Tokyo fashion week: Menswear is caught in the great divide


Special To The Japan Times

Trends for normcore restraint in current Japanese menswear have taken the mainstream hostage, prompting a divisive splinter on the Tokyo fashion week runways.

At one end of the spectrum, we find a push toward an exaggeration of restraint exemplified by the likes of design partnership Tatsuya Kimura and Sanae Yoshida’s Discovered, which swept the domestic street scene and picked out the MA-1 bomber jackets doing the rounds in Harajuku’s backstreets, the Mandarin jackets doing well in the vintage shops of Shimokitazawa and the louche sweats selling hand over fist in Koenji, before channeling them through the duo’s precise minimal lens and showing remarkable acumen in splicing trending items together.

They were joined at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo in this regard by Yuichi Yoshii and ex-Phenomenon designer Takeshi Osumi’s label, Mr. Gentlemen, which also didn’t take any risks with its portfolio of items but showed patterning proficiency in its collection.

Joining these brands was the impractically named Name, from Bunka graduate Noriyuki Shimizu, which likewise replicated the recent trends with an aplomb that got this young brand’s first runway the attention it deserved.

At the other end of the spectrum we find those rebelling against the immaculate status quo, asking for a return to early 2000s menswear excess.

New to the week, Bennu from Yuji Sugeno of No ID fame, shot boldly with an appearance and violin accompaniment by none other than Luna Sea’s Sugizo (who was was born Yasuhiro Sugihara, and is now also known as Yune Sugihara) and a collection that was packed with luxury textiles, lush leathers, and the unnecessary embellishments essential for dandyism but usually scorned by the conservative crowd. The grungy Cote Mer followed suit, as did Yoshio Kubo, who returned to his peacocking roots with aplomb, and by the time 5351 Pour Les Hommes rolled round with a scummy British ’80s skinhead collection full to the brim with punkish appropriation of militaria, it was a return to kakkoii (cool) of old, over the fashionista’s minimal clean or the opt-out’s kawaii (cute).

This divide was drawn into sharp relief by design collective Tokyo New Age’s Keisuke Yoshida, who sent a gang of yanki (delinquent), gyaru-o (the male equivalent of gyaru, or girl) and amekaji (American casual) youths down the runway. At first glance, the offerings were presented in scorning parody, but actually they carried much affection. The collection was a love letter to kids playing it cool in the karaoke parlors of Shibuya’s Center Gai back in the 2000s, a nostalgic snapshot, but also a reminder as to why the division at fashion week formed in the first place.

The cool dream of the 2000s may have been the dominant fashion force but outlets such as 109 Mens lacked credibility abroad and, for a fashion industry out to play on equal terms with the West, the flamboyant tastes were a source of mild self-consciousness swept off the runways. Still, as Yoshida’s latest collection showed, the dream is nonetheless a part of Japanese fashion and, as the trends for next season prove, it can be executed with restraint.

In terms of new offerings, Tokyo Fashion Award-winner Ethosens introduced ultralong sleeves, scarves and belts with a low center of gravity in the silhouette that is sure to be the go-to look for the fashion set.

However, it was Plastic Tokyo from Keisuke Imazaki who stole the spotlight toward the end of the week for anyone looking for a new representative for Tokyo menswear on the global stage. His Shibuya scramble crossing-themed collection was Tokyo incarnate on the macro level, but did away with his previous collection’s reliance on prints to come up with a large collection packed with about three season’s worth of original ideas. It was a show of strength and, given the fact that the brand enjoys hearty backing and has already exhibited in Paris, Plastic Tokyo is the one to watch.