It’s tough for men

by Paul Mcinnes

Japan Fashion Week (JFW), now in its seventh season, has never put much emphasis on menswear. This year, it appeared merely as an afterthought.

A paltry selection seems at odds with the fact that the Japanese menswear market and number of top-quality domestic labels is huge. The enormous success of Shinjuku’s Isetan Men’s and the Hankyu Mens department store in Osaka, which opened earlier this year and contains a great section of homegrown talent in addition to international labels, is testament to the obsessive interest in men’s clothing in Japan.

It’s never going to happen, but the creation of a separate menswear event (including both JFW men’s collections and the numerous off-schedule shows) would be a winner for the domestic fashion market. Modeled on something like the legendary trade fair Pitti Uomo in Florence or the Milan and Paris men’s collections, it could be an event run by fashion experts for fashion lovers. It would be great to see Tokyo organizing something like Pitti, which is unfailingly a few undiluted days of the best menswear on offer anywhere in the world.

But let’s move on to the handful of quality men’s collections in JFW. Anyone who has followed our fashion week coverage over the past few years will know that Eri Utsugi’s mercibeaucoup has a taste for all things twee and theatrical. The latest collection, with a typical explosion of colors, patterns and influences, didn’t disappoint her die-hard followers.

It’s been quite a year for Noda. Fashion bible WWD Japan crowned him, on its front cover as “Prince” of the Fall/Winter collections, and his first store has opened in the youth mecca of Harajuku. Last season’s collection was a perfect showcase of his talents, displaying as it did superb tailoring in a somber palette of grays and blacks that were a world away from the derivative feel of his first label, the now defunct Iliad. This season seemed slightly weaker, with no real use of color, variation or energy, but there were some great relaxed two-button jackets. Added to these were crisp white shirts and a cool street-style look that was one of the main features in the European shows. The original line-pattern tops and cardigans were fine, but nothing really stood out. However, Noda needn’t fret, as he has all the makings of a really promising designer and, in time, looks set to ascend from prince to king.