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Here comes Fred

by Misha Janette and Samuel Thomas

This year will see the arrival of a formidable new force in the Japanese fashion market. Perhaps best known for being a go-to for Hollywood stars, Fred Segal is a trend-setting California clothing and lifestyle goods retailer, which in its 50-year history had never planned to expand beyond Los Angeles. That is until it was acquired by the New York-based Sandow brand-building group in January 2012.

Sandow has now partnered with the Japan-based fashion retailer Mark Styler to bring Fred Segal to Japan, with the first flagship set to open in September and other stores and e-commerce channels to follow.

Though little detail about the stores has been released, the first Japanese outlets will follow the U.S. lead in uniting shopping, salons and spas under the Fred Segal name within single locations. The retailer also plans to expand with a number of smaller boutiques housed inside luxury department stores — a first for the brand.

Adam I. Sandow, founder of Sandow, explains the reasoning behind the expansion as a move based on “the Japanese level of sophistication when it comes to fashion and lifestyle brands, coupled with their understanding and appreciation for authenticity.”

Banking on the reputation of Fred Segal and its ability to curate the freshest looks, however, is just the start for the brand in Japan. The original boutique’s founding principles of supporting young designers are also sure to further define the stores once the expansion is complete. (Samuel Thomas)

www.fredsegal.com

Love a designer in uniform?

Looking back at 2012 to see which of Japan’s designers pulled out all the stops, took advantage of all opportunities and rose far above the rest, it has to be the charismatic Keita Maruyama with his eponymous brand.

Maruyama has worked on all manner of collaborations, one of the biggest hits being for the film “Helter Skelter,” directed by Mika Ninagawa. Here, his contemporary elegance was translated into costumes that were made specially for actress Erika Sawajiri’s character.

That was followed by the left-field move of teaming up with @home Cafe, Akihabara’s top maid cafe, and redesigning its popular French-maid-style uniforms in the colors of “chocolate and strawberries.” More uniforms were next, when, in late December, Japan Airlines flight attendants and ground staff were given a dose of youthful vibrance in a collaborative effort.

Not ready to let 2012 pass by without a last punch, Maruyama then tweeted in the final days of the year that he would be dressing Japan’s most successful pop artist Ayumi Hamasaki, for her “Kohaku Utagessen” New Year’s TV performance.

Born in Tokyo, Maruyama graduated in design from the Bunka Fashion College and established his namesake line in 1994. He moved it to Paris in 1997 to debut on the Paris runways, garnering attention both locally and abroad. He has since created eccentric evening-gown, wedding and kimono lines, and continues to work from his atelier in Tokyo.

The question is, what other exciting projects does this must-watch designer have in mind for 2013? (M.J.)

www.keitamaruyama.com

Gossip Boy defines a fresh face of Tokyo street style

Fresh from the Million publishing group, the original publishers of the iconic gyaru (gal) bible magazine, Egg, comes Gossip Boy, a new men’s magazine. Created by the same editorial team responsible for turning the self-proclaimed “new outlaw fashion” Men’s Knuckle magazine from a niche Shibuya subcultural favorite to a nationwide newsstand hit, Gossip Boy focuses on ikemen-style, something that is best described as young men in highly fitted attire with a metrosexual slant, and is often associated with the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. Gossip Boy dubs this as a mix of Japanese casual, street celebrity and natural rock-style in its ploy to coin “Gossip Boy Style” as the name for the popular genre.

The magazine, which launched at the end of December, can be seen as further evidence of the shifts within the gyaru subculture. Those once-common visual signifiers, such as heavily tanned skin, bouffant hairstyles and excessively glamorous details, have been replaced with a sharp mix of clean grooming, quality materials and hints of Korean fashion

To minimize the risk of launching a new magazine in these turbulent times for print media, Million employed its oft-used tactic of ensuring the magazine appeals to both sexes — in this case by peppering the publication with “attractive” semi-nude male models. Whether the magazine will be successful remains to be seen, but it certainly has identified a fashion style that could well become more dominant this year. (S.T.)

www.gsp.jp/shinkan/2012/12/121217gossipboyvol01.php

Tokyo Girls return home

Once considered a curious blot on the fringe of Japanese fashion, the semiannual Tokyo Girls Collection fashion event has become the ultimate case study for anyone wanting to influence a generation of girls by pulling together more than 30,000 consumers and getting them all excited about shopping at the same time.

Now on its 16th round, TGC has announced its next event will be on March 2. Despite its success, though, the organizers of the day-long fashion fest, which focuses on mainly Shibuya-style trends and local brands headquartered at the Shibuya 109 Mall, have decided to bring it back to where it all began eight years ago: the National Stadium, which is in Shibuya. In the past, the event had become so popular that it moved far away to the larger Saitama Super Arena, where tickets still sold out in a blink of the eye.

This year tickets went on sale on Jan 5, so now’s the time to try and snag one. Popular models Anna Tsuchiya, Rina Fujii and Hana Matsushima, along with 70 other of the country’s top magazine models, will be there, and there will be the usual performances and appearances by actresses and TV personalities. The runway shows will feature 15 of the hottest brands.

And don’t forget, you can purchase items seen on the runway in real-time using a smart phone — a feature that is getting an upgrade this season. (Misha Janette)

Tickets for Tokyo Girls Collection are from ¥5,000 to ¥15,000, depending on seats, and are available pre-sale at TGC.st.

Barbie gets all dolled up for her Harajuku debut and puts generations of her fans in the pink

Japan’s fascination and love for Barbie, America’s most popular fashion doll, appears to be reaching a peak with the opening of the Barbie Harajuku flagship store early last December. With Barbie-branded goods already in abundance, this is the most comprehensive store, with two floors brimming with everything from perfumes to clothing. Collectors items such as Bob Mackie-designed dolls and other imports are also being sold, though they have been disappearing off the shelves the second they hit them.

At the opening, a pink Ferrari painted with the doll’s likeness across the bonnet welcomed fans outside the store, which now draws from 200 to 300 visitors a day.

Though Barbie may be seen as a kids’ toy in the West, in Japan her fans are both children and adults. Barbie stationery is targeted at college girls, while home goods are picked up by housewives. The clothing line offers mostly basic items, but it is expected to expand to more varied styles in the spring.

Barbie herself has a belated popularity in Japan, though she was first manufactured here in the 1970s. She was famously no competition for her Japanese counterpart Licca, and her name was once changed to Jenny in an attempt to gain her more fans. Now, however, the pink world of Barbie has found its footing and even if she’s just a doll, her fashion line is sure to continue setting real trends across the country. (M.J.)

Barbie Harajuku: 4-28-18 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 5785-2885; www.barbiestorejapan.com.