Continental discernment and style. (P.M.)

www.letanneuretcie.com >

Cottage industry

The Sarugakucho area in Daikanyama just got a new resident in the form of the Sarugaku shopping complex, which opened Oct. 20. The area is nestled behind busy Kyu Yamate Street and is a mere 3 minutes from Daikanyama Station, but the community is quiet and hopes the new complex will pull in straggling shoppers and their wallets. Six small houselike buildings, the complex hosts 10 fashion brands catering to various tastes: Dragee Rose and Tasse Tasse for hip womenswear, A (“Ace”) and Agosto for men’s and women’s casual fashions, a Bons Bons for handbags, and Poker Face for trendy eyewear, among others. Popular Kobe-based shoe brand Maki Uehara also has a shop there, and its high- quality, direct-from-the-manufacturer leather shoes come at surprisingly satisfying prices. Yamagata-based knit manufacturer Sato Seni — which has employed a designer to create comfy and unique pieces — is also moving in with knitwear store Notre Escalier, which is set to open in Sarugaku on Nov. 17. More tenants are expected to move in soon, making this neighborhood a go-to place for fashion fans. (M.J.)

26-2 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo