Cavalli makes first trip to Japan

When it comes to animal prints, skins and other wild bona-fide “Italian” fashion, Roberto Cavalli is the master. On Nov. 1, Cavalli made his first visit to Japan to celebrate the opening of his new flagship boutique in Tokyo’s Aoyama district. The shop, within a stone’s throw of other luxury boutiques- such as Prada, Miu Miu and Dries Van Noten — is two stories high and covers 300 sq. meters of retail space.

This is the first-ever Cavalli shop in Asia, and it actually opened quietly in September, but the designer’s presence this month brought out the major fashion players, big clients and celebrities. Supermodel Ai Tominaga, actresses Mika Fujiwara and Yu Yamada, and TV personalities Mika Kanno and Anna Umemiya were just some of the beautiful people out partying.

The boutique itself hosts a grand selection of Roberto Cavalli goods, including menswear, accessories and perfume on the first floor and a salon upstairs for the womenswear. There is a VIP lounge in one corner with ample space to try on one of the beaded, body-hugging mermaid gowns the designer is famous for.

Cavalli established his brand in 1970 when he received a patent for a revolutionary way to print on leather. He now has numerous labels under his main line, and in Japan those include the more casual Just Cavalli and Roberto Cavalli Class.

On his trip to Tokyo, the designer also made an appearance at Vogue magazine’s Fashion’s Night Out event on Nov. 5, when he greeted customers at his shop for the Japan debut of his newest fragrance. (All text by Misha Janette)

5-5-4 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku; (03) 6418-2388; www.robertocavalli.com.

Focus on Anrealage

Anrealage was this year’s winner of Best Brand at the Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix awards and it’s also featured in Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery’s current “Feel and Think: A New Era of Tokyo Fashion” exhibition. But will all this positive exposure encourage the brand to make a move to expand internationally? For example, by showing in Paris?

Designer Kunihiko Morinaga thinks not. “If I were to go there, I’d want to start with a show right away and we’re not ready for that,” he says. “The journalists might be there, but if I want to get the buyers, then I need to be close to Asia. I would prefer to stay here for now and the award won’t change that.”

Morinaga established Anrealage in 2003, and in 2005 it won a Gen Art Award, which led to an opportunity to show in New York. Ever since then, however, he has kept the brand close to home, building up its repertoire and making it one of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets — until now, that is.

Presumably, Anrealage’s imaginative AW 2011/12 collection helped it cinch the Best Brand award. Titled “Low,” its pixelated, low-resolution-inspired patterns covered all manner of garments: A polka-dot trench coat, upon closer inspection, reveals itself to be covered in blurry mosaic spots; a patchwork jacket depicts an enlarged pixelated floral motif; and a blocky tiger finds its way onto a leather suit.

It is a magnified reflection of our how we live — tuned in to digital screens day in and day out. And Anrealage has explored this theme, fleshed it out and aptly translated it, not only for AW 2011/12 but also in all of its prior collections.

This year saw Anrealage’s first boutique in Harajuku and it’s worth a trip if only to see its elaborate pixelated decor.

2-15-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; (03) 6447-1400; www.anrealage.com.

Nagi Noda’s legacy lives on

Nagi Noda was one of Japan’s most successful art director/designers of our time. Her numerous clients included Nike, singer Utada Hikaru and Harajuku fashion mall Laforet. She also won many awards, notably the Good Design Award Gold Prize (2003) and the NY TDC Prize (2002). Sadly, however, her early death at age 34 in 2008 brought a halt to her distinctively off-the-wall designs.

Creation Gallery G8 by Recuit in Ginza is holding an exhibition showing a wide selection of Noda’s work, with a large portion dedicated to her collaborations with Laforet. In one memorable commercial she dressed models in weirdly shaped transparent plastic clothing and had doubles scoot down the runway on their backs acting as the models’ shadows.

You may recognize HanPanda, Noda’s half-panda and half-bear character, which became wildly popular and spawned many lines of goods. Or perhaps you know her 2006 collaboration with artist Mark Ryden for her lable Broken Label, which used Ryden’s arresting visuals of dolls and raw meat in a collection of Noda-designed clothing that found humor in the grotesque and gothic.

Noda’s style continues through Broken Label’s off-spring Bortsprungt, headed by her confidante and business partner Yu-Ya, but her influence also lives on in the perverse side of kawaii (cute), such as that touted by musicians Kaela Kimura and more recently, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

“Nagi Noda” runs through Nov. 18; admission free; (03) -6835-2260; 8-4-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku; rcc.recruit.co.jp/g8.

A fashion pit stop for men

Hankyu Men’s department store in Tokyo’s Ginza district is a one-stop shop for anything a man could ever need to get his sartorial fix. It opened in October to much fanfare, and the buzz is certainly well founded: Sprawling over nine floors, it’s huge number of boutiques run the gamut from high-brow to casual, and include beauty and lifestyle goods.

For a taste of luxury, try Tom Ford, Balenciaga, Jimmy Choo or cool designs from Undercover. For a more casual touch, head to Adidas SLVR, the sportswear brand’s concept line, or the domestically produced Lanvin en Bleu. Men’s beauty, too, is taken seriously here: There’s ample stock of popular NYC brand Kiehl’s and a huge selection of potions for any rugged ailment that might come your way.

For a break, check out the basement for the world’s first-ever Monocle Cafe, which is named after the British-published global lifestyle and news magazine. The cafe’s deli-style dishes — which include Japanese curry, New York-style Ruben sandwich and Danish toast skagen — are favorites picked by Monocle Editor in Chief Tyler Brule himself.

Any brand worth its salt is represented at Hankyu Men’s, and while department stores have been taking a beating in profits and in image recently, this venture goes to show that the convenience and variety of department stores really cannot be beaten.

2-5-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku; (03) 6252-1381; www.hankyu-dept.co.jp/mens-tokyo.

Happy birthday Mintdesigns

Local favorite Mintdesigns has made it to the ripe old age of 10 — not an easy feat in these days of blink-and-you-miss-it trends and a constantly transforming fashion landscape.

Mintdesigns is helmed by Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi, both London Central St. Martins graduates who have each had invaluable experience, respectively assisting Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan. Their first fashion show as Mintdesigns was in 2003 in Tokyo, and its bright bicycle prints and lemon-yellow menswear shoes are still a signature of the brand today.

Experimenting with textiles and prints, Mintdesigns’ unusual style has become so popular that others have tried to emulate their jacquard designs, which are often used inside-out or in other unconventional ways. Their consistent quality and innovation also won them the Moet et Chandon newcomer award in 2006 as well as the Mainichi Grand Prix Award in 2010.

To celebrate moving into double digits, Mintdesigns have produced 20 simple A-line dresses, each featuring a standout print from their past 20 collections. To get one, though, you need to be fast. The dresses will only be available to order online at www.zozo.jp/shop/kilke from Nov. 9 or at Shibuya Parco’s “Once a Month” pop-up shop from Nov. 16-30. They have quite the portfolio of quirky prints, including patterns of old air balloons, and their mascot, a mischievous little doll that haphazardly waves a pair of shearing scissors in the air. The dresses are ¥35,700 each and will be delivered to your home in May 2012.

Shibuya Parco 15-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku; (03) 3464-5111; www.mint-designs.com.

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