Style & Design

Tokyo fashion week: Womenswear's mixed messages

by Misha Janette

Special To The Japan Times

The 2016 fall/winter womenswear collections that were unveiled on the catwalk during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo offered a wealth of cozy clothing that will likely appear in stores later this year. As has been the case in recent seasons, the designs were as varied as the selections presented on a conveyor belt at a kaiten sushi restaurant, and featured a mixed platter of items that ranged from modest glamour to primitive streetwear.

The highlight of the week was unquestionably Keita Maruyama, who produced a buzz-worthy show that kicked the week-long event off with a bang. Maruyama’s designs are the epitome of Tokyo glamour: mature in appearance yet featuring kawaii (cute) elements that appeal to a younger audience. Models on the runway presented garments ranging from azure constellation printed gowns to silky pajama suits in cotton-candy pastels. Adorned in brightly colored fur stoles, they were often completed with clutches that appeared to look like stuffed animals.

U.S. singer Gwen Stefani’s energizing appearance as special guest in the front row of the collection took some of the attention away from the girly garments on display, but it was all for the best as far as Tokyo fashion week was concerned — Stefani kept her 2.41 million followers on Twitter abreast of all her adventures in Japan.

At the other end of the spectrum is Hiroyuki Horihata and Makiko Sekiguchi’s Matohu, which is revered for its minute attention to detail on silhouettes that are inspired by kimono and other traditional Japanese attire. The pair’s latest collection was actually its most “modern” yet, introducing mod vibes and female dandy influences on blazers in “creamsicle” orange gradations, patchwork trimmings on pencil skirts and even a cool, black motorcycle jacket.

London-based designer Johan Ku was the inspiration behind the week’s moment of drama, turning his runway show into a recreation of John Carpenter’s 1982 horror flick, “The Thing.” Black alien-looking appendages jutted from Ku’s abstract designs, many of which were already sculpture-like in appearance. Ku’s textiles are created using an intricate patchwork technique that was developed in his native Taiwan. This season, his designs featured a moody black, white and gray palette that also glowed in the dark.

On the streetwear front, consumers seeking comfort should look no further than Onitsuka Tiger by Andrea Pompilio, the domestic activewear line that boasts design chops to rival global brands such as Adidas or Nike. This season, Onitsuka Tiger delivered a modern take on ’90s New York-inspired grunge, presenting fall-colored plaids and super-long striped scarves. The garments were paired with hybrid thigh-high sneaker boots and oversized vinyl bags that gave off a sporty vibe.

A “back to school” influence was the only noticeable Tokyo-ready trend on display during the week. Newcomer Akikoaoki delivered a small but interesting collection as part of a group show called Tokyo New Age that included oversized pleated skirts and blazers, an allusion to retro Japanese school uniforms. The up-and-coming designer added a twist to her creations in the form of bleached plaids that faded to pink or were presented in splatter patterns, all styled with military jackets and nylon jumpsuits.

Last but definitely not least, underground label Neb aaran do (pronounced “Neverland”) centered its entire design ethos this season on Japanese school sailor suit uniforms. Incorporating sailor hats, printed tights and an abundance of bows, the runway styling leaned heavily toward a “Lolita fashion” subculture. Looking a little more closely, however, it’s easy to imagine an array of navy or military green coats on Tokyo women of all ages this coming fall.