Opening ceremony for Kenzo

Kenzo is one of Japan’s most long-standing fashion houses, so it is understandable that it has undergone quite a few changes in its 41-year history — especially since Kenzo Takada himself retired in 1999.

This year it is embracing another change, and it comes in the form of two new chief designers — none other than Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, the founders of American boutique Opening Ceremony. Those in Tokyo will recognize Opening Ceremony’s multi-story outpost next to Seibu Department Store in Shibuya. Like its U.S. versions, it brings together a vast range of foreign designers with some of Japan’s own innovative creators.

Neither Lim nor Leon are trained designers, which makes their appointment as creative directors intriguing. They have, however, the qualification of making a huge impact on fashion trends through their selection of clothing for their stores and their style collaboration ideas.

Lim and Leon presented their first collection for Kenzo in Paris in October and brought it to Tokyo last month. Bold patterns and colors — construction-cone orange, cerulean blue — were in abundance here, as were patterns of birds, fishing nets and other seaside motifs. It appears as a smooth continuation for Kenzo, which legend has it prompted Takada’s love affair with bright prints when, at the onset of his career, he could only afford to use flea-market fabrics.

“I can’t believe just two years ago we were here opening our [Tokyo] store and now we are here as creative directors of Kenzo!” said Leon, whose exuberance expressed on the global promotion tour may prove to be the elixir to bring Kenzo an even longer life. (Misha Janette)

For information, see www.kenzo.com.

There’s traditional and retro, and then there’s kitsch — Tsukikageya does them all

Many people have a special affinity for traditional Japanese attire. The garments’ uniquely Asian patterns, soft colors and association with the austerity and calmness of Zen Buddhism have made such clothing, like the kimono, particularly admired.

Well, you won’t find any of that at Tsukikageya.

This small store may specialize in yukata (summer kimono) and kimono accessories, but they are so in-your-face kitsch that it’s unlikely you’ll have seen anything quite like them before.

There are fans fit for a rockstar, rings made from Mahjong tiles and necklaces of dark-brown silk fashioned to look like braided hair. The biggest draw here are the robes and obi belts, which all feature original prints — there’s one of a couple in compromising positions in the style of shunga (erotic traditional woodblock print), a ukiyo-e-like Playboy. Many of the obi also have retro-style prints, including ones of city landmarks, such as Tokyo Tower and Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district. There’s even a high-heels print obi, which is smattered with Swarovski crystals and going for ¥36,750.

For the men, there are thinner obi (one has crystal-laden tigers) which shop owner Natsuki Shigeta suggests can be worn as a cummerbund with Western attire.

“All of our pieces are dyed in Nihonbashi by highly skilled artisans. The dress patterns are created in Ise (Mie Prefecture) and it’s all cut and sewn by hand,” says Shigeta, who opened Tsukikageya in 2004. “Our prints are crazy, and it’s what makes us unique.”

If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for the person who thinks they have everything, then this would be a good opportunity to prove them otherwise. (M.J.)

1-9-19 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku; (03)-3465-7111; www.tsukikageya.com.

Step into Westwood’s shoes

The grand dame of punk fashion, Vivienne Westwood, is celebrating 40 years in the business with a global exhibition of her iconic footwear, which is making its stop in Tokyo at Omotesando Hills until Jan. 9.

More than 200 pairs of shoes are on display, along with some runway-only couture outfits and accessories from her latest collection.

There are not many designers who can lay claim to changing the face of fashion with shoes, but Westwood did just that. Her first runway collection in 1981, titled “Pirates,” gave us the now-classic multi-buckled boot — a unisex option for rebellious girls and a precursor of the androgynous fashion era. Her Rocking Horse shoe — a curved wooden platform with a chunk of the heel cut out — became a must-have for Japanese “Lolita” girls in the late ’90s. And then there’s her 25 cm-heeled monster that Naomi Campbell famously tumbled in on a runway, not to mention the vast array of plaid boots that are now a Westwood signature.

Westwood began her career in London in 1971 when she opened a small clothing shop that sold DIY couture to the likes of The Sex Pistols. As one of the most iconic designers in history, her high-glam punk aesthetic continues to seep into all facets of fashion today. (M.J.)

“Vivienne Westwood Shoes, an Exhibition 1973-2012” runs till Jan. 9 at Omotesando Hills, 4-12-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; (03)-3497-0310; admission ¥1,000.

Avantgarde’s stockings have a lot of legs to stand on

Legwear shop Avantgarde, a new addition to the Harajuku landscape, stocks a huge selection of funky stockings that are not only fashion-forward but should also keep you warm in the chilly months ahead.

If the term “avant-garde” is putting you off, though, rest assured there are some sensible choices among the outrageous. There are plain tights that come in nearly every color under the sun, but it’s the printed tights that are the real reason to stop by. Think Andy Warhol-esque Mona Lisas, cartoon depictions of a European fair and psychedelic patterns.

The most popular styles are the nude colored stockings with retro-style prints that make you look like you have tattooed legs. There’s a whole rack of these, and some are quite ingenious — one is printed with a gun in a garter belt, another has a graffiti print by illustrator Choco Moo. Asymmetrical prints are also in; you can get Donald Duck peering over from the left shin to the right.

This is a basement store, so keep an eye out for the mannequins outside. Their tutus, punkish corsets and “avant garde” attire will guide you into this leggy world. (M.J.)

3-22-7 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku ; (03) 6804-3739; www.avantgardejapan.com.

Japanese anime inspires a new view of mainstream fashion

A surprising addition to Tokyo’s Harajuku district is the Evangelion Store Tokyo, a shop entirely devoted to the enduringly popular anime “Neon Genesis Evangelion.”

You’d think it would be more at home in Akihabara, the capital’s so-called “Electric City,” but the wares on offer are mostly men’s fashion and it’s clearly geared toward the fan base who want to express their tastes sartorially rather than be the otaku (geek) stereotype.

While there are a number of the expected anime T-shirts, there are also leather jackets and bags from celebrated artisans No, No, Yes!, embroidered souvenir jackets courtesy of designer Nishiki and silver jewelry produced by The Kiss.

Out of the some 2,300 stocked items, the dizzying array of collaborations highlights how anime can be a rich source of inspiration for designers. Many of the clothes allude to “Neon Genesis Evangelion” through color alone, showing just how iconic the anime pop culture commodity has become.

There was a time when pop culture and fashion rarely mixed, but with the Evangelion store’s placement just off the famous shopping street Takeshita-dori the divide is evidently starting to disappear. The recent opening of the J-Pop girl band AKB48 Official Shop and Nico Nico Honsha studio and store in the Harajuku area is further testament to this. It may have left many fashion purists baffled, but such stores are undeniably representative of the visual culture of the young — and isn’t that what Harajuku, and Takeshita-dori in particular, have always been about? (Samuel Thomas)

1-8-23 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; www.evastore.jp/real/index.html.

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