Fashion Week Tokyo: opposites attract womenswear designers

Womenswear collections reflect the antithetical nature of fashion in the country

by Misha Janette

Special To The Japan Times

The womenswear scene in Tokyo tends to fall under two camps: “mode” versus subculture styles that are so antithetical you’d imagine they’d be at each other with pitchforks if the city’s residents weren’t so congenial. Such conflicting interpretations were more apparent than ever before in the 2014-15 fall/winter runway collections that wrapped up in Tokyo on March 23.

In one corner we have the European mode stylings many of us are wont to don on any given day, with simple lines, great tailoring and uber-high-quality Japanese textiles. Setting this type of label apart from their Western counterparts is an achievement of out-of-the-ordinary styling on the catwalk. Take Facetasm, which often marries contrasting work and urban designs in its multi-layered looks. This season, there were frayed tailored jackets over hoodies and a standout wool skirts decorated with random curtains of pleats that looked like they’d been salvaged from other pieces. Take these ensembles apart and you’ll find wearable yet unique pieces to add to your wardrobe. “Fashion is too easy now,” designer Hiromichi Ochiai said. “I wanted to give some weight to my designs, and Tokyo fashion as a whole.”

Yasutoshi Ezumi established himself as a master of balance in layering with a collection that was pleasing in every way. Indeed, it was one of the breakout collections of the season. His prints of Mondrian and geometric plaids on maxi skirts and asymmetrical peacoats looked outstandingly fresh when styled on the body and in movement. Although still young with only a couple collections under his belt, he is now a designer to keep an eye on.

Inching toward a more eclectic tendency was Mintdesigns, although it was one of their most subdued and chic collections to date. Don’t mistake that for boring, however; this time their designs were decidedly punk, with flocked motifs of belts in black and purple snaking around the body, and metallic foil prints of giant safety pins on canvas coats. The hair was a messy nest and the models, who wore Creepers, strutted to a soundtrack of both rock ‘n’ roll and bagpipes — no doubt about as punk as punk can get.

And presented as an extreme contrast to the aforementioned brands, in the other corner we have Alice Auaa. The highly entertaining haute goth brand took hints from S&M and fashioned an image of a sultry female beast complete with silver tails made from whips and attached to the models’ backsides (also plated in silver, naturally). There was less literal homage to old Victoriana and instead we got some very modern designs with almost aerodynamic silhouettes. The parade of corsets and bustiers came expected, but this collection was by far and beyond more sexualized and aggressive than anything else on the runway. There is a reason they’ve garnered an overseas following, and designer Yasutaka Funakoshi used to have a base in London. Alice Auaa calls its customers “zealots” and vets them before allowing them into the stores — a mentality that creates even more curiosity about the enigmatic brand.

Ne-Net ignored all qualms about kawaii (cute) or the anime-obsessed otaku (people with obsessive interests) culture in fashion with this latest collection titled Twinkle. The models’ faces were hidden behind masks covered in gobs of glitter or covered with metallic vinyl origami animal heads. This alone was enough to bring the avant-garde factor to the fore, but then out came the anime-printed apron dresses with young manga girls boasting giant eyes and hair of yellow yarn. What’s more, the collection also offered a trinity of charm: pinafores, smocks and turtlenecks (Oh my!). It was imaginative and energetic, and done in a way that made it look more like proper fashion than child’s play.

Dresscamp closed out the whole week in a flurry of tulle, curls and bows. Designer Toshikazu Iwaya has established his high-fashion dolly aesthetic, this time in bright rainbow prints and petticoats. He collaborated with American brand Dickies for some of the clothing, and with bag brand Gregory for pink handbags accented with fur handles. “This time I didn’t really have a theme or plan,” Iwaya said, “I just made what I wanted to make.” Despite his claim, there was still a string of coherence that led from one piece to the next. Much like Tokyo fashion as a whole, there is a clarity to all of the chaos if you dare to look deep.