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Parisienne cool reaches Tokyo

by Misha Janette and Samuel Thomas

Isabel Marant, the queen of French haute-casual wear, has finally opened her first shop in Japan, right off of Tokyo’s Omotesando promenade.

When it comes to French style, chic and sleek uniforms of black usually come to mind. Parisian designer Marant’s collections, however, are far funkier — a hip hodgepodge of color and form. Since she began her line 18 years ago, her edgy style has helped her rise to the top of many fashionistas’ wish-lists.

When Marant visited Tokyo to oversee her store’s opening, she talked about the changes she has witnessed in the apparel industry over the latter half of her career. “Back when I started in the ’90s, it was easy to find financial backers because in the ’80s anything with a brand-name tag sold like hotcakes,” she said. “But I thought that was an odd way to work, and I wanted to promote craftsmanship instead. So I slowly built up my brand, while I saw friends blow through money on fashion shows and fizzle out.”

She also commented on the globalization of fashion trends, which, she said has made the capitals of the world appear far more “homogenized” than in decades past.

But that has not, she noted, affected the way she works.

“I don’t believe in changing my collections for different markets,” she said. “I won’t change a dress because some Japanese women don’t like to show their arms, for example.”

The Tokyo boutique is a franchising partnership with local apparel company Tomorrowland, and it’s somewhat hidden away in an alleyway off Omotesando-dori. An airy wooden structure evocative of a modernist cabin, the shop carries not only the main Isabel Marant line, but also her more casual Etoile diffusion line. (Misha Janette)

Isabel Marant: 4-3-16 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 5772-0412. www.isabelmarant.tm.fr.

Eyeing up vintage glasses

Bringing a new concept to Tokyo’s retail landscape is Solakzade, a vintage and bespoke eyewear boutique that offers a truly unprecedented selection of glasses that borders on being a museum exhibit. This labor of love is from brothers Tatsuya and Ryo Okamoto, collectors of fine eyewear who were so often dissatisfied with the condition of vintage frames that they studied the artisanal techniques of eyewear repair.

That experience led them to opening an appointment-only showroom in Osaka in 2007, and to the amassing of a collection of more than 5,000 frames, which have either been restored to like new or tracked down as dead stock.

Last month, they brought their concept to Tokyo as a fully fledged shop and atelier in arguably one of the best retail locations in Tokyo — on Omotesando-dori, a stone’s throw from Jingumae Crossing.

On any given day, you will find rolled gold frames that date back as far as the 1800s next to timeless modern designs by Ray-Ban, Jean Paul Gaultier and Chanel. For those as demanding as the Okamoto brothers themselves, there is a customization service. And to commemorate their arrival in Tokyo, the brothers have also invested in industry-grade equipment to make their own line of glasses.

Solakzade’s unrivaled expertise has already won it high-profile support from the likes of musician and fashion icon Verbal, and the brothers’ designs are set to be stocked in Isetan department stores and Harajuku LaForet’s gr8. Vintage eyewear, it appears, might well be the next object of desire for the man who has everything. (S.T.)

Solakzade, Goro’s Building B1F, 4-29-4 Jingumae, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo; (03) 3478-3345. www.solakzade.com.

Get ready to party — Tokyo’s Fashion’s Night Out is back

Marking the 4th edition of the world’s annual shopping party, this year’s Tokyo Fashion’s Night Out (FNO) is being held on Sept. 8.

Last year’s FNO was a historic moment for Tokyo’s fashion scene. As a show of support following the Great East Japan Earthquake, FNO founder and Vogue America editor-in-chief Anna Wintour rounded up the world’s Vogue editors to celebrate the apparel industry in the economically stricken nation.

This year, Tokyo is left to its own devices to create a buzz-worthy event, and with an estimated 461 stores in Harajuku, Shibuya and Aoyama participating, there is sure to be enough going on for shoppers to make a night of it.

Most stores will serve refreshments, such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, which will also be giving away limited-edition scarves to those who make purchases. Some will also offer DJs, special discounts, gifts and in-store performances.

To kick off the shopping spree, the opening ceremony will be presided over by supermodel Ai Tominaga and singer-actress Anna Tsuchiya at Omotesando Hills. Last year several designers also made appearances, including Kim Jones, Michael Kors and Kris Van Assche. This year it will be worth keeping your eye on your favorite brands, as right now, details are being kept pretty mum. (M.J.)

www.vogue.co.jp/fno.

Go local for your wedding plans or add some extra Wang

While casual apparel struggles to move beyond 1 percent growth in Japan’s current economic market, bridal wear seems to still pull in a sustainable profit. Case in point is the spate of new wedding-centric boutiques, beginning with the world-renowned American bridal designer Vera Wang and her first salon in Ginza.

Opened in July, the shop — finished in polished black and charcoal-gray graphite and concrete — is 126 sq. meters and located in the glamorous neighborhood of Ginza Itchome. It offers a wide range of Wang’s designs with 30 to 50 dresses available at any one time and some exclusive designs set to hit the shop this coming Autumn. The store also takes order-made requests and sells accessories and other small items.

On the other side of the wedding spectrum is youth-oriented shopping mall Parco in Shibuya, which has set up a new section showcasing exclusive wedding dress and accessory designs from its Tokyo-based brands. There are limited-edition or couture-made items from mori-gal (forest girl) brand Fur Fur, local hat line CA4LA (Kashira) and items from other names, including Tsumori Chisato and Samantha Thavasa. (M.J.)

Vera Wang Bride: 1-5-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; 03-3535-2688. www.verawang.com. Parco: 15-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3464-5111. www.parco.co.jp.

Liam Gallagher casts his Beady Eye over Japan and brings Pretty Green to Tokyo’s urban sprawl

Swaggering ex-Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher was in his element last month. Not only did his new band, Beady Eye, share a stage with recently re-formed Stone Roses at the Fuji Rock Festival, but he also hosted a party in Tokyo’s Aoyama district to mark his fashion line Pretty Green’s first shop outside of Britain.

It has been just over two years since the brand’s flagship opened on London’s Carnaby Street. Now, seven seasons later, Liam’s no-nonsense take on British heritage and rock ‘n’ roll culture seems to be exactly what the men of Tokyo have been waiting for — at least, judging by the 500 or so people who lined up all night to be first through the doors.

To mark the brand’s entry into the Japanese market, Pretty Green designed a limited range of striped boating blazers and classic polo shirts in patriotic shades of red, white and blue. Gallagher also commissioned a one-of-a-kind Pretty Green paisley patterned Mini car, which will be auctioned to raise money for victims of last year’s earthquake.

Speaking at the launch, the British CEO, Richard Ralph, noted that the expansion to Japan was at the behest of Gallagher, who has long been a fan of the country and its fashion.

“We see the brand as having made its name in the U.K., but we haven’t reached out beyond that,” Ralph said. “We see Japan as the place to reach out from to the whole of Asia.”

As the music industry struggles in the digital age, it must be some comfort to know that the fashion culture that surrounds music cannot be downloaded. (Samuel Thomas)

Pretty Green Aoyama; 3-13-17 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-Ku, Tokyo. jp.prettygreen.com.