Style & Design

Tokyo fashion week: womenswear gets a welcome jolt of energy

by Misha Janette

Special To The Japan Times

The 2016 spring/summer womenswear lineup certainly threw up its fair share of surprises at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo earlier this month. The biggest talking point of the shows, however, was an edgy tribute to one of the country’s traditional garbs — the luxurious kimono.

Led by Yoshiki of X Japan fame, Yoshikimono‘s show certainly had heads turning. Yoshiki grew up in a family that had run a kimono store for generations. Unfortunately, however, he didn’t continue in the garment business after making a name for himself as a musician, songwriter, composer and record producer.

Returning to his roots, Yoshiki has collaborated with a Kyoto-based brand to produce a debut lineup that, in all likelihood, didn’t disappoint fans of 1980s visual-kei rock. Yoshiki’s collection showcased about 40 avant-garde designs that were accompanied by such things as silver bustiers and menacing hairstyles.

All in all, the designs appeared to be more of a nod to his fan base — who screamed when Yoshiki appeared on the runway to play piano compositions from “Swan Lake” at the start of the show — than to any evolution of kimono design. That said, a rare celebrity sighting such as this at Fashion Week Tokyo came as a welcome jolt of energy.

Rivalling Yoshikimono in its ability to surprise this season was Mintdesigns, which moved away from its quirky prints and never-grow-up design ethos to go in a more “classic” direction for the first time.

Although Mintdesigns’ latest collection was based on a “Garden” theme, it was certainly hard to find any thumbs that were green in the lineup. Instead, the collection produced designs that featured shimmering silver-leaf prints of cartoonish flowers doodled by children.

The designs also included some jacquards in a more uncharacteristic floral motif as well, but the collection’s standouts were the more unique pieces of youthful leaning, including a laser-cut alphabet design. Dressing your age, it seems, isn’t par for the course.

Keita Maruyama took us by the sea, inspired by a passage titled “A Shallow Dream” from Murasaki Shikibu’s legendary tome, “The Tale of Genji.” Nautical images frequently featured in Maruyama’s designs, which utilized frothy pastels and brown suede fringes to conjure up images of driftwood. Tube socks were piped with long, spindly feathers at the top, which looked like sea anemones ensnaring the legs.

Maruyama’s garments are an excellent example of craftsmanship in large-scale embroidery, and this season he created column dresses that depict scenes of birds flying through a green marsh, or flowers climbing the body. His designs are most definitely rooted in a vintage aesthetic — 1920s-meets-modern femininity, without going too girlie-girl.

Another brand with water on the brain was Onitsuka Tiger, which took us surfing. While the thematic direction is certainly not going to win any awards for innovation, it hit the right spot for a home-grown athletic-wear brand that is dedicated to bringing style to the masses (the designer is Andrea Pompilio from Italy, a noteworthy up-and-comer in his own right).

The models in Onitsuka Tiger’s show stomped down the catwalk in Californian florals and, with a nod to the cool kids on the beach, presented a range of designs that were based on half-zipped wetsuits.

Christian Dada designer Masanori Morikawa, with a few seasons of showing in Paris under his belt, graced Tokyo with a nearly perfect collection of Japan-meets- romanticism-meets-rock-n-roll. It may sound like a lot to swallow but, together, it looked fresh and luscious.

Kimono fabric and lace embroidered with hydrangea petals were paired with “leather” — coated sweat material — that hinted at opposites attracting. Morikawa says his latest lineup was inspired by what a woman wore on a date with him years ago.

Finally, we come to up-and-coming brand Dressedundressed, which is known for showing meticulously tailored unisex collections in stark black and white. This season, patterns and colors — gasp! — were included in the mix (albeit, in a limited palette of greys, ink blue and beige).

A washed-out plaid pattern was produced through hand embroidery and another was made with overlaid strips that created morse code-like holes.

Designers Takeshi Kitazawa and Emiko Sato are expecting their first child and recently joked that they thought the moody prints were their way of “softening up.”