The luxury of fashion

The “Luxury in Fashion Reconsidered” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (MoT) is a small but admirable attempt to illustrate how luxury has been defined through clothing from the 17th century to today. On show are grandiose pieces with 3-meter-long gold-embroidered trains, silver-gauze-trimmed bustle skirts and a pair of dresses decorated with the wings of 1,000 Jewel Beetles, but there also is a section titled “Less is More,” which looks at how comfort, quality fabrics, and calculated simplicity also have been considered as luxury.

Of course, as interesting as they are, these casual items are not the reason to visit the MoT. That would be the numerous couture and couturelike pieces one can see up close, such as an intricate weblike lace gown by Chanel couture, the embroidery of Christian Dior, or the ridiculous exaggerated silhouettes of Viktor and Rolf. Also of interest is a large display of one-offs from the Martin Margiela “artisanal” line where it appears one man’s trash becomes another man’s luxury — a vest is made of broken dishes and wire, and a bolero is made from the hair sections cut from latex masks. The exhibition ends on the idea of uniqueness being a luxury with a selection of pieces from the Comme des Garcons archive. Most of the works on show come from the amazing Kyoto Costume Museum collection and, depending on your tolerance for decorative excess, they will either stab you through the heart with a pang of envy or simply set it a-flutter. (M.J.)

“Luxury in Fashion Reconsidered” runs till Jan. 17; open 10 a.m.-6 p.m; closed Mon., Dec. 28-Jan. 1; admission ¥500. For more information call, (03) 5245-4111 or visit www.mot-art-museum.jp

Nike steps up its image

Competition is heating up among the world’s top athletic apparel brands as they vie for the biggest piece of the growing health-conscious market pie. This can be seen most clearly in Harajuku, where brands such as Adidas, Asics and, more recently, Nike have opened flagship or concept stores.

The Nike store, which opened on Nov. 14, proves that a bit of sporty competition reaps benefits for the consumer. The company has sprinted ahead designwise with the interior of the three-story shop handled by uberdesigner Masamichi Katayama of Wonderwall, whose cascade of 500 white shoes suspended from above and wall mosaic of 1,600 trainers are striking and fun. The real treat, though, has to be the design studio on the second floor, which allows you to personally customize shoes and other items of clothing.

Though most sports stores now have advanced technology to analyze feet, Nike’s analysis also checks gait and balance by having customers jog on special equipment. In addition to all this, the opening of the flagship coincides with the start of a Nike running club, a free program held four times a week where enthusiastic runners are led on jogs around the Harajuku area by Nike professionals. (M.J.)

1-13-12 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; (03) 6438-9203. For more information, visit www.nike.jp

Venus Fort becomes a castle for bargain hunters

At last, a dream has finally been realized: an outlet mall in metropolitan Tokyo, rather than out in the sticks. In a surprising, yet ingenious move, the shopping mall Venus Fort in Odaiba, usually only remembered for its ceiling that mimics the sky from sunrise to sunset, has turned its entire third floor into an outlet for 49 shops. Its doors opened on Dec. 11, and while 49 is a paltry number compared to the behemoth malls that lie in the city outskirts, it should be enough to appease those insatiable city bargain-hungry shoppers.

The stores encompass everything from clothing and interior to specialty goods, with retail fronts coming from such big brands as Rayban, Levi’s, Hunting World and Nano Universem as well as Galliano. Brands that are setting up outlets for the first time include Anne Klein and Franc Franc Bazaar. Also of interest are the large number of Japanese street brands such as Barclay, Gilfy, Goa, Egoist and Auntie Rosa, which are high-end enough in their native Shibuya and Harajuku to warrant a discount shop in Odaiba.

Venus Fort’s other floors have also been remodeled, with the second floor serving as the “original Venus Fort,” housing clothing and jewelry stores, and the first floor targeted at families. The Odaiba island has never felt warmer now it is basking in the glow of this new almighty outlet mall. (M.J.)

1-3-15 Aomi, Edo-ku Tel: (03) 3599-0700 venusfort.co.jp

Crystal-clear design

On Nov. 19-20 at Moda Politica in Minami Aoyama, CRYSTALLIZED-Swarovski Elements unveiled a glittering collaboration with 12 contemporary menswear designers. The collection fuses Swarovski’s cut-crystal expertise with a 21st-century wardrobe and is directed by stylist Tomoki Sukezane (editor in chief of Fashion News Men’s).

Swarovski is world-renowned for its accessories and interior-design objects, in particular the Daniel Swarovski and Swarovski collections. It opened its flagship Ginza store in March 2008. Since 2006, CRYSTALLIZED-Swarovski Elements has been the name for Swarovski’s collaboration with selected designers and brands who incorporate Swarovski crystals into their pieces.

The menswear line shown at Moda Politica , which Swarovski sees as a reinterpretation of menswear, had a rich, playful focus. Japanese designer John Lawrence Sullivan’s dress jacket with crystal-encrusted lapels and Soe’s sleeveless bleached, blue-denim jacket embedded with pearls are both eye-catching yet still masculine.

Other head-turners include Sabatino’s leather biker jacket with crystal pin badges and Wacko Maria Elvis-inspired glitter jackets with vinyl or disco-ball effects. (David Stuchbury)

Available through collaborating brands. For more information, visit www.crystallized.com

Britain in Aoyama

Vulcanize is part of the British Luxury Brand Group, which was established by Toshiyasu Takubo and was originally an exclusive distributor of Globe Trotter and Mackintosh products from Britain. There are five Vulcanize shops in Japan, and its new flagship store in Aoyama, Vulcanize London, takes over a space formerly occupied by Hugo Boss.

Vulcanize London is designed around the concept of a British luxury shopping arcade (such as Burlington Arcade in London’s Piccadilly) and stocks items that, in upper-crust tradition, you’ll treasure for a long time. On offer are all things quintessentially British: leather bags, material and clothing (largely menswear) by names such as Liberty, Hackett, Molton Brown and London-based hat-maker Misa Harada (known for the hat chosen by the Queen to wear at her Golden Jubilee). Also available are Scottish cashmere knits (Johnstons, Begg) and custom-made suits by Swaine Adeney Brigg. The store also houses an organic cafe stocking Royal Duchy preserves (Prince Charles’s own label, no less) and a window display of a classic British luxury car — not for sale, if you were wondering.

Vulcanize London’s glassy interior is very 21st-century Tokyo, but the store does provide an A-to-Z fold-out map of stores close to Piccadilly Circus or Green Park tube stops in central London, should you be considering venturing that far. If not, this store is a five-minute walk from Omotesando Station. No bowler hat required. (D.S.)

Vulcanize London, Minami Aoyama 5-8-5, Tokyo 107-0062; (03) 5464-5256; www.vulcanize-lon.com

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