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A season for accolades, milestones and new frontiers

Gucci, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, UNDERCOVER and Shiseido

by Misha Janette

Florence and Kyoto unite to celebrate Gucci’s 90 years

Revered luxury brand Gucci is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year with a special traveling exhibition in Japan that highlights its prowess in craftsmanship. Starting at the famed Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple in Kyoto, “Gucci: 90 years” showcases a selection of artisanal goods from the brand’s archives, as well as some of the traditional arts of Kyoto.

Kyoto has a history of outstanding craftsmanship, and Gucci has teamed up with Hiroshi Senju, renowned nihonga (Japanese-style painting) artist and president of the Kyoto University of Art & Design, to assist with the project. Kyoto-born top celebrity/fashion-magazine stylist Tomoki Sukezane rounds out the team, which is being overseen by Frida Giannini, the Rome native and creative director of the Gucci label since 2006. The show will take place in the temple’s Hojo building from June 25-July 13.

Kyoto is a sister city to Florence in Italy, the original home of Gucci, making it a fitting location for the start of the brand’s anniversary festivities. Following the Kinkaku-ji show, the event moves in October to the Kyoto University of Art & Design’s Galerie Aube, for which talented art students from the university will be adding their contribution to the exhibition.

The Gucci flagship in Tokyo’s Ginza area will be the final destination for “Gucci: 90 years” in November, where it will also be a part of the store’s fifth-anniversary celebrations.

Tickets for the Kinkaku-ji exhibit are available on-site at the Hojo special tickets counter from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. for ¥1,200. For more information, call Gucci customer service at (03) 5469-6611.

Yohji Yamamoto takes a bow

On June 1, just moments before Yohji Yamamoto was to take the podium in Tokyo at a reception honoring his 30 years of participation in Paris Fashion Week, the Ambassador of France, Philippe Faure, stepped in to make an astounding announcement: Yamamoto was to be awarded a Commander level of the Order of Arts and Letters in France at the end of the month. The highest honor in its category, the award recognizes Yamamoto’s achievements in the fashion industry and his contribution to the arts.

In front of an exhibit of photographs by luminaries such as Peter Lindbergh, a crowd of both new and old friends gathered and waxed nostalgic about the ingenious designs Yamamoto has created since his world-stage debut in 1981. He has had a long and illustrious career designing for his eponymous line as well as for Y-3 Adidas, and has already received numerous cultural and design awards.

This past year — with a major retrospective of his works at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and the world-wide publication of his quasi-memoir, “My Dear Bomb” — has been one of especially good fortune for Yamamoto. And this September, he will also be the subject of “This is My Dream,” a documentary to be released on DVD that follows the making of a Y-3 collection from start to finish.

All of this attention seemed a little overwhelming for the famously private designer, whose thank-you speech after Faure was a humble blink-and-miss-it affair. But he was all smiles that evening as he signed autographs for both adoring friends and young starry-eyed fans.

www.yohjiyamamoto.co.jp.

There’s nothing backward about Issey Miyake’s Elttob Tep

Issey Miyake’s newest concept shop, Elttob Tep, opened in Ginza the very same day as the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. Luckily, there was no damage and its impressive lineup of carefully selected items from the full Miyake spectrum has since been attracting attention.

Elttob Tep — “PET bottle” spelled backwards — emphasizes Miyake’s environmental concerns and is a reference to his use of innovative fabrics created from recycled plastic.

The store houses the main Issey Miyake men’s and women’s lines; and also items from Pleats Please, Haat, Me, 132 5. Issey Miyake, the Bao Bao accessories line; and accessories such as eyewear, perfume and watches. The bright, white concrete-laden interior was designed by Taku Satoh, the director of Miyake’s art museum 21_21 Design Sight in Midtown, who also worked on the first Elttob Tep store in Osaka.

In other Miyake news, Yoshiyuki Miyamae has been announced as the new creative director of Issey Miyake’s womenswear, taking the reins from Dai Fujiwara, who stepped down in February this year. As it often the case with Japanese brands, Miyame spent 10 years in the Miyake family working his way up from assistant. His first collection, for spring/summer 2012, will show in Paris in October.

Elttob Tep, 4-4-5 Ginza Chuo-ku; (03) 3566-5225; www.isseymiyake.co.jp.

Filming undercover

Japanese brand UNDERCOVER is readying itself for the big screen. Earlier this year, designer Jun Takahashi let it be known on his personal blog that he would be filming a short documentary to debut at Tokyo’s Short Shorts Film Festival (SSFF-ASIA 2011), which runs from July 16-26. He said that for the most part the film would detail the taxing process of putting together a fashion show, with a focus on the fall/winter 2011-12 collection he presented in Paris in March.

“I wouldn’t call it an ‘entertainment’ film, but I think it should be required viewing for those who are interested in the fashion industry,” he wrote on his blog.

The film also looks into Takahashi’s hometown, Kiryu City in Gunma Prefecture, which helped fund the project. Could this mean the film may feature information about the designer’s early years? Let’s hope he talks about his success as an urban-wear tycoon in the 1990s when he worked with his friend NIGO, who later founded BAPE. Footage of his life as part of the high-brow fashion crowd in Paris would be, of course, fascinating, but a first-hand account of Takahashi’s involvement in fertilizing the Harajuku-style fashion boom would be a great bonus.

Fashion has been explored by documentary filmmakers since the late 1980s, including in Douglas Keeve’s “Unzipped” about Isaac Mizrahi and Matt Tyrnauer’s “The Last Emperor” on the glam and glitzy Valentino. Directed by Tetsuya Nagato and shot by Takahashi, “MIRROR: A Documentary Film of UNDERCOVER” should make interesting viewing for those wanting to see how a Japanese designer’s lifestyle compares with his compatriots’ in the West.

“MIRROR: A Documentary film of UNDERCOVER” shows on Jun 19 from 3:45 to 5:35 p.m. at Omotesando Hills Space-O. For more information and tickets, visit www.shortshorts.org.

Shiseido gets a makeover

Shiseido is gearing up early for its 140th anniversary in 2012, and has completely renovated its Shiseido The Ginza beauty building with a futuristic makeover.

The first floor has been furnished with virtual makeup systems that allow you to try products without actually having to put them on your face. After a chosen product’s barcode is scanned, a real-time simulation of your face wearing it appears on an LED screen.

The beauty assistants’ uniforms, too, have been redesigned — by none other than Tokyo’s queen of futuristic fashion, Tamae Hirokawa of Somarta. Though Hirokawa hasn’t dressed assistants in the high-tech seamless bodysuits that put Somarta on the map, she has added modernistic touches, such as the shiny pink and silver color palette. Hirokawa joins other designers working for brands, such as Theatre Products, who created uniforms for the “Tokyo’s Tokyo” gift shop at Haneda Airport, and Toshikazu Iwaya, who is working on jerseys for Japan’s national basketball team.

Overseeing a uniform redesign is a gratifying yet high-pressure task. “Functionality is the most difficult part,” says Hirokawa, who explained that, “Finding a fabric that I thought was fashionable but strong enough to endure a lot of washings took ages. I also needed the women to look approachable to customers, and yet allow them to have personality. In the end, I designed seven different pieces to mix and match with.”

Shiseido The Ginza, 7-8-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku; (03) 3571-7735; stg.shiseido.co.jp.