Stylish swimmers

Finnish designer Maria Hietanen wants to give the hard bodies of summer a sophisticated makeover with her Maria H. line of beachwear.

“As a lover of lingerie and beachwear, I saw a gap in the market when I came here eight years ago,” says Hietanen. “Some women want more than just an underwire cup or triangle-top swimsuit.”

Her high-end line certainly stands out among the wash of Hawaiian flower prints, with her chic 2009 collection inspired by Art Deco with stained-glass and sunburst motifs, jewel appliques, and a variety of sexy, innovative cuts.

“I was inspired by Corbusier and the geometric shapes of Art Deco interiors,” says the designer. “It’s about beauty and function.”

Hietanen has been dipping her foot in the fashion waters since she first assisted at her grandmother’s boutique in Finland when she was younger. Since then she has done fashion illustration, styling and modeling in London and Japan. Though she was recently appointed as a designer of Elle Beachwear, Hietanen is still focusing on bringing more variety to beautiful bodies on this side of the world.

“Imported European swimsuits are just much too expensive to buy in Japan and Asia,” says the designer. “When they are manufactured locally, then there’s more available for everyone.” www.mariahietanen.com

Japan gets Peaches

British cult label PPQ was already beloved for its flirty cocktail dresses and reasonable prices, but last November it created a whole gaggle of new fans when it asked young socialite Peaches Geldof to design a capsule collection.

The Peaches line has now been picked up for Japan, and nearly the whole retro collection of lacy baby-doll dresses, tapered high-waist skirts and jumpsuits featuring more bows than you could throw a scrunchie at are for sale at the boutique Grapevine by k3 in Shibuya. Peaches Geldof (pictured right), the daughter of activist and musician Bob Geldof, has become famous for being a globe-trotting party girl whom fans love for her “vampish, killer style.”

The best part about the line is its prices: Coming in at only ¥10,000- ¥35,000, there’s never been a better time than 2009 to kick back in a jumpsuit.

Grapevine by k3 is at 13-2 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku; (03) 3464-5354; www.ppqclothing.com

An artistic autopsy of Harajuku

Diesel’s Denim Gallery Aoyama is exactly what the name implies: a space for fashion, retail and art to collide, with two floors of ample room for installations and exhibitions. The gallery opened two years ago to much fanfare and is only the second such concept shop from Diesel in the world (its sister gallery is in New York). Since then it has brought in a number of unique artists from all corners of the globe.

On display through Aug. 2 in the upstairs gallery is “CADAVRES EXQUIS,” an exhibit of works by French illustrator Jules Julien. The artist spent time in Tokyo before producing a new series in which he took to the streets to find “fashion victims” that he has lampooned in a simple and haunting illustrative style: The Harajuku-style clothing in the artwork seems to be wearing the subjects, rather than vice versa, as faces disappear into a sickly pink background. With the girls’ bows and wings preserve the cuteness factor, the ghostly visuals make for altogether striking work. (Some works are available for sale.)

6-3-3 Minami Aoyama, Minato; (03) 6418-5323; www.diesel.co.jp/denimgallery

Hot brands in the Gap

The third round of Gap’s popular Design Editions collection rolls out this month with collaborative pieces from Alexander Wang, Vena Cava and hat designer Albertus Swanepoel, the three winners this year of the Council of Fashion Designers’ America/Vogue Fund award recognizing fledgling brands with the potential for stardom.

Among perks such as money and business mentoring, the council helps the brands strike PR gold by giving the designers the opportunity to produce a capsule collection for Gap stores. The pieces are inspired by the Gap’s iconic khaki fabric. Alexander Wang evoked the image of classic Americana with items that include a biker jacket and tailored slacks, Lisa Mayock and Sophie Buhai of Vena Cava feature edgy graphic prints on their pieces, and Swanepoel designed five hats sure to flatter any face. Beginning July 21, 13 select Gap stores across Japan will receive the sure-to-sell-out collection.

(03) 5414-2441; www.gap.co.jp

The gold bugs

Encounters of the buggy kind are inevitable in the dampness of summer, so Isamu Tani’s brand Torquata, a collection of insect-inspired jewelry, is right on time. The line depicts bugs that most would not consider beautiful, such as moths and flower beetles, with enchanting results.

Beetles nest on the underside of a silver ring and gold flies swarm over a massive Swarovski pendant. The insects are realistic, but look closely, and some of the signature line of brooches reveal ink-blotlike images of skulls and other symbols that show off Tani’s moody artistry. The craftsman has long worked with wood and metal, making furniture and other interior goods before moving into accessories with Torquata in 2004. The brand is mostly unisex, and features earrings, rings and necklaces, with wallets and schedulers to be added to the lineup this fall.

Torquata is available at 3F Laforet Harajuku, 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; (03) 6383-1854; www.manifani.com

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