Fashion Week Tokyo: menswear’s mixed messages

Menswear designers continue to break new ground at Fashion Week Tokyo

by Samuel Thomas

Special To The Japan Times

Genre splicing continued to be the central theme of menswear at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo this season, but a shared focus on gentrified heritage styles made for a surprisingly unified whole that was in line with trends on the international stage.

Takeshi Osumi’s post-Phenomenon brand, Mr Gentleman, produced by Yoshii Yuichi of cult select shop The Contemporary Fix, took the lead with a strong outing that fused “British gent style” with hip-hop club culture, remixing trenchcoats into wide legged jumpsuits and adding down jacket panels into elegant peacoats in the process.

Likewise, Tokyo-based Korean designer Bajowoo’s punk roots were present at his second ever show for his 99%is brand. Leather-clad models pounded a studded runway under a giant anarchy sign, and on closer inspection there were riffs on formal tuxedos and cravats in abundance. The contrast inherent between the forces of anarchy and establishment fashion was further hammered home by 99%is’ collaboration with British heritage brand Mackintosh, which materialized on the catwalk in a series of clean, studded and leather panelled trenchcoats that stood in stark relief against grimy spiked headpieces styled exclusively for the show by renowned hair artist Katsuya Kamo.

Going beyond the music scene mash-ups we find DressedUndressed giving a taste of traditional Japanese clothing to contemporary wear, adding sharp pleats reminiscent of hakama (traditional Japanese clothing) to wide-legged trousers, and a subtle kimono-influenced silhouette to long blazers. Continuing in the Japanese vein, Yoshio Kubo‘s team of helmeted models might have been wearing a sporty take on elegant tailoring inspired by the UEFA Champions League, but the execution reflected the dandy young men of Tokyo to a T. Beyond the extrovert bright fabrics and eye-catching prints there were nods to gender-neutral fashion courtesy of tight, Chanel-style tweed jackets to give the adventurous a new shape to experiment with.

If the latter sounds a shade outside of your comfort zone then Mikio Sakabe‘s un-gendered but male modelled collection might not be for you. The brilliantly conceived collection took aim at the desire for Japanese designers to take Euro-centric fashion out of context by doing the very same thing with East Asian clothing devices. The designer used kanji cut-outs to form swirling ribbon dresses, and deconstructed Chinese cheongsam (one-piece) dresses to shrugs and body-conscious skirts, all to ask questions about the connection between gender and fashion in Asia. Given that his show was crowded with fans and members of the industry despite not being listed on the official schedule, he certainly has sufficient acolytes to help him find the answers.

Adding some much-needed fresh blood to the week we find new brand Kidill from Hiroaki Sueyasu, best known for his now discontinued cult label Hiro, which has been dressing Harajuku’s street stars for the best part of a decade. Now seeking a more refined view of his skater-meets-punk spirit, Sueyasu’s Kidill was a genuine shot in the arm that gave Tokyo a fresh extreme carrot-leg silhouette to consider, as well as witty plays on street fashion basics that could easily prove popular abroad.