Marie-Helene de Taillac, Side by Side, Viliue cosmetics, Youth Records


Staff writer

A gem of an idea

During a trip to Jaipur, India, in 1996, Marie-Helene de Taillac had a life-changing encounter with the Kasliwal brothers, whose family were suppliers of jewels to the maharajahs for five generations. Fascinated by the beauty of their gems and the meticulous work of the artisans under their employ, she proposed that they produce her jewelry designs. De Taillac now spends nearly half her time in India working closely with local craftsmen in creating one-of-a-kind pieces.

Following the success of her Tom Dixon-designed Paris boutique, this aristocratic creator was in Tokyo last week for the launch of a stunning store whose interior was overseen by none other than Marc Newson. The designer chose lacquered sky-blue walls and sable leather flooring to fit with the MHT brand’s craftsy look.

“Japanese customers are the best in the world,” she said. “Shopping is like the national pastime here, so people make a point of knowing exactly what they are buying.”

Misty, candy-colored stones like quartz and tourmaline in simple, yet finely crafted, settings are subtly luxurious and designed to enhance rather than dominate an outfit. For a refined, understated look with strong hints of Asian exoticism, at a price that prudent purchasers are unlikely to shudder at, this ultramodern store is a very attractive destination.

MHT, 3-7-9 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Tel: (03) 5468-2703.

Go north, young man

“I love traveling, and during my trips around the world I came to the realization that clothes have an amazing power of communicating the background of the wearer — their culture, religion and outlook. That’s why I chose to become a fashion designer,” says Hideki Seo, a recent graduate of Antwerp’s prestigious Royal Academy.

The travel bug took this former graphic designer as far as the North Pole. Along the way, an Inuit community provided the inspiration for his graduation collection. What struck Seo about his time there was the way his hosts integrated modern conveniences, like cars and TV, into a traditional lifestyle — and their association of Japan with Godzilla. This inspired him to contact rubber-monster maestro Keizo Murase, with whom he created the scaly rubber suits recently displayed at the Harajuku boutique Side by Side.

The store is currently carrying T-shirts, sweat shirts and bags emblazoned with a fish scale and Inuit face motif. Seo is being talked of as a talent to watch, so here’s your chance to grab a piece of fashion history in the making.

Side by Side, LaForet Harajuku, 2.5F, 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Tel: (03) 5775-1975.

Late bloomer

Past a certain age, the fight against lines, marks and wrinkles can seem never ending. For women who feel like a twentysomething but who find that cosmetics designed for younger skin just don’t cut it, Asty, the company behind the Hard Candy brand in Japan, has developed a line of cosmetics called Viliue.

In their quest for makeup suitable for more mature skin, the research team behind the brand have incorporated healthful extracts from six plants: camellia, peony, gardenia, saxifrage, chamomile and Japanese red pine. The combination of these extracts acts as a soothing, moisturizing agent that is especially kind to mature skin, and as tribute to the beneficial properties of these floral wonders, motifs of each are tastefully stamped into the richly colored eye shadow palettes.

Viliue is available at selected salons and through the Japanese Web site

Can you spare an LP, mister?

While scores of clothing boutiques have long tried to distinguish themselves from the crowd with in-store cafes or CD corners, few can boast the degree of kudos currently enjoyed by Mister Hollywood.

With rock-chic credibility to spare, this edgy, vintage-influenced menswear brand is literally the hottest thing on the Japanese fashion scene right now, and the long-haired rockers behind this Aoyama store can do no wrong. Hidden down a back street off Omotesando, their store is a huge, rickety old wooden house furnished with creepy American antiques.

Last week, up on the third floor, founding member of the Mister Hollywood team Shinya Shoji oversaw the completion of his pet project: the creation of a higgledy-piggledy purveyor of cult-rock collectibles called Youth Records. Rare posters, CDs, toys, knickknacks and tons of hard-to-find vinyl are crammed into this dingy space, where Shoji and his sidekick talk visitors through the significance of merchandise they seem almost pained to part with.

Youth Records, 3F Mister Hollywood, 4-13-16 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Tel: (03) 5414-0825.