‘Anything goes’ unites women’s collections

by Misha Janette

Special To The Japan Times

What exactly is Tokyo fashion? Is it a pastiche of color and gobs of shapes so outrageous it’s like we’re being punked? Or is it the modern, conservative look that is an actual mainstay on the streets?

That was the million-dollar question again at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tokyo fall/winter 2012 shows — especially regarding the women’s collections that seemed to eschew any kind of common denominator.

Let’s get down to it: If there is a happy medium to be found, it will be at GVGV. Designer Mug knows how to create incredibly trendy collections that sell like hot cakes among the more fashion-conscious Japanese women. This time she had all of the coming season’s anchors checked: paisley patterns, glitter — and ’70s-style leisure suits in jewel-toned jacquard. The mannish overtones on models who exuded pomp and swag were a welcome contrast to the girly-girly look popular in mainstream apparel today.

Matohu also had a spot-on collection, with their Japanese robe-inspired attire. This time they seem to be going through a “blue period,” with their designs coming in varying tones of blue ranging from periwinkle to cerulean and aquamarine.

Matohu’s designer duo Hiroyuki Horihata and Makiko Sekiguchi took inspiration from the archaic word yatsushi which went from being an insult along the lines of “playboy” to gaining a sentimental nuance when it became popular in the kabuki theater. It was a lovely consistent collection with a highlight seen in the sweaters patterned with visible paintbrush-like strokes.

fur fur has a legion of fans who subscribe to its niche grandmother-like and old-timey style called “forest girl” — but with its latest showing it may be picking up a wider audience.

The show was inspired by the 1920s, with mermaid skirts and workwear in camel brown and blush pink, dotted with denim. The simple silhouettes were fancied up with tulle and chiffon and styled with oversized collars that made them look more like conservative Quakers than zany flappers.

It was easy to parse the pretty clothing from the full look, making it one of their strongest collections in recent years.

Somarta also has a strong fan base thanks to its innovative seamless knitwear as well as its avant-garde, show-stopping creations. Designer Tamae Hirokawa has been getting smart about getting more variety on her runway though, and she began her show this time with incredibly wearable shift dresses in satiny brown and jackets that could be considered office attire. The end of the show brought out her creativity, with a series of dresses inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Head of a Young Woman with Tousled Hair” from 1486, in which giant knit loops turn and twist on each other in beautiful chaos.

Nozomi Ishiguro Haute Couture is also decidedly avant-garde, but more for designer Ishiguro’s views on politics and social issues that seep into his collections, rather than the designs themselves.

For fall/winter, Ishiguro held his taboo-themed show at a retro cabaret with music from a live saxophonist in central Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, where he waxed satirical — e.g.: “My thinking is, I don’t really want to live here in Tokyo (with post-earthquake uncertainty) but I have no choice because of work. Running away would be taboo.”

He expressed his viewpoint with raw unfinished edges and overbearing furs styled with a post-apocalyptic mishmash of graffiti and faded comic-book patterns.

Out of the entire week’s lineup, though, the best collection in terms of concept and execution was a toss up between Anrealage and Mintdesigns.

Anrealage took issue with “time” by showing it passing — literally — in its clothing. Patterns are slightly blurred and cuffs, collars and buttons are multiplied like stacks of freeze frames. The colors are both pop and neutral and designs run the gamut from leatherwear to light sun dresses making for an incredibly saleable collection.

The attention to detail given by designer Kunihiko Morinaga is astounding; even the metal zipper pulls have been given the slow time-treatment.

Mintdesigns’ concepts are usually less literal, but this time their idea was plain to see, with broken-dish hats and jacquard covered in “fragile” text. Designers Nao Yagi and Hokuto Katsui created prints inspired by traditional Wedgewood patterns that looked like broken dishes glued back together. Roll up the hems and inside are “Handle With Care” packing tape prints. These whimsical hidden details may be unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, but they are a reminder that an item from Mintdesigns has gone through a design process that involves more than just a slapdash trip to and from the garment factory.

This collection also seemed to reflect the Japanese fashion scene itself, one so varied it too is like a broken dish glued back together as one. And with economic fragility always on the mind, perhaps it is beneficial to have such a myriad of enclaves to fall back upon.

Cute, casual, pop, avant-garde and sober are all as much a part of the fashion identity here in Japan — all under the single banner of “Anything goes”.