Topshop stays on top

When Topshop, the London-based clothing chain, first landed on Japan’s shores, its affordable and trendy range of clothing was a massive boon for Tokyo’s young and hip. Fast-forward four years, and though the Harajuku store still draws its fans, the competition in chain-store clothing has become fierce. So it comes as no surprise that Topshop (along with the menswear version, Topman) will be opening new outlets; starting in March there will be a store in Minato-Mirai, Yokohama, then Sapporo in April, and finally a giant flagship store in Shinjuku later this year.

That in itself is great news, but it’s the innovative clothing that really gets shoppers in a tizzy, and this spring’s collection is no exception. Topshop’s highly acclaimed collaboration with six new-generation designers from London Fashion Week includes capsule collections with feminine tendencies from Jonathon Saunders and Richard Nicoll, rock and rebellion from Ashish and Ann-Sofie Back, trompe l’oeil necklace prints from new Central St. Martins graduate Mary Katrantzou and punkish glam shoes from Louise Goldin.

Nicoll’s light-pink dress (¥19,950) has a detachable bustier, while his pinstripe button-up shirt disappears with a crop at the collarbone (¥9,975). Ann-Sofie Back gets edgy with a strategically slashed and shredded sweat shirt (¥14,700), but it is Ashish who takes the prize for daring with jogging pants that sport a string of sharp silver studs running up the entire length of the sides (¥21,000). Clothes will be rolled out by the end of this month, and the shoes at the beginning of March.

Laforet Harajuku 1-2F 1-11-6 Jingumae, Harajuku; (03) 5414-3090. For more information, visit www.topshop.com

Offering sweet something

With stores overflowing with tempting chocolate confections, often beautifully and stylishly packaged, the runup to Valentine’s Day in Japan is almost as glamorous as fashion week. There is an abundance of choice, so to help pick something for your fashion-savvy honey, here are some sweet suggestions. Diesel, an Italian force of fashion and Babbi, an Italian don of dolce, have teamed up to create a special gift box containing two of the chocolatier’s famous Viennesi (¥2,500). Babbi has been making bon-bons since the 1950s and its Viennesi, a crispy wafer layered with sweet vanilla creme, is given a modern fashion makeover with a matte-black box from Diesel.

United Arrows has tapped The Peninsula Tokyo’s in-house Boutique & Cafe executive pastry chef Shigeru Nojima for its box of gourmet chocolates. Each box has eight squares, two each of four flavors: bitter chocolate, bitter caramel, milk sesame, and white berry, and is available for ¥1,680 at most United Arrows stores as well as at The Peninsula Tokyo hotel.

Finally, since there are those who prefer practicality over indulgence, Issey Miyake has a Valentine’s wrapping service that will diguise your gift (such as a pair of toasty men’s socks at ¥3,150) as a giant bar of amusingly titled “eternal chocolate.” So even if you’re not announcing your loved one’s worth in chocolate, you can still rack up some points by showing a little sweetness.

For more information, visit www.diesel.co.jp www.united-arrows.jp and www.isseymiyake.co.jp

John Lawrence Sullivan allows ladies into the ring

Over the last seven years, the Tokyo-based men’s brand John Lawrence Sullivan has climbed its way up the fashion ladder to the point of being mentioned in top-ranking lists of local magazines every season. Now it is looking to equal that excellence with a brand new womenswear collection, debuting this season. John Lawrence Sullivan founder, Arashi Yanagawa, is known for his unusual background — a self-taught designer who retired from professional boxing to pursue his passion for clothing. He is most famous for his elegant tailored silhouettes trimmed with striking contrasts (such as the blinding neon-injected collection two seasons ago, and the blingy militaristic decorations and leather body suit of the last collection). The women’s line is a derivative of the men’s collection, including a tailored Napoleon blazer, leather pants that lace up the front and a jacket with a metallic fringed collar cascading off the back.

Since fashion’s darling Number (N)ine came to an end year, many other brand names have been cited as possible replacements to fill the menswear market niche. As one of them, JLS is making an audacious move by introducing womenswear. Here’s hoping the focus on the main men’s line stays on track while the women pick up on Yanagawa’s sartorial punch.

JLS, 1F 1-19-7 Aobadai, Meguro-ku; (03) 5428-0068. For more information, visit www.john-lawrence-sullivan.com

Popping up in Omotesando

On Feb. 11, French label Kitsune opened up a popup store inside the Montoak restaurant on Omotesando, which will remain open till March 7. Originally starting out as an electronic music label in 2002, Kitsune boasts a massive roster of top DJ collaborators, including Fantastic Plastic Machine and Towa Tei. It has since expanded its brand to include art and clothing, including a young-urbanite-meets-gentlemen’s-club fashion line. This range of clothing has become so popular it’s being carried in an enviable number of hip shops around the world, including Colette in Paris, Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Tokyo’s own Ron Herman.

The popup store is an internationally traveling project, and for the Tokyo leg, the clothing has a golf-inspired aesthetic with a touch of francophone chic. Some of the items — collectively titled “Impression of Nippon from Kitsune” — are being manufactured locally to help promote Japanese textiles and production techniques.

Though it enjoyed relative success, Kitsune remained firmly “underground” until celebrity Kimura Takuya brought it mass recognition by wearing one of its cardigans in a SoftBank ad. Perhaps crowd control will be in order for this popup store. Shoes (¥9,975), sweater (¥17,850).

Feb. 11-March 7; 6-1-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; (03) 3498-9221. For more information, visit www.kitsune.fr

It won’t be long before the world goes totally ape

A Bathing Ape, the most prominent yet elusive streetwear brand in the world, is letting down some of its primal guard with a slew of collaborations aimed at pleasing the masses. First off, its signature character, an expressionless ape named Baby Milo, first introduced for the BAPE Kids line, has become the very first “outsider” to be introduced into Hello Kitty’s official circle of friends. A Bathing Ape have signed a licensing deal with Sanrio that has given birth to a range of items including stuffed toys, outdoor tents and even sandals, all of which will be produced for continual rollout from this spring. Those outside of Japan will miss out, though, as — in true A Bathing Ape exclusivity-style — the entire range is only available in Japan’s 300 or so Sanrio stores.

For those who prefer something a little less cute, the brand has also announced a collaboration with clothing chain United Arrows. Mr. Bathing Ape starts this March and targets the brand’s original fanbase who have matured since A Bathing Ape goods stormed onto the streetwear scene in the ’90s. It offers a limited line of loafers (¥29,400), Oxford shirts (¥14,700) and traditional three-piece suits (¥86,100).

Finally, for the even more settled generation, A Fishing Ape, a collaboration with top-of-the-line fishing-goods brand Daiwa, is introducing various goods month. It seems the planet is really going to the apes.

For more information, visit www.bape.com and www.united-arrows.co.jp

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