American Rag Cie, TopMan Design, Wing Shya at Mori, Jun Takahashi book


Rags to riches

Offering a clever mix of designer threads for men and women, vintage clothing, accessories and trendy interior knickknacks, American Rag Cie began life as an upscale boutique in California in 1984, and was launched under license in Japan in 1998. The version seen on these shores is fine-tuned for the fashion-forward Japanese market, and has proved to be a runaway success, as evidenced by the opening of its ninth store, in Aoyama, late last month. The opening coincides with a refit of its hellishly crowded Shibuya shop, which has been relaunched with more of an emphasis on menswear — the merchandise for women having been shifted to the newly opened location, which is just across from the flagship store of agnes b.

With a pristine white interior, the latest addition to the chain carries expensive designer brands like Chloe, Alessandro Dell’Acqua and Maurizio Pecoraro, alongside more affordable clothing sold under its own moniker. The lineup is rounded out by an eclectic selection of goods for the home, including some ostentatious zebra hide throws, cutesy doggy accessories and faux-baroque glassware.

Up on the second floor a modest selection of streetwise men’s fashions are also on offer, making the store a good destination for fashion-conscious couples in search of wardrobe updates or some out-there items for their pad.

American Rag Cie, 5-8-3 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo; tel. (03) 5766-8739

Brit rocker looks hit Japan

Where do Brit rock kids get their look? For many, at least for those on a tight budget, the answer is TopMan, the menswear arm of TopShop, the British equivalent of Zara or H&M.

TopShop has been one of the biggest sponsors of London Fashion Week for years now, harnessing the street cred of upcoming young talents to enhance its trendy image and keep those rock star-wannabes shopping with them.

TopMan bankrolled the closing show last season, which took in runway shows from three U.K.-based avant-garde menswear designers (oddly enough a Swede, a Norwegian and a Guinean) and took advantage of the captive audience of fashion bigwigs to show off a newly launched high-end men’s collection called TopMan Design.

In an intriguing piece of test marketing, selected pieces from the line are now available in Tokyo, at Side by Side in Laforet Harajuku, the store directed by half-Japanese don of English underground fashion scene, Nicola Formichetti. The brand’s nerdy cardigans with optical patterns, silk tour-of-duty jackets and easy-wearing khaki shorts should easily appeal to anyone looking to emulate the infamous Brit rock chic.

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

Under Cover x Cream

Under Cover designer Jun Takahashi sees himself as much more than just a purveyor of punk-inspired, deconstructed fashion statements. With thousands of introspective, rebellious Japanese providing a ready market for anything and everything he puts his hand to, this resolutely dark creator is increasingly turning his hand to art direction.

Following up on the gallery opened under his Aoyama flagship earlier this year, and a book of his doodlings released in conjunction with art publisher GAS, he has now hooked up with Hong Kong fashion mag Cream for a black suede-bound book on the making of his latest collection, which is hitting stores about now.

The book features Takahashi’s design sketches, a series of photos by Switch regular Yoshie Tominaga and images of 15 hairpieces designed especially for the Paris runway show by Mod’s Hair supremo Katsuya Kamo.

Available at bookstores nationwide.

Fashion blow-up at Mori

Photographer, graphic designer and short-film director Wing Shya is most famous for his work with filmmaker Wong Karwai, but he has been snapping editorial images for Japanese magazines like Men’s Non-no and Popeye, as well as French Vogue and iD, for over a decade. Now, with the support of the Hong Kong Tourism Board and fashion designer Vivienne Tam, an exhibition of his work titled “Blowing up Asia” is on show through April 16 at the Mori Arts Center Gallery inside the Roppongi Hills complex.

The exhibition features a video — directed by Wing and Marcus Savage and based on a drawing by manga artist Tatsuyuki Tanaka — of cyberpunk kids battling a rampaging bear; a room filled with portraits of actress Maggie Cheung; a moving tribute to late Canto-pop star Leslie Cheung and a series of vaguely homoerotic portraits taken at the famous martial arts center Shaolin Temple.