Yohji Yamamoto, Tsumori Chisato and Soichiro Ito’s latest moves

by Misha Janette and Paul Mcinnes

Summer under the sea

A deep-sea dive in a coral reef may not be in the cards for your vacation this year, but you can always bring the ocean to you with clothing from Tsumori Chisato.

Tsumori’s latest collection offers a glimpse of the colorful aquatic kingdom sans any saltwater chafing. Pieces from the collection evoke fishy themes with coral, shells, sakana and air bubbles scattered through patchwork netting and undulating, wavelike ruffles. Her transparent photorealistic prints have a sheen that emits a phosphorescent glow much like those mysterious creatures who dwell leagues under the sea.

The Tsumori Chisato design studio was established in 1990 and is part of the A-Net group, a big fish in the Issey Miyake aquarium. Tsumori refined her skills as chief designer of Issey Sports for seven years before beginning her own line, which now shows on-schedule in the Paris fashion week. The designer is known for the quirky, childlike textile prints that she’s been using in her creations since she began her line in 1990. Thankfully, she stops short of introducing a Disneyesque chorus of singing crustaceans and bubbly mermaids, reigning her patterns for a slightly more mature look.

Young-at-heart fans will have plenty of reasons to croon when her new Ginza Boutique opens on May 24. The store will stock items not available at her other shops, such as pieces closer to what she shows on the catwalk. And there’s no diving license necessary to peruse the racks.

The new Tsumori Chisato Ginza Boutique will open on May 24 at 1-4-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; www.a-net.com

Yohji Yamamoto and the acronyms

What is black, white and gleaming from ear to ear? Designer Yohji Yamamoto in one of his trademark suits at his breakthrough fashion show in Beijing on April 24.

The show was held at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed ancestral temples of the Forbidden City, with a troupe of models flown in to show 60 men’s and women’s pieces — all one-offs not available in stores. The floodgates of foreign fashion in China haven’t been opened as wide as this since Vogue China appeared there in 2005 when a spectacle supported by the — take a deep breath — Chinese Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (that’s CPAFFC for short) drew over 600 key attendees — unprecedented for a non-Chinese fashion house.

What’s more, two days later, 23 of Yamamoto’s looks were auctioned off in Bejing by Sotheby’s, with all proceeds going to the newly established Yohji Yamamoto Foundation for Peace (YYFP). The objective of the foundation is to annually give a selected Chinese designer a scholarship for continuing study abroad and choose a Chinese model to make a debut at Paris Fashion Week. Yamamoto hopes this will help heal the rift in Japan-China relations, and, while a fashionable Band-Aid can’t cure infection, it’s better than no treatment at all.

www.yohjiyamamoto.co.jp

Acute in Nakameguro

As store concepts go, treating the isosceles triangle as an inspiration is certainly one of the more out-there ideas. But Soichiro Ito’s Soe label makes it work, even if the philosophy of the triangular floor plan is left unexplained to even loyal customers. Nonetheless, the sparse space of the new store in Nakameguro has a cool ambience that fits in with other stores opening in the area, such as one from the lauded brand John Lawrence Sullivan.

Bright yellow has never been an easy color to wear, but Soe’s Spring/Summer 08 collection “Yellow Poet For Graduation” is full of character and boyish charm. Yellow-and-white striped shorts, light blousons, fitted jackets and button-down striped shirts have a young-gentleman- about-town feel that mirrors some of this summer’s general menswear trends.

The brand also has its own shirt line, “Soe Shirts,” which range from the traditional to the more experimental. Made from cotton with a touch of polyurethane, these expertly crafted garments offer both durability and flexibility, so you’ll be showing them off for some time to come.

3-18-10 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0042; (03) 5457 2166; www.soe-tokyo.com

The online street

With 1.2 million hits a month, the most popular English-language Web site on Japanese fashion, JapaneseStreets ( www.japanesestreets.com ), pulls in readers from pretty much every country on the globe, including unlikely style-wise locations such as North Korea. A source of fashion eye-candy since 2002, the site has recently had a makeover.

Shortlisted in 2003 with big industry names Style.com and SHOWstudio for a prestigious Webby Award, the site has broadened its coverage to include Japan Fashion Week, Tokyo Girls Collection and Japanese fashion directories in addition to its updates of the latest street fashion from the Kansai to Kanto regions. A veritable fashion treasure chest it features reports from Japan’s style cognoscenti. (Disclosure: Myself and fellow Style Wise writer Misha Janette are regular contributors to the site.)

In a chat with the chief editor Kjeld Duits, the Dutchman insists that despite recent police crackdowns on Akihabara cosplayers, JapaneseStreets will remain a forum and mirror of what is happening in both subversive and more mainstream fashion circles.