Style & Design

Tokyo fashion week: menswear goes 'glocal'

by Samuel Thomas

Special To The Japan Times

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo’s menswear collections are routinely lauded as the most courted commodity internationally, and yet the counterpoint is frequently forgotten — just what does menswear from abroad have to offer the week?

Although Tokyo seems set to be the gateway to East Asian fashion, with a scattering of brands from China and the Philippines appearing on the official schedule, it was New York-based Todd Snyder who showed what an asset international fashion can really be, with the brand producing a collection the week wanted, not what it wanted to give.

Contrary to the creations presented by other international big players (who won’t be named to spare their blushes), Todd Snyder chose to localize his collection for the Tokyo audience instead of repeating a previously presented collection verbatim.

He brought in frequent collaborator Takashi Kumagai for the styling and even trawled through Tokyo’s robust selection of vintage shops to include some of the city’s own fashion to punctuate the collection.

This inclusive approach did not stop with valuing the local in the global, but also extended to a diverse model selection few shows can contend with, shining a rare light on Tokyo’s older dandies, as well as showing — regardless of the way you were made — that Todd Snyder’s crisp linen suits and effortless sports coats are going to flatter.

Away from the established names, those scouting for the talent of tomorrow didn’t have to work too hard, with a rapidly expanding roster of talent filling the boots of the likes of Phenomenon and Mr. Gentleman who used to rule the roost.

Plastic Tokyo from Keisuke Imazaki in particular shocked attendees with a surprisingly accessible collection — once you had got over the safety-pin masks and bandanna Mohicans, that is.

The festival-themed show was a trip back to Woodstock with the Tokyo street kids of the present day, but the designer’s focus was making sure the ensembles instantly made sense to fashion civilians worldwide, not just the Shibuya street-style stars who already wear the line.

Add to that hi-tech fabrics that are water repellant but still highly breathable and you had a collection you would have wanted to be wearing at Woodstock, even if you’ll probably have to make do with a club in Shibuya instead.

A special mention from the week has to go to Keisuke Yoshida from the Tokyo New Age group of brands ably helmed by avant-garde designers Mikio Sakabe and Writtenafterward’s Yoshikazu Yamagata.

Yoshida’s first look from his “growing pains”-themed collection became one of the most retweeted images of the week, which perfectly captured the awkward teen years every man must endure, replete with ill-fitting clothes and the otaku (geeky) uniform of plaid paired with blue jeans.

Doubtless some online found it humorous that a high-end fashion designer put a look on a catwalk you could easily spot through the smoke of your local gaming center, but it was a timely reminder that truly innovative fashion should explore the wealth of experience, not just aesthetics.

As Yoshida’s forerunner, Yamagata, has previously shown, nostalgia and empathy can do more to crack open the global audience than any amount of technical trickery.