Going Gaga for design

In the last few weeks, Lady Gaga used her celebrity influence to bring the world’s attention back to Japan and its March 11 disaster recovery efforts with her promotion of the MTV Video Music Aid concert.

There’s no doubt her involvement in the charity project will raise its profile, especially when you consider the extremely positive effect she has already had on local fashion.

Ms. Gaga insists on only wearing Japanese brands when she is in the country, and her fashion choices have sent massive ripples through the local high-brow fashion market. On her visit to Tokyo in May, she helped launch worldwide careers for several local designers, with shoemaker Noritaka Tatehana being the most prominent. Tatehana now has an exclusive contract to design shoes for her and garnered fans all across the globe, with his designs appearing on the covers of the industry’s top magazines.

This time around, the star chose more obscure brands. She wore newcomer Christian Dada for her MTV performance and was also seen wearing items from DOG, a hole-in-the-wall shop in Harajuku. ROGGYKEI, a small, unknown brand from Osaka, was overwhelmed by the boost it got after she wore one of its voluminous feathered necklaces to meet the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

“An overseas website picked up on it and we got six times more page views than usual on our website and online shop,” said ROGGYKEI designer Hitoshi Korogi. “Our clients put in more orders too. It’s been incredible!”

Understandably, other brands are now rushing to create pieces to send to Ms. Gaga — but not everyone gets lucky. “I made a dress for her, but she didn’t wear it,” said designer Takumi Yanazaki. “It’s OK, maybe I’ll be a lucky one in the future.

Ai Tominaga: Celebrating a great model for Japan

Japanese supermodel Ai Tominaga’s illustrious 14-year career is the subject of “I, Tominaga,” a photography exhibition at the Gyre Building on Omotesando-dori. The show features a selection of images taken by three of her most frequent collaborators, the celebrated photographers Leslie Kee, TISCH and Mika Ninagawa.

Also on display is “#sakuramovement,” a Twitter project started by Tominaga. Not long after the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tominaga tweeted to her followers: “Please submit your photos of sakura (cherry blossoms) to me.” What resulted was a deluge of hundreds and hundreds of flower photos during a time when confusion and fear was still hanging heavy in the air. For “I, Tominaga,” those photos have been assembled into a large mosaic of a cherry-blossom tree.

The scale of success Tominaga has enjoyed is rare in the model world. She has received numerous awards, including the Fashion Editors Club of Japan model of the year, and is also one of the few Japanese models to grace the cover of VOGUE Japan.

Tominaga is also an active member of JOICFP (the Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning), an NPO that researches reproductive health in developing countries. At the exhibition, a documentary of her visit to Zambia for JOICFP will be playing.

For those who would like to see Tominaga, she will also be attending a talk show at the exhibition venue, along with TISCH and Numero TOKYO Editor in Chief Ako Tanaka.

“I, Tominaga” runs till July 18 at Gyre Omotesando 3F, 5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; (03) 3498-6990; www.gyre-omotesando.com.

Forest girls along the river

While its Laforet Harajuku location closes for renovations, Japanese brand fur fur will be opening a funky temporary concept store for a month beside the Meguro River.

Along with the usual fare, the shop will carry one-off items from fur fur’s archives and special pieces made in collaboration with rebel artist Ken Kagami for the current season. The shop, dubbed Riverside Apartment Shop fur fur, will also host nighttime shopping events and small soirees — things that can’t be done in the Laforet complex.

Fur fur has been the authority on mori-girl (forest girl) style since before the trend even kicked off, and its unique take on fashion has made it a must-see on the Japan Fashion Week calendar.

But this past season has been hard on the brand, which decided to cancel its fashion show following the March 11 disaster.

“(Artist) Ken Kagami had major ideas for the collection. There’s a large book completely filled with his sketches, set colors and lighting ideas for the fashion show,” said fur fur’s head of PR, Yuko Maeda. “Now I wonder if we should have done a show anyway. I guess we’re just going to have to make up for it this next time.”

The current collection, which will be featured at the temporary shop, takes the 1980s Japanese street punk aesthetic of teen gangs, or yankii, and adds cutesy details, such as the frills and doodle prints inherent to the brand.

Riverside Apartment Shop fur fur opens from July 29-Aug. 21; Oak Bldg., 1-20-5 Aobadai, Meguro-ku; (03) 6277-5944; www.furfurfur.jp.

Cosmic Wonder Light Source and mintdesigns get the green light

People Tree, the star fashion brand for ethically conscious fashionistas, is teaming up with two Japanese brands on a few special items designed to leave you without any buyer’s remorse.

Cosmic Wonder Light Source and mintdesigns have each designed two items following the People Tree ethos of using fair-trade materials, producing as locally as possible, recycling and reducing pollution.

Cosmic Wonder Light Source regularly gets kudos for its experiments in fashion and art, and for this collaboration they created an organic cotton blouse (¥8,900) and an asymmetrical color-blocked dress smattered with motifs of leaves, apples and flowers (¥12,000).

Mintdesigns is a regular on the Japan Fashion Week runway and has garnered international attention for its whimsical prints on experimental textiles. They have designed a long organic cotton dress in orange and blue (pictured, ¥13,000), and a ¥25,000 jacket sporting a flower motif hand-embroidered in Bangladesh using the folk-art technique of Nakshi Kantha (embroidered quilt). All the new items will be available to buy from July 19.

People Tree is massively popular all around the world, but it was actually founded in Japan by entrepreneur Safia Minney in 1991 when she moved to Tokyo from London. The flagship stores sit in Ginza and Jiyugaoka and they stock a variety of fair-trade lifestyle items as well as fashion goods.

JT Readers Special Offer

Readers of The Japan Times can receive a 10 percent discount on People Tree online orders when using the code JT1107 at checkout.

The offer is valid until Aug. 15 at www.peopletree.co.jp.

3-7-2 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku; (03) 5701-3361; www.peopletree.co.jp.

Final Home’s new address

Japanese fashion brands have been cautious about opening boutiques following the March 11 disaster, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a new shop space for longtime brand Final Home at the end of June.

Final Home has actually moved from its 10-year spot in Daikanyama to a prime location right off the Meiji-Jingumae intersection on Omotesando-dori. The shop itself is cozy, its interior designed to look like a jungle campsite, complete with Astroturf and bamboo stalks. Black and orange “bats” hang from the ceiling, although they don’t bite — they are in fact high-grade flashlights in nylon bat-shaped cozies, an exclusive item of the shop.

If you are not already familiar with Final Home, then you would be correct to conjecture that it focuses on fashion with an outdoors-y, “survival” spin. Along with functional fashion items for men, women and kids, Final Home also sells emergency kits that come with all the equipment you need should disaster hit.

Final Home designer Kosuke Tsumura sent similar items from his brand’s supplies to Tohoku following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The brand has been on the scene since 1994 and is particularly successful in Paris, alongside Tsumori Chisato, which, like Final Home, shares a position under Issey Miyake’s “A-Net” umbrella of brands.

6-4-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; (03) 3499-2050; www.finalhome.com.

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