With Japan Fashion Week shows now running concurrently with the Tokyo International Film Festival, it was hard sometimes not to liken the collections to films.
Theatre Products had “A Passage to India” theme in its collection of traditional Indian embroidery and linen fused with European lace and modern commercialism (one model cradled a giant bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin).
Then there was Mikiosakabe’s collection of heavy-metal T-shirts and messy-hair models straight out of “This is Spinal Tap”; while at Nozomi Ishiguro Haute Couture the designer went for a gritty “Blade Runner” feel with metallic street-urchin styling and prints that looked as if he’d silk-screened a slum wall.
But really, the fantasy romp stopped there. Overall, the designers pulled things in tighter than we’ve seen before, with more form and less abstract exploration, instead daring to be a bit sophisticated or even wearable.
This approach usually results in pleasing the buyers but disappointing the media, and indeed this certainly seems to be a time when designers are primarily exploring their relevancy in the market.
Besides the glaringly obvious 1980s trend, as evidenced by the movie references, a few key looks emerged from the Tokyo runways.
One of these was an abundance of naughty-or-nice sheer pieces made with tulle, lace and see-though fabrics suggesting it might be a good time to invest in some good peek-a-boo lingerie.
JFW opener Motonari Ono duly docked puffs of sheer tulle on satin dresses and blousons, and added decorative garter belts and thongs to his pieces.
Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi of Mintdesigns used thin layers of techno fabric to create soft drapes and fringes on their designs. The last dress they showed even had an elegantly quirky lace overlay in the likeness of their mascot — inherently Tokyo, and a neat addition to possibly one of their best collections to date.
Miss Ashida also showed a gown with black lace laid over a white underdress with circular cutouts. Separate, they are gothic and mod — like oil and water — but together they were a beautiful mix and match.
Another trend that scored this season was an uptown athletic look, with designers borrowing details from sports uniforms and active wear, then reworking them into high-end duds.
G.V.G.V.’s designer, Mug, used football lacing on skin-tight jeans and a pencil skirt, and worked a denimlike stretch fabric into a rad body suit.
Mihara Yasuhiro’s off-schedule show featured a series of rugby-stripe T-shirt dresses with fishtail trains on models sporting black lipstick. It was very grunge circa 1991, although the designer claimed it was a homage to ’80s female idols such as Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. To add to the argument, Tao Okamoto, poised to be the next Japanese supermodel, opened the show in a crisp white dress shirt and miniskirt seemingly inspired by decidedly ’90s idol Calvin Klein.
Even Matohu surprisingly tried to squeeze into the trend. “We wanted to make it a little bit sporty, so we made the leggings out of compact jersey,” said designer Makiko Sekiguchi with Hiroyuki Horihata. Luckily, the reference stopped there in a collection based on 400-year-old Oribe pottery that included jacquard robes and a puckered silk shell. Their collection was one of the standouts of the week.
Although Japanese designers have been enthralled with natural and organic fabrics for the last few seasons, this time they threw them on the compost in lieu of experimental and synthetic materials.
Young design ingenue Aguri Sagimori used an innovative treatment in her textiles that created the impression of droplets of water on the surface. It was adopted for a trench coat-cum-dress for her finale.
Hiroko Ito of Hisui went really far out forward, and attached mirrors to her 3-D dresses to create volume at the shoulders and hems.
At Dress33, soft materials were given a special treatment to imitate vinyl, which appeared on shower-curtain puff dresses and oversize plasticized corsages. Designer Toshikazu Iwaya then topped the models’ heads with cellophane bows.
Finally, we come to Dress Camp, which, in its third season with London-based designer Marjan Pejoski, stepped back on schedule and closed the main week by taking the honors at the JFW party on Friday.
It was unabashedly ’80s cocktail with jewel embellishments, silk corset tops and vivid colors in a marbleized print — but it had a certain confident va-va-voom that is sure to land it on the top of many editors’ lists (that, and a red, lip-shaped corset belt which had the girls in the audience swooning.)
With buyers pulling back and consumers double guessing their purchases, any predictions for how these collections will impact the market have to still be up in the air. For sure, this sartorial movie is to be continued . . .