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Fashion idols of all stripes rock it in Cool Japan

by Misha Janette and Samuel Thomas

Marc Jacobs’ playful sides goes on display at Idol

Marc Jacobs is one of the most recognized designers in American fashion today, but before enjoying an illustrious career he caught a break in Tokyo. Part of his creative prowess is on display at an exhibition now showing at the Idol gallery in the capital’s Aoyama district.

Jacobs’ aesthetic is known to come with an element of surprise, and a handful of dresses from the past decade illustrate his playful side. Hologram sequins, trompe l’oeil collars and exaggerated 1980s silhouettes are among what is on offer. Also being shown are the most popular Marc Jacobs advertisements in recent history, which feature celebrity models such as Victoria Beckham, Sophia Coppola and Dakota Fanning. The exhibition is a rare opportunity to see these art pieces not ensconced in glass, so check it out before they’re folded up and packed away. (Misha Janette)

Until April 14. Idol 5-11-9 B1F Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo. For more information, visit Idol Tokyo.

A runway Akihabara can get behind

Three elements of Japanese pop culture — fashion, music and otaku — will join forces this month from their respective bases of Tokyo’s Harajuku, Shibuya and Akihabara neighborhoods, for a new two-day festival in the city called Kawaii!! Matsuri.

It’s headlined by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, as well as otaku (geekiness) idols Dempagumi inc., Shoko Nakagawa from the cosplay world and May’n, an artist known for her anime contributions. The whole thing should really impress the people behind the government’s Cool Japan project. Elsewhere, notable fashion highlights come courtesy of contributions from key Japanese fashion magazines that range from the quirky Harajuku street style of Fruits, to the visual-kei rock stylings of Cure magazine, who will all be putting on their own fashion shows featuring many of the musical acts as their models. (Samuel Thomas)

For more information, visit Kawaii Matsurii.

Rethinking the kimono in a modern way

Kimono have long been revered for their beauty, but due to high prices and the difficulty in wearing them, they have often been treated as museum artifacts rather than clothing.

New brand Elly and Oby is hoping to attempt what many have before them: Truly modernize the kimono and inch it toward being fashionable and approachable. To do this, the brand’s creative director, Mitsuaki Koshizuka, had the Kyoto-based artisans drop their prices tenfold by starting at ¥150,000 for a robe and ¥50,000 for an obi (belt). Speaking of obi, two were designed with the help of local brand Somarta and are made with a buckle and tie for easy wear, as opposed to the intricate folding required of a traditional piece. Koshizuka is a fashion photographer by day and he has styled the brand to look as chic as any tradition-touting European luxury house could hope to achieve. (M.J.)

For more information, visit Elly and Oby’s Facebook page.

Explorers set sights on Fashion Week

The saturation of shows at Fashion Week Tokyo has led to young designers looking for increasingly experimental ways to make sure they stand out from the crowd. You certainly couldn’t miss Japanese design duo Harry and Tyler who attended the roomsLINK trade show and numerous runway shows dressed to impress in their own creations — a gentrified and cartoonish take on the Arctic explorer, with both men carrying a stuffed toy seal. The subsequent photo opportunities with the press arguably gave the new brand more exposure than any exhibition could have, especially as on occasion people lined up to have their photos taken with the engaging pair.

The boom in street-snap photography has already been the catalyst for many street-level brands to overtake their counterparts following the Fashion Week Tokyo formula, and doubtless this is a trend we shall see on the rise as new brands feel the ongoing economic pinch. (S.T.)

For more information, visit Harry and Tyler.

Paul Smith draws up a Japan-only surprise

Fashion designers put their sketches to good use every day, but what about their doodles? British designer Paul Smith is releasing a special line that features his charming drawings of people and birds called “Drawn by Paul”. The line will feature menswear and womenswear (to be released April 10 and 26, respectively) available at Paul Smith stores and online. There will be kidswear and gift items as well. The prices are also fair for a designer brand, with clothing falling under ¥20,000.

The kicker here is that the line is only available in Japan. In an increasingly global world, it is surprising to find such geographically locked lines, but Smith has always had an affinity for Japan. He was one of the first designers to come to Japan’s aid after the Great East Japan Earthquake. (M.J.)

For more information, visit www.paulsmith.co.jp/drawnbypaul.