Womenswear collections showcased in mid-March for the fall/winter 2015-16 season were decidedly eclectic in composition, including designs that were as street-savvy as they were cute.
Thailand-based brand Sretsis lived up to its reputation as the adopted star of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo, kicking off festivities with a ’70s floral fantasy show depicted in the backdrop of a blooming terrace garden. Models wore feminine embroidered lace creations capped with furry fox hats and dog-face slippers.
Artistic label Writtenafterwards entertained the crowd with a somewhat literal interpretation of world peace, presenting gigantic Earth costumes and an alien making a peace offering in the form of a flower. Sandwiched between all of this was a wearable unisex collection of hand-knitted sweaters that featured child-like doodles of rockets and stars in all colors of the rainbow. The brand may have been unconventional, but Yoshikazu Yamagata is one of the most sought-after designers from Japan at the moment and was recently short-listed for a prize from LVMH (Louis Vuitton’s parent company).
Many labels survive by borrowing trends, and it’s hard to find a brand that can consistently produce a lineup that is truly unique each season. Facetasm, however, is one such brand, producing outfits that feature layer upon layer of clothes. Panels of chiffon and pleated wool appear to cascade off garments in asymmetry, and yet there is a magical sense of harmony to it all. Facetasm’s creations appear mind-bogglingly complex but fans don’t need to put much effort into wearing them and if they aren’t adept at layering, this brand virtually does it for them. This season’s designs included neon-green spots and pink felt, matched with classic pinstripe suits in baggy silhouettes.
Keita Maruyama creates designs for celebrities, so it’s fitting his show was split into distinct acts — just like a movie. In a show that had a little something for everyone, the models on the runway presented Chinese noir, retro Parisian in pastel, a tweed country-girl romp, and a parade of formal suits and gowns set to the song “Blue Velvet.” Maruyama certainly looks to be a wide-ranging designer; he also has a wedding line and is head of “New Yorker” menswear.
Mintdesigns, in contrast, seems to have developed an obsession with footwear this season. Known for its intricate jacquard and lace creations, the team produced retro drawings of antique shoes and fish net stockings for their casual shift dresses and roomy pants. A series of vinyl racing stripes was also on display, as well as an innovative but not overwhelming pleated skirt design that looked like it disappeared with movement of the folds.
The “dark horse” of the week was Adeam, which announced its arrival on the scene by closing the show with supermodel Ai Tominaga, having warmed up proceedings with a steady stream of “it” girls on the runway and a front row packed with celebrities. The new brand showcased a sophisticated collection based around fur, leather and satin that was deliberately aimed at a contemporary audience. While the poise that was self-evident during the show is likely the antithesis of stereotypical Japanese fashion, the edgy young members of the audience proved that the lines of Tokyo fashion week blur remarkably — with Tokyo being all the better for it.
Often seen as the easiest export of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo, the menswear lineup proved as strong as ever this season, with old hands Facetasm, Whiz Limited and relative newcomer Kidill proving that the winding backstreets of Harajuku are worthy of a place on the global fashion stage.
In past seasons, visitors who only took their reading of menswear from the official fashion week schedule might well have felt a sense of disconnect after seeing this critically accepted pocket of fashion being given center billing over the predominant forces out at work on the streets outside the venues.
This season, a sense of balance was restored. Although the Tokyo Metropolitan Government-sponsored prizes of the week rightfully went to the critically lauded likes of Koji Udo of Factotum and Facetasm’s Hiromichi Ochiai, the spotlight was also shone on the city’s more mainstream tastes: the all-inclusive brands that set the overall fashion tone so very high in Tokyo, those that represent the city in real and cultural currency, while perhaps being somewhat taken for granted by the elites of the industry.
Key amongst the representative fashion rarely seen on a catwalk was new high-end street brand Black by Vanquish from the same Ceno group responsible for 109 favorite Murder License. It was the only fashion show on the official menswear schedule that not only placed Japanese models on center stage, but also models of the same stature you might find outside the venue. Beyond the inclusive model choice that might persuade the average Tokyo gent that they are welcome at the shows, the overall fashion itself was a pleasantly aspirational take on the city’s staples, with razor-sharp riffs on the pre-existing contents of the average wardrobe and even a mundane face-mask rendered cool in black leather.
Returning brand 5351 Pour Les Hommes et Les Femmes from design duo Kazuhisa Komura and Rei Takahashi followed suit with a display of male peacocking befitting of Tokyo’s dandy population, offering designs that were, at heart, luxe versions of accessible menswear staples.
Commercial giant Takeo Kikuchi, who celebrated the 30th anniversary of his brand with a rare fashion show, also rose to the occasion with a procession of wearable looks spiced up with some brilliantly flamboyant 1960s U.K. “rude boy” styling that will be stripped away long before it reaches the brand’s numerous retail outlets. Nevertheless, the display served as a timely reminder of the 75-year-old designer’s considerable contribution to the history of Japanese menswear.
Proposing alternatives to the status quo, Jotaro Saito offered street-savvy takes on the male kimono, breaking with tradition so far as to render the garment in denim, paired with a hooded sweatshirt and gym bag.
The wildcard of the week was subversive designer Mikio Sakabe‘s eponymous brand, which eschewed a catwalk location in favor of the smoky Shibuya Club Quattro, where his models barged through a packed crowd, allowing the audience to just get a glimpse of the fashion before it was gone. Sakabe’s challenging take on modern masculinity wasn’t the only progressive element in the show, with the canny designer effectively crowd-funding the show by putting on a ticketed version of the show for his cult fan base.