FASHION WEEK TOKYO

Menswear looks hot to trot

by Samuel Thomas

Special To The Japan Times

Men were quick to put their best feet forward at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo, with a heavy concentration of light and minimalist sportswear that proved popular on the catwalks.

The menswear element of this Oct. 13-20 event may have opened with the Facetasm show on Oct. 14, where Hiromichi Ochiai’s blend of cultures and hyper layering, reflected the current look on the streets, but elsewhere the layers were lighter and the textiles more restrained throughout — even from the usually flamboyant Toshikazu Iwayu, who returned from a leave of absence to again helm his brand Dresscamp this year.

But despite this sporty inclination, the diversity expected from Tokyo was there in spades at these spring/summer 2013 shows.

For Ato, founder/designer Matsumoto Ato presented his usual brand of dandyish tailoring in featherlight shiny acetate and rayon, which, along with his muted color schemes, was both futurist and restrained. Nonetheless, sportswear influences spread throughout the collection, from sleek high-top trainers to the elasticated waists of his trousers, recalling an elegant cummerbund.

Taking sportswear and running to an alternate conclusion was newcomer to the week Liberum Arbitrium, a label that — with its louche silhouettes, lots of zip details and sharp points of color picked out in nylon — surprised all who have been following its young designer Shinsuke Mitsouka’s career thus far. Yet, though it was a showing at odds with his previous collection of dramatically cut gothic capes made from artisan-sourced traditional Japanese fabrics, it was widely hailed as a bold move that marked out Mitsouka’s creations from a glut of artisanal brands without losing his signature dark aesthetic.

Elsewhere, athletic wear was given a noticeable injection of 1990s flair, not least by Facetasm, with its use of graffiti prints; Phenomenon, where tie-dye was in; and Yoshio Kubo, who themed his collection on gang culture from the era, and whose models swaggered to the beat of ’90s hip-hop down the running track of the Tokyo National Stadium, replete with Kangol hats, swinging gold dollar signs (courtesy of Shibuya’s purveyor of bling, Avalanche), New York gang hair styles and a smattering of clown makeup. Beyond the somewhat tongue-in-cheek gangsterism, though, there was much to enjoy with sheer tracksuits that layered elegantly and plenty of foppish tailoring to keep his fan base happy.

Providing a more minimalist take on the tone of the season were rising stars DressedUndressed, who were one of the few to throw down a genuine challenge to Japanese males courtesy of high-waisted shorts with slits on the thigh. However, given that there were precious few shorts on the various catwalks long enough to even approach the knee, this may be a challenge forced upon the city’s men.

Along with Sise, DressedUndressed were in fine form uniting refined monotone elegance with sports and street elements that will no doubt prove attractive at retail.

Finally, special mention must go to Daisuke Yanai who made his catwalk debut with his brand Barbudos — and even modeled in his own show.

The no-nonsense designer who learned his craft at cult brand Number (N)ine, came up with a strong showing direct from Tokyo’s underground scene — and proving in the process that even in the polished halls of the Hikarie building in the shopping mecca of Shibuya, Fashion Week Tokyo can still attract counterculture creators.

Samuel Thomas is a full-time fashion writer and contributor to the JT and Change Fashion. His site is TokyoTelephone.com, and his first book on Japanese fashion will be published by Kodansha next summer.