With the holidays upon us, it is a season for celebration. Japan’s fashion industry has its own reason to enjoy the festivities, as the ceremony for the Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix awards revealed some amazing talent on home turf. And then, we discover o-kaizome, a unique way to ring in the new year, while keeping as stylish as ever.

Contemporary style looks back and forward

The Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix was established in 1983 to award excellence in the local fashion industry, and has become the defacto barometer of who’s who and who to watch. The Nov. 30 ceremony awarded its most prestigious Grand Prix honor to the label Hyke, with the Newcomer Award going to much-buzzed about Yuima Nakazato. If you have not heard of these labels and why they deserve the accolades, read on.

Hyke is designed by husband-wife duo Hideaki Yoshihara and Yukiko Ode, and was established just four years ago. However, longtime fashion fans will remember the couple’s previous label “Green,” which ran from 1998 to 2009 and was shuttered to give the two more time to focus on raising their two children.

Hyke is minimalism at its core and on the surface it may seem almost pretentious in its blankness. But it comes with obsession to detail. The first few seasons were a study of white and military green, with nary a seam that wasn’t necessary. The newest collections have ventured out to a fringe here and there, or a few extra buttons for kicks, but the design aesthetic has remained the same. That aesthetic is grounded in menswear tailoring and long silhouettes that lend well to the androgynous trend in the air these days.

Each season Hyke takes apart vintage pieces, studies their construction and designs and applies the techniques to its collections. But despite the vintage inspiration, the results always come through as highly modern and one step ahead of the zeitgeist.

Newcomer Award winner Yuima Nakazato, on the other hand, comes from a very different school of thought in terms of fashion design. His aesthetic is inspired by cutting-edge technology. It’s less about wearability, and more about exploring the relationship of advanced technology with fashion.

A graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp masters program, Nakazato received accolades early on for engineering leather boots that can be unzipped into completely flat parts. After stints in costume design, he was invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris in 2016 to be a guest designer on the Haute Couture schedule.

Getting a spot on this official schedule is an extremely rare, though grueling, affair, so this was a boon for Nakazato, to say the least. As only the second Japanese to present here (after Hanae Mori 12 years ago), he impressed the fashion world with seamless pieces constructed of thousands of “units”, printed on holographic film used in LCD screens.

His latest couture collection “Freedom” sees a similar line of thought — using many small parts to construct a better-fitting garment. This time in more “common” textiles, such as leather and denim have been used.

They may not be household names — at least not yet — but both Hyke and Nakazako seem content in working and excelling in their niches.

First shop at the temple

Many know about the Japanese tradition of hatsumode — the first temple or shrine visit of the year. But how many are familiar with kaizome — the first shopping of the year?

This isn’t like the famous surprise fukubukuro lucky bags, which are full of last season’s goods and bargain priced, kaizome is meant to be a smart or elegant purchase.

M, a Japanese fashion brand and store that is located inside the grounds of Tokyo’s stunning Kanda Myojin Shrine, create high-quality basics in luxurious fabrics, and its special kaizome item is a mini leather pouch in the traditional celebratory colors of red, black and gold. The shop is also open on Jan. 1 and 2, and the purchase of the pouch (¥20,520) comes with a special envelope containing ¥45, which is meant to be the luckiest amount to offer the god of the shrine on your way out.

M: 2-16-2 302 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. mmmmm-mmmmm.com

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