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Louis Vuitton still going dotty

by Misha Janette and Samuel Thomas

Fans of French luxury brand Louis Vuitton are still seeing spots before their eyes.

The brand’s latest collection with Yayoi Kusama comes after a string of highly successful artist collaborations that began in 2002 with Takashi Murakami. It really was only a matter of time before Kusama’s idiosyncratic polka dots made their way onto the canvas of Vuitton’s famed monogram bags.

The first lineup of polka-dotted items was released worldwide in July, with special concept shops in Tokyo’s Isetan Shinjuku and another in Dover Street Market in Ginza. Kusama herself made an appearance at the store’s opening event, sporting her signature orange bob and a red-and-white polka-dot sheath dress. The second wave of the collection focuses on Kusama’s famous dotted and slouchy pumpkins, and to kick it off, a 2-meter tall pumpkin artwork is being displayed at Matsuya Department Store in Ginza until Sept. 23.

This new lineup of items went on pre-sale at the beginning of September, and is being rolled out to the rest of the country on Sept. 14. It includes a family of Vuitton’s most popular bags, all in bright primary colors and covered in dots in undulating waves of circles. The purse styles include the round Papillon for ¥139,650 and a long wallet for ¥87,150. It might not sound it, but the patterns are subtle enough to have wide appeal, so these items are sure to go fast — especially as they’ll be considered collectors’ pieces. (Misha Janette)

Louis Vuitton, Matsuya Ginza 3-6-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3567-1211. www.louisvuitton.com .

Menswear with edge

Any worries that Japanese menswear might be losing its edge after the somewhat conservative showing at Tokyo Fashion Week can be put aside — that is, if you’re looking in the right place.

Last month, newcomer D.TT.K launched in Harajuku without a hint of PR or promotion, and yet it still managed to attract Tokyo’s full attention, judging by the star-studded clientele at the packed opening.

“No, I won’t be showing at Fashion Week,” said designer Detto K, laughing. “My fashion comes from the underground music scene, and it should stay there.”

Detto K knows all about the nature of off-the-radar appeal. As a designer and artist with no formal training, he first became known for his prominent presence in the Tokyo street-fashion scene. He learned all he needed to establish his own brand by working at Candy, a select shop in Shibuya that has become internationally renowned for dressing Lady Gaga.

The unorthodox approach has paid off — Detto’s hip-hop-meets-high-fashion collection is free from the formulaic and packed with fresh touches. His design approach hinges on creating clothing he feels will be representative of Tokyo street style. Central to the current lineup is an unconventional use of unpolished latex.

“I didn’t want it to look too fetishistic,” said Detto K, “So I left the rubber dull and baggy.”

Shop staff rising to designer level is not a new phenomenon in Tokyo, especially in the world of Shibuya girl’s 109 brands, where successful staff are sometimes promoted to figurehead “producer” positions. D.TT.K’s rise, however, is based on an authentic talent that the industry might do well to look to in the future. (Samuel Thomas)

dettok.com.

Keita Maruyama adds a little extra pouffy panache to Akihabara’s @Home Cafe maid outfits

With Akihabara otaku (geek) culture seeping into the nooks and crannies of Japanese high fashion (see ex-AKB48 star Atsuko Maeda on the cover of VOGUE girl), it comes as no surprise that fashion seems to have conceded and realized that there is potential in geekdom.

Take, for example, the Akihabara cafe maid. @Home Cafe, the lead purveyor of maid-cafe culture in Akihabara, and arguably the most successful cafe in the biz, has teamed up with Keita Maruyama, a Paris Fashion Week mainstay designer, for its new maid uniforms. The dresses are in the cafe’s signature strawberry-chocolate colors of pink, brown and white, and they take pouffy to the max with hearts dangling off voluminous petticoats and swirly wing-like frosting frills on the shoulders.

Each girl is also being encouraged to show her own personality by customizing her headband and socks. Expect a lot of ribbons and bouncy bows as the cafe employs 180 maids for an establishment that covers three floors in its main location.

Established in 2004, @Home Cafe has helped make the maid-cafe concept into a phenomenon, having served more than 2 million customers to date. It’s not just a stopoff for otaku — British fashion designer John Galliano is said to have visited on one of his trips to Tokyo. Teaming up with Maruyama is a curious choice, as the designer is better known for his high-end collections than couture apron dresses. But it’s not his first collaboration: He’s also teamed up with the confectionary company Lotte to design chewing-gum packaging, and worked with countless actresses and musicians for events. (M.J.)

@Home Cafe: 1-11-14 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3255-2808. www.cafe-athome.com.

A new way to invest in style

The “Fight Fashion Fund by Parco” challenges fans of fashion to literally put their money where their mouths are by asking them to invest in the future of Japanese designers.

The scheme, which began activities last month with its opening reception at Parco shopping mall in Shibuya, is a first for the Japanese fashion industry. It aims to make the difficult market more accessible by assisting young domestic designers who struggle with high production costs.

As a community-based investment system for private individuals, the core of the scheme is a traditional financial backing model, where shares in new brands are sold to the public at ¥30,000 each and any eventual profit or loss is shared among investors. Where this scheme differs is that while designers benefit from the financial and business support, the individual investor is also rewarded with a pseudo-industry level of interaction with the brand. That includes invitations to Tokyo Fashion Week shows, sample previews and an overall higher level of communication with the brand as a whole. At the opening reception, the first two designers chosen by the fund — Jun Okamoto and Yuko Nakamura of My Panda — were seen interacting with the audience, soliciting feedback and inviting customers to choose color swatches.

The next phase will be for both brands to open pop-up shops in Parco to coincide with Tokyo Fashion Week in October.

“We must remove the distance between designer and consumer to create an environment where Japanese creativity can shine,” said Masaaki Abe, the fund’s managing executive officer. (S.T.)

www.parco.co.jp/fight-fashion.

Kenji Ikeda and Amadana offer techies a bag full of energy

When it comes to techie fashion, fashionistas have never taken it seriously due to the products’ failure to ever really look . . . well, the least bit fashionable.

A collaboration between electronic-lifestyle goods brand Amadana and accessory designer Kenji Ikeda, however, could change that. Their bags are not only chic, they are also incredibly practical.

Tucked away inside each one is a battery pack, which can be used to recharge mobile gadgets anytime and anywhere. Coined “Bagttery,” the bags also contain a regular- and a micro-USB port, and they have the power to fully recharge a smartphone two-and-a-half times over (there’s a light inside to indicate how much energy is left).

Amadana is renowned for its high-caliber styling of goods, and with Ikeda it has created four smart products: a tote, clutch briefcase, hip pouch and a Boston bag. All are made in two types of high-quality black leather. They aren’t really breaking any style barriers, but they are the most polished pieces of fashionable gadgetry I’ve seen so far.

The range will be launched on Sept. 14 at Amadana’s Harajuku boutique, a pop-up shop in Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills, select lifestyle boutiques across Japan and on the Amadana online store. The tote bag retails at ¥75,000 and the clutch at ¥59,000. (M.J.)

Amadana: B1 1-12-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3408-2018. en.amadana.com.