Asked to name a seminal New York City-born musician with an intrepid preference for over-the-top fashion, and Lady Gaga would surely the first name to roll off the tongue. But there’s another female musician from the city who influenced global fashion with her unique taste in stage costumes: Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O’s colorful finger-painting-meets-punk approach to outfits won her fans as an icon for the new millennium — and just before Gaga, too.

While Gaga has her Haus of Gaga band of collaborators to oversee her costumes, Karen O has but one person to thank: Christian Joy, a self-taught designer based in Brooklyn. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Shrimp?” at the Diesel flagship store gallery in Shibuya presents a large collection of Karen O’s costumes as well as other whimsical creations by Joy.

There’s an “anything goes” aesthetic to Joy’s pieces, which often look like haphazard experiments in the making. Childlike hand painting in acid colors is one of her signatures, something that’s full on in her new “Kite Monsters” collection made exclusively for the exhibition.

A number of Karen O’s favorite designs from music videos and concerts are on display with some standout wall tapestries by Joy and a few short films featuring her work. There are also some T-shirts and scarves on sale, though they are going fast. (Misha Janette)

“Do Androids Dream of Electric Shrimp?” runs till Aug. 10 at the Diesel Art Gallery, Cocoti B1F, 1-23-16, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku; (03) 6427-5955; www.diesel.co.jp/art.

Pyarco takes the shopping experience to an artistic level

Pyarco, which takes its name from a play on Parco, the Shibuya fashion department store in which it resides, is the new concept shop from Takehiro Yamaguchi, the man behind the cult select shop Makiri Hassin just off Cat Street in Tokyo’s Harajuku district.

But whereas the latter is an achingly cool unmarked boutique, Pyarco’s aim is to bring creative fashion to as many people as possible and let them interact with it. Yamaguchi notes, “I didn’t want to think about a target market, rather I wanted to present a blank canvas for creative people to communicate through directly.”

To that end Pyarco’s interior is minimal in design and makes use of interactive installations by digital-art designers TeamLab. The space is punctuated by large neon cubes that glow in time to music, which visitors are encouraged to experiment with using a sequencer. Customers can also “graffiti” an interactive wall display, and have their pictures instantly shared online and uploaded to the shop’s website.

This spirit of creativity is exemplified further through the innovative Japanese brands the shop offers, including Anrealage and Facetasm — favorites from Tokyo Fashion Week. At weekends the event space of the shop is thrown open to workshops, such as classes given by Writtenafterwards designer Yoshikazu Yamagata and, starting June 17, a Generation Lab series of events exploring the future of fashion.

In a market increasingly dominated by fast fashion, this is a shining example of how niche brands can remain competitive by offering shopping experiences that can’t be replicated elsewhere. (Samuel Thomas)

Pyarco, Parco Part 1 4F, 15-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-8377; (03) 3464-5111; pyarco.asia.

Double-take on traditional style

Traditional Japanese garb, such as kimonos and yukata (the lightweight summer version), has seen a bit of a revival in recent years, and there’s been something for all tastes — punk, gyaru (gal), modernist and traditionalist. So how about a more elegant take on the Japanese garments, involving modern cuts and shapes?

Enter Double Maison, which launched quietly last November and this month officially presents its first collection — “Hajimemashite” (“Nice to meet you”).

A real East-meets-West selection of items, there are kimonos trimmed in European lace, gingham-check dresses with kimono collars, Mary Poppins-like bonnets and ruby-crystal cufflinks. Also available are split-toe tabi socks and geta sandals with a slightly raised heel. It’s an aesthetic that warrants both a curtsy and a bow.

Double Maison style is one dictated by none other than Yohko Omori, the stylist who has been hugely influential in the mori-girl (forest-girl) trend that took over the Japanese street scene in the past decade. Omori works with Fur Fur, a leading brand of the mori-girl sub-genre and the sister company to Double Maison. This means that lace and other vintage-tinged designs will likely be at the forefront. The kimonos and yukatas are constructed by local artisans, and a full ensemble can total around ¥99,000. For now, items can be purchased online at Double Maison’s official site — with regular trunk shows in the pipeline. (M.J.)


The strange things that creep into Japanese street fashion

There seems to be a Tokyo fashion axiom that kawaii (cute) rules all. And within that aesthetic there is a subset that finds its kawaii in some quite sinister, odd and “eugh”-inducing imagery.

Kimo kawaii (gross cute) can be found in abundance in street-fashion meccas Harajuku and Shibuya, where motifs such as eyeballs, body parts, ghoulish characters and candy-colored slime are all made to look cute. Though a few years in the making now, it’s a trend that was recently pushed to the fore by the tremendous popularity of Japanese musician Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s debut music video, in which she vomits eyeballs in cotton-candy colored sets.

One of the most popular kimo kawaii brands is Zaorick (available in Candy, Shibuya), whose vibrant, squishy and slime-like plastic accessories already have a cult following. Its line of clothing is plastered with the same “slime” and features weird motifs, including plastic tongues and fake hair. Teddy Monster at Laforet in Harajuku also epitomizes kimo kawaii with its accessories of disemboweled stuffed animals and eyeball-decorated toy strawberry shortcakes.

Perhaps the trend is disconcerting for some, but it’s a rebellious movement born out of the confines of kawaii, and it’s poised to be a major boon to young people’s creativity. (M.J.)

Candy, 18-4 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku (03) 5456-9891; www.candy-nippon.com.

Mastermind Japan continues to be a driving force of fashion, even in its final year

Masaaki Homma’s internationally acclaimed luxury streetwear brand Mastermind Japan is well known for pushing the boundaries of fashion. In January, however, it announced that its Spring-Summer 2013 collection, which will mark the brand’s 15-year anniversary, will also be its last and most decadent one — leaving many wondering how a fashion line that once put real diamonds into clothing labels could possibly top itself.

The answer comes in the form of a car. The Mercedes-Benz and Mastermind Japan G Class launched on May 22 at a retail price of ¥20,000,000. Only five have been made available for sale, a rarity that, combined with one of the most coveted 4WD cars on the market and the imagery of a premier-status fashion brand, will doubtless prove irresistible for a handful of well-heeled, dedicated fans.

Proving that it plans to be remembered, Mastermind Japan also recently completed the Mastermind Juban complex in Higashi-Azabu, a 12-story apartment block that sports the brand’s famous skull and crossbones logo set in Swarovski Elements across the entrance.

All this is not to say that the brand has forgotten its street-fashion roots, and given that their high-profile collaboration with BAPE last year sold out in seconds, an increasingly rare phenomena, their fans have not forgotten them either. Mastermind Japan’s next project will be a line of traditional Japanese yukata (summer kimonos) produced for the Isetan department store as part of their Japanese Senses project in July. All that remains to be seen is whether Mastermind Japan will be able to raise the stakes even further now that it is approaching its final year. (S.T.)


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