Denim diva

Tucked down a side street on the second floor of a nondescript building a few meters off bustling Omotesando-dori is Arcuate, a precious new concept store from Levi’s Japan.

Arcuate makes up for its discrete location with big personality — the entry is a small red archway in the wall, leading to a narrow cobblestone staircase straight out of a fairy-tale European villa. The shop itself is vivid pink with giant Pop Art paintings and furniture placed around the boutique to invite shoppers to stay and explore.

While the shop carries a selection of foreign and domestic brands, it is primarily a vehicle for Levi’s projects such as the Red Label and Levi’s + D, a collaboration with Japanese-American actress Devon Aoki. Her line, which includes lame-coated denim jumpers and cropped wool blazers is aimed at savvy women seeking a cool, casual style for both play and semiprofessional situations.

“I always think of what I would wear when I design,” said the “Sin City” actress at her launch party in Tokyo last month. “It’s a little sexy, a little cool, but still feminine.”

With the line living up to this philosophy, Aoki is looking to extend the positive reception that she’s received.

“I’ve come all the way to Tokyo, but instead of playing,” she said, “I’m going to get started right away on the next collection!” (Misha Janette)

5-8-1 2F Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

More fixes for Ginza

Ginza isn’t short of places to feed your shopping fix, with its overabundance of stuffy department stores such as Mitsukoshi or the highend flagship emporiums of European fashion brands Gucci and Dior.

The latest addition to this fashion mecca, Marronnier Gate, is a more modern, self-contained haven of retail boutiques, home-accessory and lifestyle stores, and some seriously refined restaurants.

Situated next to the famous girly hangout Printemps, Marronnier offers a mature yet balanced shopping experience. The complex combines heavyweight names that specialize in preppy college wear, a key look for men this season — think Tommy Hilfiger — and Japanese retailers such as United Arrows, who offer here a mixed selection of domestic and international labels including Derek Lam and Marc Jacobs. Adding a touch of sleazy rebellion is Nobu Kitamura’s classic streetwear brand Hysteric Glamour, which holds court on the second floor.

If that isn’t enough, Tokyu Hands takes over a whopping five floors of the 12-story complex. And when you find yourself in need of some sustenance, Marronnier Dining features no less than 13 eateries that span European and Asian cuisine with such style that at the end of the day you really don’t want to leave. (Paul McInnes)

2-2-14 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; www.marronniergate.com

Shopping in the parking lot

When Japanese brand Toga moved from Ebisu to its new location in Harajuku earlier this year, it found itself with an unused parking space that it decided to not let go to waste. Thus was born TogaXTC, a charming little store of mostly American and European vintage pieces which designer Yasuko Furuta herself picks up abroad.

While most used clothing shops sell items on an “as is” basis, the designer fixes any damage he finds, taking into account balance and size. Most of the pieces have a European charm, with folksy prints and mini one-pieces in lace that fit perfectly with the “antique and nostalgic” theme that defines the main Toga line.

While the clothes and accessories may be one-offs, the vintage hut isn’t; the brand plans to remake it on a regular basis, making it a repeat destination for ongoing discoveries of Toga’s quaint world. (Misha Janette)

6-31-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 6419-8136; www.toga.jp

Men on the moon

Men’s fashion in Japan has quietly emerged as a leader in the industry, with global eyes trained on the country’s collections every season. Public Image, with only two shows under its belt, is the newcomer-to-watch, with its clean and highly conceptual designs.

Designer Ryujiro Tamaki worked as a buyer and designer before beginning Public Image as an outlet for event production and fashion and advertising design. His newest collection for Spring/Summer 2008 came hot on the heels of veteran counterparts with its show at the spacious Laforet Roppongi in Tokyo. Composer Shibuya Keiichiro created a dramatic aural environment with live impromptu blips, pulses and crashes of sound that rose from behind the neon-green glow of the stage lights. Cropped, skinny pants in neoprene, paired with sandals and jerseys, gave the show a sporty edge, and sharp suits in shiny fabrics and transparent neon buttonup shirts and neckties left a strong impression. With gel-slicked hair and tailored outfits, the models looked like fashionable butlers stationed at their master’s mansion on the Moon. (Misha Janette)

Public Image is available at FACTORY 6-8-4 B1F Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 5466-7371

Hooray for Hollywood

While the September Japan Fashion Week program mostly focused on womenswear, the creme de la creme of off-schedule catwalk collections have usually comprised of sterling menswear brands such as Lad Musician, Factotum and John Lawrence Sullivan. But of all the menswear brands showing in Tokyo, Daisuke Obana’s N. Hoolywood label is the one earmarked for global recognition.

With a huge store in the ever-trendy Aoyama, international distribution coming soon and a solid reputation for progressive clothing, Obana, a former vintage clothes buyer, is the darling of magazine editors and people in the know.

His Spring/Summer 2008 collection was a clear warning shot to competitors. Inspired by the Apollo 11 Moon Mission, the collection “After Sputnik” was an all-inclusive show featuring tee ponchos with slogans and signature suits, all in fresh colors and sharp silhouettes. A subtle combination of contemporary and retro looks, the new lines are a natural step forward from his Autumn/Winter 07/08 show, which spotlighted Ivy League styling. (Paul McInnes)

4-13-16 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo; (03) 5414-5071; www.n-hoolywood.com

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