Barrett, Simons and Clemens in Tokyo

by Misha Janette and Paul Mcinnes

Fast flagships

On Sept. 17, the new flagship store for designer Neil Barrett opened in Tokyo with the assistance of a heavyweight collaborator — none other than hot U.K. architect Zaha Hadid came on board for her first retail-venue project. Barrett, a 20-year design veteran of tailored cuts (pictured right with fashion model Shiho), made a rare appearance in Tokyo to greet revelers to his new space.

“Zaha came up with a concept in the first 10 minutes,” said the U.K. designer. “She knew exactly what she wanted to do, and I loved it. It’s just like when I design my collection, if I don’t like the design right away I throw it out.”

Barrett worked with Hadid and her partner Patrik Schumacher to create a shop that’s somewhere between sculpture and architecture, designed to mimic the folds and pleats in the fashion label’s clothing. Towering, curved display racks for menswear, anchored in the center of the vast first floor, look as if they must have some secret, hidden function. Upstairs, womenswear is housed in a cozier atmosphere, with low ceilings but an equally eclectic shelving system whose folds and curves create a circular, continuous space.

Such features will not be exclusive to Tokyo — though they are appearing here first — as the concept will be rolled out to all Neil Barrett flagships worldwide.

“The Japanese are vastly fashion conscious,” said Barrett at the opening. “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”

3-17-6 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku; (03) 5474-0051; www.neilbarrett.com

Boxing fashion

Subaquatic life, American religious sects and the late 1980s are not exactly common bedfellows. In the heady and avant-garde world of Tokyo fashion, though, these subjects were par for the course when it came to sources of inspiration for spring/summer 2009 menswear collections. The crucial shows this season were N. Hoolywood’s homage to the Pennsylvanian Amish community (inspired by designer Daisuke Obana’s trip to New York’s American Folk Art Museum a few years back) and Arashi Yanagawa’s masterpiece for the John Lawrence Sullivan label, based on the theme of Gothic aristocrats. The JLS show, one of the strongest of recent times, was held in the regal halls of the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery. A triumph from start to finish, it displayed the precision tailoring and intuitive knowledge of color associated with Yanagawa, a former boxer like the label’s namesake. Models strutted down the hushed gallery halls in hues of blue and purple, with the focus piece being a cobalt-blue ensemble of a summer trench coat, shirt, waistcoat and fitted shorts, not to mention blue lipstick. Tux jackets, checked pants and a multitude of colored patent shoes were surefire winners, making itsuddenly clear that the future of Japanese menswear is safe in a boxer’s hands. (Paul McInnes) The John Lawrence Sullivan Store is in the MS Bldg, 1-19-7 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo; (03) 5428-0068; www.john-lawrence-sullivan.com

A quick stop

This year, the end of October will welcome a festival of fashion debauchery and the horrifyingly chic. No, Style Wise isn’t talking about the Hallowed Eve of Tokyu Hands costumes, but Clemens en August, a traveling fashion brand that will make a tour stop in Tokyo for one witching week.

A men’s and women’s clothing brand, Clemens en August is not available in any stores. Instead, the Dutch-born designer Alexander Brenninkmeijer sells his collection directly to customers while on tours around the world. Such exclusivity is backed by designs that are equal part high-quality staples done in cashmere and silk, and pure funk gestures such as details and fasteners that wildly contrast. Celeb fans include actor Daniel Craig and model Claudia Schiffer.

The luxury brand typically relies on word of mouth among savvy fashion-spotters to spread the word when it sets up temporary shop in galleries and other art spaces in cities such as Munich, New York and London. Due to Clemens’ low overheads, smart insiders can get their mitts on immaculately tailored pieces for almost a third of the price of comparable brands. So this Halloween, you won’t need a costume to get your hands on a sweet bag of booty. (Misha Janette) On sale Oct. 23-26 at Zel Gallery Roppongi, 5-10-25 Roppongi, Minato-ku; (03) 3470-3347; www.clemensenaugust.com

Raf in Aoyama

Raf Simons is a name, for those who follow fashion, that’s synonymous with innovation in modern contemporary menswear. Thus for hardcore fans and curious style-buffs alike, the following news can’t be sweet enough: The world’s only Raf Simons flagship store, which opened in Tokyo’s Aoyama district in September, will be joined by an Osaka counterpart in Umeda this month.

The industrial design-trained creatorhas been adulated by fashion fans since he first produced a menswear line in 1995. His clothes have shown a distinct ability to mix precision-cut classic elements with streetwear influences. The new shops echo this ethos by handing the reins of the appearance of the interiors to artists Sterling Ruby and Roger Hiorns, whom Simons has collected for many years. Ruby turned the Aoyama store into a vast canvas on which he splattered bleached-out blue spots over the walls and ceiling.

In 2005 Simons was appointed chief designer of the brand Jil Sander, which, in a surprising move last month, was sold for ¥22 billion to Japanese megacorporation Onward by the Prada group. Such a hefty dowry for the acquisition — in addition to the new Simons shops — certainly confirms the special fondness Japan holds for the Belgian-born designer. (Misha Janette) 6-2-7 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, (03) 5774-6097; Herbis Plaza B1, 2-5-25 Kita-ku, Umeda, Osaka, (06) 6344-1038; www.rafsimons.com

Storming the underground

Couture dressmaking brand Quantize took its label underground — literally — during this September’s fashion week in New York City, staging an uptown show in a downtown subway station. A handful of models strutted on a platform before stepping onto a passing train in ethnic- inspired dresses splattered with Japanese hanga (woodblock) patterns. (The bold designs are from a collaboration with the artist Naoki Takenouchi.)

Quantize is a two-person team that is based in Fukuoka Prefecture, director Kiharu Kawano and designer Nobuko Nakamura, who first met one another in grade school. After the two women spent extensive time training in design in Japan and abroad, they established their label two years ago. The New York stunt stemmed from a decision to introduce simpler ready-to-wear clothes to coincide with a contract to sell a line this season at Destination N.Y., a popular Japanese- run boutique.

“I was reading a magazine that said our fortunes overseas were high, so that started it,” Nakamura laughed recently, commenting on the origins of the project. Here in Tokyo, Quantize will present its spring/summer ’09 collection to the fashion world from Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 at Minato Ward’s Azabujuban Gallery. (Misha Janette) Azabujuban Gallery, 1-7-2 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku, is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; (03) 5411-3900; www.quantize-dressline.com