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Ground control, we have a fashionable lift-off

by Misha Janette and Paul Mcinnes

Jean-Paul Gaultier’s space

“This is space! It’s another world!” exclaimed Jean-Paul Gaultier at the opening of his new space-themed boutique in Ginza, Tokyo, in December. In extremely high spirits and sporting a space suit complete with helmet, the designer was greeting friends and press at the boutique’s reception. It was a fun way to roll out the new store, which has a flashy interior created by French designer Philippe Starck. The new look will next be replicated in all other Gaultier stores worldwide.

Both floors of the store have been designed around an outer space theme. The walls glow neon blue and white and the first floor has a round ceiling that represents Earth, while visitors find themselves standing on the sky. The second floor has the Earth beneath the feet and stars glowing overhead. Futuristic round display tables are scattered throughout the store, and they each have a ripple-like ring design emanating from where they meet the floor. “Those are inspired by raked Japanese Zen rock gardens, actually,” explained Gaultier.

Gaultier is one of the most celebrated designers of our time, nailing his place in history when he designed Madonna’s pointed “cone bra” in 1990. He went on to design for Hermes, one of the world’s most elite fashion labels, until last year. His signature corsets and leather strappings also have made him a demigod and muse for the Gothic-Lolita fashion subculture here in Japan.

The Ginza shop opening was a roaring success — except for Gaultier’s bulky space suit, that is. “A disaster!” he said laughing, as he was whisked away to have it peeled off him. (Misha Janette)

5-6-16 Ginza, Chuo-ku (03) 6253-8710; www.jeanpaulgaultier.com

Blogging a reputation

Anyone with a keen interest in international retail is naturally au fait with Imran Amed’s website The Business of Fashion. For those based in Japan, however, the one-stop shop for fashion-insider gossip and industry murmurings is now Tokyo Fashion Daily, run by fashion consultant and recruiter Timothy Schepis (pictured right). Since his first post in January 2009, the site has attracted the attention of luxury brand CEOs, designers, stylists and journalists.

The popularity of the site, which has thousands of unique page views, surprised Schepis, a Philadelphia native who began the project after five years in the industry. Having collected so much information, he naturally wanted an outlet to share his knowledge.

From the financial woes of low-end stores such as Jeans Mate to the exclusive world of Hermes and Louis Vuitton, Schepis always seems to have the lowdown. In today’s economic climate, he sees both a revival of domestic designers and the continuing influx of American casual wear brands into the Japanese market. He also predicts that the popularity of yama-gyaru (mountain girls) and ono kawaii (older women dressing in younger fashions) will continue right into 2011. (Paul McInnes)

tokyofashiondaily.blogspot.com

Number (N)ine transforms into The SoloIst

Menswear brand Number (N)ine had successful fashion shows in Paris, boutiques in Tokyo and New York, and it was one of the few Japanese brands that continued to have brisk sales after the economic crash. So it was a shock when designer Takahiro Miyashita announced its end in 2009. One year later, however, Miyashita has made a come back with a new brand: The SoloIst.

Unlike Number (N)ine, which had dark, heavy-handed qualities, The SoloIst has a softer aesthetic — pajama suits, cotton blazers and tissue-thin tank tops. Now in its third season, the designs focus on subtle changes in fabric, silhouette and details. Such details — disjointed sleeves, reverse-side materials, mix-and-match buttons and exposed stitching — are the focal point of the brand, and they are beautifully and painstakingly executed.

Miyashita is well-known for reclusive tendencies, once going so far as spending a month hiding away in a single room in rural Alaska to get inspiration. With The SoloIst you can imagine him tucked away in his Azabu-Juban workshop, poring over the smallest of details.

Some of the looks are a little depression era-like, but Miyashita’s designs are for contemporary lifestyles — suits good for the office that are also comfy enough to hop on a bike. Here’s hoping this brand is given a longer shelf life. (M.J.)

Shinjuku Isetan 3-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku; (03) 3352-1111; www.the-soloist.net

A line worthy of a supermodel

When a rare supermodel such as Irina Lazareanu shows up unexpectedly on the Tokyo Fashion Week runways, you know something is up. Sure enough, it turned out that she was here last March, not only to strut her stuff but also to work on her own fashion line, which debuted in early fall with a pre-collection and then with an official spring/summer collection at an exhibition in December.

Lazareanu is as popular for her own tomboyish, devil-may-care cool styling as she is for her cutting cheekbones, so it was only a matter of time before a line such as Irina L. would appear. But sadly for her international fans, the designs are exclusive to Japan. Created under the Baroque Japan Limited umbrella, Irina L was born from the popularity of a T-shirt Lazareanu designed last year in collaboration with Moussy, another of Baroque’s brands.

Featuring menswear cut for women, it includes leather jackets, blazers and button-up shirts, some of which are embroidered by the model herself. Lazareanu states, “My own style has no rules and no particular theme. It all comes from old movies, vintage clothes and music that I listen to. At times it’s a semblance of rock ‘n’ roll, and at others a glamorous sexy girl. But really, a simple T-shirt and jeans suit me the most.” (M.J.)

Currently available at AZUL by Moussy: 3-19-2 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku; (03) 6730-9191. Later this year, the line will move to other store, which have yet to be disclosed.

Thoroughly modern history

Hiroyuki Horihata and Makiko Sekiguchi, the designers behind Matohu, take traditional Japanese dress and give it a modern makeover. Every one of their collections has been based on nuances from bygone clothing. In fact, the first five years of Matohu lines were based solely on the arts of the Keicho Period (1596-1615), and pieces from those collections are now on show at an exhibition at the Spiral Garden building in Minami-Aoyama.

Although Horihata and Sekiguchi began their careers, respectively, at the studios of avant-garde luminaries Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons, their designs are far less cerebral and dark. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that they are simple.

As is explained in detail at the exhibition, the grueling processes of reviving and using ancient dyeing techniques, the development of new textiles, and experiments in intricate weaving have all contributed to the brand’s popularity and cult-like following of fans. Although inspirations from the Keicho Period vary widely — they have based collections on the kabukimono, a powerful warrior tribe, as well as elegant late 16th-century Shino pottery — they are consistent in their silhouettes, which lean toward column robes and layering. The collections on show are largely discontinued, but some reproductions will be available to order at the show. (M.J.)

“Matohu: The Beauty of Keicho” runs till Jan. 19 at Spiral Garden 5-6-23 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku; (03) 3498-1171; www.matohu.com