Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo: Walking the line

Menswear goes gender-fluid

by Samuel Thomas

Special To The Japan Times

The menswear schedule looked somewhat lacking on paper this season at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo. The big names that would normally take the lead in international coverage — namely, Takeshi Osumi’s post-Phenomenon project, Mr.Gentleman, or the internationally friendly Whiz Limited — were both absent from the runway or else content to broadcast their collections online. This may have deprived the week of the crop of brands that bounce off and refine that which has already proved palatable to international tastes, but instead left the stage wide open for an altogether more honest face of Tokyo and its fashion to emerge for the international fashion community to see.

Indeed, it was the very idea of menswear that was to find itself under the magnifying glass during the week. DressedUndressed, in particular, offered men the option to hop over to the women’s racks at will, allowing them to wear the same tight leather skirts modeled by women higher on the waist as a play on a cummerbund, or on the hips as originally intended if they were feeling brave. Even the more gendered tailored suits allowed for a new male wardrobe: the shorts were high on the waist and shorter on the leg than the accompanying suit jacket to give the wearer a silhouette not dissimilar to that of a dress. DressedUndressed’s theme was very much that of avoiding gender altogether, rather than the unisex goal of making clothes that both men and women can wear — and judging by the high-heeled men in attendance at the show, design team Takeshi Kitazawa and Emiko Sato have perhaps struck a chord.

Also picking up the gender-fluid label was Japanese traditionalist brand Matohu, which introduced men to its runway for the very first time. It is important to note that it is was not an introduction of a men’s collection as such, but rather that the designers’ acknowledgment on the runway that some 40 percent of their existing customers are men. Given the brand’s focus on traditional Japanese clothing and the elegant notion of wrapping the body at the core, it is not surprising to see the attraction for Japanese men in throwing off the yoke of Western fashion and grasping for something new, yet familiar.

If those approaches are a touch strong for those outside the industry bubble, perhaps the best examples of where Tokyo fashion is actually heading are those who walk the genderless line. Young designer Atsushi Nakashima surprised with his first outing for men, putting them in satin and flowing full length skirts

but accenting them with hard chain detailing, intimidatingly rounded shoulders, exaggerated biceps and bold graphic T-shirts. Likewise, youth favorite Sise continued in this vein, contrasting conventional tailoring with pleated skirts, as well as a host of streetwear staples in beautiful florals.

Revving up the aggression stakes was Christian Dada, who was a major talking point of the week thanks to the appearance of rock outfit Kiss at his show. Before the memorable closing, designer Masanori Morikawa delivered a razor sharp slim fit that might necessitate a strict diet, packed with references to Japan’s bōsōzoku biker gangs. Dada’s tattooed and rakish gang were the clear export of the week and, although his designs carried obvious Japanese references to the bōsōzoku sub-culture, the silhouette was well within the comfort zone of foreign buyers.

On similar lines, not surprising given that they are frequent collaborators, the week also saw the debut runway presentation from 99%is. Led by Korean punk designer Bajowoo, the collection chimed in with the same tight silhouettes, but toyed with the addition of high socks and skirts in tune with the overall gender-fluid tone of the week.


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