A new hope for traditional menswear
It is no secret that George Lucas looked to Japan for inspiration behind the now iconic Jedi robes that every science-fiction fan sees as shorthand for cool on a galactic level. The original Japanese garments that served as muse, however, more often than not remain closeted until a traditional ritual or festival coaxes them out. With more inbound shoppers and cultural consumers encouraging the country to indulge in a spot of modest patriotism, though, that may be about to change — and it won’t be a moment too soon.
Dresser of the Tokyo bohemian, Trove is one force advocating reviving traditional menswear with its new line Wa-Robe. And it’s also bringing the Star Wars cultural exchange full circle with collaboration pieces peppered with logos and references from the film franchise. There is some tasteful restraint: the outer fabric of the kimono-inspired designs are plain, but wearers can take delight in the linings, which are emblazoned with designs from the garish film posters.
These go on sale for ¥19,440 in Trove stores from the end of June, but given the buzz around them, pre-ordering online might be a wise move.
Fresh territory for vintage
Department stores in Japan have fared remarkably well compared to other countries, even as online shopping snaps at their heels and the precarious economy makes the omotenashi (Japanese hospitality and customer service) shopping experience less of a priority for most.
This could be because in spite of their perceived stuffiness and unapologetically old style and brands, department stores have still taken the lead in new retail concepts and promoting fresh talent.
Among the old-guard who appear in sync with current trends is none other than Mitsukoshi, Japan’s oldest store and Isetan, one the country’s most influential ones. Both have invited cult select shop Dept into its halls for a popup that brings the Meguro boutique’s second-hand glamour to Isetan in Shinjuku and Mitsukoshi Ginza.
The lineup of vintage, remade and original items is very much representative of not only fashionista style, but also, increasingly, the average person’s wardrobe. Just what will the store’s older demographic make of it all?
Harajuku: Asia’s fashion hub
There’s been plenty of industry talk of Tokyo aiming to be a gateway to East Asian fashion, so it’s nice to see it actually taking shape through the steady flow of young brands choosing to make the city their base beyond the usual sponsored and subsidized showings.
While the geographical and cultural proximity of other Asian countries can result in style similarities that can get promising brands dismissed as too closely aligned with, or worse copying, Japanese talent, it would be a huge mistake to undervalue their potential and contribution to both Japan’s fashion scene as well as East Asia’s as a whole.
If you’re not convinced, swing by the Asia-themed exhibition at the Laforet department store in Harajuku, where emerging Korean, Thai and Taiwanese brands will be out in force. The range of styles reflect just a fraction of the diversity waiting to be unleashed, and signs point to Tokyo being the fashion capital where Asian brands can do it.
“Asia” takes place at the Laforet 2F container space from May 16 to 31. www.laforet.ne.jp.