Comme des Garcons’ Marunouchi: no longer alone

Comme des Garcons is renowned for keeping the fashion public on its toes by opening up many temporary “guerrilla” stores around the world, but it’s only once in a neon-blue moon that we get a new permanent store.

Feb. 5 was one such bright night, when the brand unveiled a new store in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district, right in the spot previously held by Jean Paul Gaultier.

Inside, it is well stocked with most of the Comme lines including Comme des Garcons Homme, Homme Plus, Comme des Garcons Junya Watanabe, and the SHIRTS lines. As the brand is wont to do, the products are arranged in a maze-like manner, complete with tunnels that lead shoppers to “dead ends,” where they encounter displays of accessories showered in light.

As a twist to the store, 185 sq. meters of floor space is being dedicated to the first Japanese branch of Rose Bakery, a French outfit, which will serve scones, quiches and vegetable dishes. This is a new venture for the label, and it is said that designer Rei Kawakubo brought Rose Bakery to Japan after being a customer of theirs in Paris.

All this, together with the original Marunouchi Comme des Garcons shop a short walk to the south, now make up the Marunouchi branch. The original store has also been spruced up and now offers products with a younger vibe, such as the Tricot Comme des Garcons line.

Sandwiched between the much buzzed-about opening of a multilevel store in Beijing in December, and the Ginza Komatsu Market megastore said to open later this year, the new Marunouchi store could be just one of a few more blue moons.

2-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku; (03) 3216-0016

Style beneath the tracks

A stylish new market has appeared right by Tokyo’s “electronic town” of Akihabara — not an area usually associated with fashion and art.

A modern, half open-air space beneath the train tracks between Akihabara and Okachimachi stations, “2k540 AKI-OKA Artisan” was developed by JR East and opened in December last year. The mouthful of numbers in its title refer to the location’s distance of “2 km” and “540 meters” from Tokyo Station.

It houses 32 Japanese brands, offering everything from bespoke fedora hats and silver jewelry to a 3-D gallery and Japanese toys. The popular kimono brand HIROCOLEDGE also has a studio in the market (pictured), where designer Hiroko Takahashi displays artwork and sells some of her hand-dyed contemporary kimono — a perfect match for the modern, clean aesthetic of the space.

Okachimachi is famed for jewelry ateliers and neighboring Asakusabashi is a haven of jewelry parts, beads and trinkets; so the market’s location is not as odd as it initially sounds. With a strong focus on artisanal workshops, galleries and small boutiques, plus a handful of cafes, AKI OKA is an ideal stop for those looking for a break from busy Akihabara.

5-9-23 Ueno, Taito-ku; (03) 6806-0254; www.jrtk.jp/2k540. (NB. closed Wed.)

‘Here is ZINE’ brings print back into fashion

Tokyo’s underground culture and fashion is well documented on websites worldwide; there’s virtually nothing that can’t be found by a Google search. So “Here is ZINE,” which asks some of the city’s most revered creators to create handmade publications for Tokyo Cultuart by BEAMS in Harajuku, is a refreshing step back in time.

“Zines” are rough DIY-style magazines, often made using low-cost printers, which were the catalysts for new street fashion, music and art movements long before the Internet came along.

“Here is ZINE” is the second zine fair held by BEAMS and follows a very successful first, at which some zines sold out immediately (DJ Towa Tei’s were sold in 10 minutes).

The artists, each of whom have created five copies of an original zine (one for display, four for sale), include fashion photographer Keiichi Nitta (some of whose in-your-face zines are pictured), top stylist Yuki Watanabe and artist Hiro Sugiyama of ENLIGHTENMENT. Sugiyama, one of the directors of the event, sees a positive future for zine culture saying, “Zines are a great way for artists to express themselves without costing too much money to produce. And in this Internet age, I think these speak in a different way than a website can.”

Be prepared: Most of the zines are quite raw and sometimes shocking, and the prices range from about ¥666 all the way up to ¥10,000.

“Here is ZINE” runs till Feb. 24, 3F, 3-24-7 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku (03) 470-3251; www.beams.co.jp

Louis Vuitton Tokyo’s leap into the art world

Luxury brand Louis Vuitton is known for lavish runway shows and opulent bags and clothing — all of which, for most of us, enter our lives in the form of magazine spreads and window shopping.

But if you’ve never found a reason, or the cash, to head inside the iconic LV flagship store on Omotesando before, you now can step through those fancy doors, without feeling obliged to empty your wallet. Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, a gallery on the 7th floor of the Louis Vuitton building, is now open for all to see.

The January unveiling came five years after the ribbon was cut on Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton on the Champs Elysees in Paris, and the first exhibition at Espace Tokyo showcases the work of French contemporary artist Xavier Veilhan with four of his installations.

Veilhan’s inaugural exhibition, titled “Free Fall,” takes inspiration from the gallery space itself — an 8.45-meter-tall room with wall-to-ceiling windows overlooking the surrounding Omotesando skyline.

The artworks include a giant contraption that rumbles to life every five minutes, spinning a ring of cannon balls — a take on the centrifugal forces of gravity; and a paper construction, suspended by pins, of figures falling from the ceiling.

The art space “invites me to reconstitute the mental and aerial dimensions which can be reached through art,” said the artist.

The gallery will host three exhibitions a year, featuring work from both young and established global artists; so watch this Espace.

“Free Fall” runs until May 8; 7F 5-7-5 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku (03) 5766-1088; www.louisvuitton.com

A fashionista fix

Tokyo menswear brand Phenomenon is sure living up to its name. After just two runway collections, it has become one of the most-watched brands on the scene, with the country’s top editors and celebrities willing to squish into a local hall to catch a glimpse of what designer Takeshi Osamu (endearingly known to most as “Big-O”) has in mind for the city’s fashionistas this coming season.

His popularity solidified, he closed down his backstreet Harajuku shop and opened inside The Contemporary Fix in Aoyama in January.

A staple boutique on the fashion industry’s radar, The Contemporary Fix is known for a stream of quirky collaborations with veteran and up-and-coming brands. In early January, it opened a pop-up ramen shop with Japanese fashion heavyweight Mastermind.

Much like the ramen shop, which only lasted three days, most of The Contemporary Fix’s events are short-lived for the allure of exclusivity.

But Phenomenon’s residency is set to last for at least several seasons, which goes to show the strength of its presence.

The spring/summer collection is already a hit in magazines and on blogs, and it comprises key items with a difference, such as blazers embroidered with depictions of crustaceans and octopuses and biker jackets woven from thick linen and accented with giant pyramidal wooden studs.

Quite a phenomenon indeed.

3-12-14 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku; (03) 6418-1460; www.phenomenon.tv

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