Staying young at heart

Tsumori Chisato’s collections, filled with whimsical illustrations, bright colors, ruffles, bows and other little-kid tendencies may look more like the pages of a children’s book than high-end fashion. But her clear success and influence among sophisticated grownups is worthy of a gold star.

Just before Tsumori’s June show to celebrate her brand’s 20th anniversary — her first Tokyo show in seven years — she said: “With the way I design, I kind of feel that it’s up to me to really make people happy and cheerful when they put on a garment. It’s in my job description and I work really hard at my job.”

This cannot be argued with: Ever since she graduated from the prestigious Bunka Fashion College in 1976, she has been working at Issey Miyake, Inc., becoming a chief designer there in 1983 before starting her namesake line under the Miyake umbrella in 1990. She left Japan for France at the turn of the millennium, opening a shop and permanent showroom in Paris and has been presenting collections at Paris Fashion Week since 2003.

The commendable 20-year mark doesn’t seem to have fazed the designer: “I still do the same thing every day — I design, I travel, I sleep, I’m always creating things with my hands. I just try to do these things with a youthful state of mind.”

Tsumori’s young-at-heart aesthetic is certainly striking and it has spawned other similar-style brands by past design assistants and fans alike. “I don’t mind that at all,” says Tsumori, “After all, life is a party and the more the merrier, right?” (Misha Janette)

Tsumori Chisato, 4-21-25 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku; (03) 3423-5170; www.tsumorichisato.com

Making bling big in Japan

When American jewelry brand M.C.L by Matthew Campbell Laurenza made its foray onto the Japanese market in June, all signs pointed to failure: A relatively unknown name, a price too low for fine jewelry but too high for the average costume jewelry-loving Joe and enough bling to have attention-shunning Japanese steering clear. And yet the love for his brand here is palpable.

“One customer came in, dropped her purse on the counter and said ‘Give me rings.’ She walked out with eight!” said Laurenza on a trip to Tokyo to launch his line exclusively at Barneys New York. His enamel pieces are encrusted with real gems, such as sapphires, accumulated from around the world, and are characterized by detailed, bohemian-luxe patterns. The designer worked in the bespoke jewelry business before starting his pre^t-a-porter line in 2007, but has been sculpting and selling his creations since he was a child. His travels are the main influence for his designs, and Japan seems to have had an impact on him.

“I want to try and make those teeny-tiny trinkets and charms that Japanese girls seem to love so much. But really, I feel the market here has been completely misconstrued because while workers lower on the totem pole perhaps can’t wear big jewelry, managers will come in and buy a flashy bracelet. They have enough power I suppose that they don’t feel like they have to recess into the background and hide.” (M.J.)

M.C.L, Barneys New York, 6-8-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku; (03) 3289-1200; www.mcldesign.net

New kid on the denim block

Denim brands are a dime a dozen, especially in a neighborhood like Tokyo’s Daikanyama district, which counts Evisu, Hollywood Ranch Market, Okura and Paul Smith Jeans — among others — as highly regarded denizens. But now there is a new kid in town and it’s not about to let its message go unnoticed by resting on its rivet-studded laurels.

Denham (which, incidentally, is the name of the founder and not necessarily derived from a play on the name of the material) uses only premium materials (including Japanese denim) and precision construction, in which only absolute perfection is good enough. The Daikanyama store is the second in the world, the first being in the brand’s home city of Amsterdam, and the team appear thrilled to be in the land known as the undisputed leader of premium denim. “Japan is the capital of denim — that’s what we do. It’s also the capital of detail — that’s what we do,” said Denham’s Brand Director Ad De Hond, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in early June.

The two-story store is a fusion of modernity and tradition: a minimalist glass-fronted facade matched with an old traditional sewing machine and a display of construction components on the basement floor. The pieces tend to take detail to the extreme, such as a men’s waterproof jacket that’s five times more water-resistant than it really needs to be and a ladies’ denim jacket with sleeves decorated with minute stitching designed to look like feathered wings. Perhaps we have reached the point where denim should be regarded as an appropriate heirloom. (M.J.)

25-8 Sarugaku cho, Shibuya-ku; (03) 3463-2258; www.denhamthejeanmaker.com

The underground fashion movement caught on the Web

In Japan, luxury fashion appears to be on the wane and admitting to being broke is no longer taboo. But if it seems that some of the fashion sparkle is fading, then direct your attention to your Internet browser. TokyoDandy.com is revealing an underground world of DIY excess that says otherwise. What started out as site logging fashion commentary and fashionista photos has turned into a movement in its own right, with namesake parties that are bringing the creative kids out of the woodwork.

Since its launch two years ago, its two founders, British photographer Dan Bailey and his Japanese confrere Joe Kazuaki, have become so well-known they have a column in Commons & Sense magazine and have worked at events for brands such as Gucci.

The Tokyo Dandy culture is best seen in action, which is why their parties, which see DJs, celebrities, models, drag queens and their wannabe counterparts all on the same style-savvy playing field, are a must-see for anyone looking for the next generation of Japan’s tastemakers.

“These people in our scene have grown up seeing their photos splashed across magazines such as i-D and on the Web, heralded for their unique ‘Japanese’ style,” says Dan, “So they don’t feel inferior to the West anymore. It’s about making do with what we’ve got and living in the now.” (M.J.)


Man-skirts don’t appeal? Go for the good old-fashioned gent look?

With the recent trend in Tokyo menswear for skirts, leggings and the occasional dress, it’s reassuring to find that there are designers out there who cater to the more dapper gent and fashion flaneur among us.

One such creative is Whereabouts designer Hidetaka Fukuzono who, since the label began in 2004, has produced elegant attire for the kind of man who loves nothing more than a pair of two-tone shoes and creaking leather gloves. With stores and stockists around Japan and abroad, Whereabouts recently added a new flagship store in Aoyama to the ever-expanding list.

The retail space, created by Mikio Sakamoto, plays on classic design dualities such as light and shade and curved and straight lines. From the end of July and into August, the store will gradually introduce the “MELT” AW10 collection and accessories. On sale now, however, are a nifty selection of limited-edition logo t-shirts, key chains, patchwork leather jackets and frog-mouth wallets, in addition to the main collection line.

The Aoyama flagship is the latest accomplishment for Fukuzono, who made headlines early in his career for being the first Japanese student to attend Belgium’s prestigious Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

(Paul McInnes)

#F From 1st (Minamiaoyama SO Building), 5-3-10 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku; (03) 6427-9793; iamalwaysmissing.com

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