The “new year, new you” cliche that tempts consumers to spend more on style at this time of the year often has even the most cynical admitting that an excuse to indulge feels good. But when it comes to genuinely new fashion, it’s actually always lacking at the very start of the year, given that the lion’s share of shops are still trying to shift autumn and winter stock, which in the case of autumn was probably on the shelves in mid summer.
This year, even the mighty old guards of department stores, Mitsukoshi and Isetan, gave in and started their clearance sales as early as Jan. 4, previously having tried to hold on to a semblance of respect for the Japanese merchant tradition of holding back for at least a week. For many, however, a new look doesn’t necessarily mean straight off the runway, and customers appreciated the stores’ move, with an estimated 8,000 queuing up for the opening of Isetan Shinjuku alone.
For others a “clearance” has meant just that, such as youth retailer Spinns,which offered major discounts as it let its Harajuku flagship go after 14 years of dressing the cool kids of the area. The flagship was many a youth’s first foray into fashion, but with other stores nearby, the Spinns story is at least not over.
Perhaps the start of the year has become more of a cathartic close to the year before, as unfulfilled fashion wishes are granted at an increasingly bigger discount. But bargains are always popular with the masses. On New Year’s Eve, shoppers even strayed from temples to check out Tokyo Disney Resort’s Ikspiari shopping mall, which boldly began its sale at the stroke of midnight.
Now it’s the middle of January, and people are finally starting to hunger for something new, and on that score Japanese fashion is picking up the pace.
Front-row seats for all
This coming winter’s menswear collections are currently on the runways of Europe, just as the lineups for spring are entering stores in Japan. Confused? How do shoppers focus on what’s physically just around the corner, when the media keeps looking at what will be available six months in the future?
Yohji Yamamoto in Aoyama and selected stores nationwide are offering a solution with the launch of in-store immersive experiences that use the latest virtual reality technology to place you in the best seat in the house for the iconic designer’s current season’s shows.
Once you don the headset, you’ll find yourself transported back in time and at the heart of the action as a front-row visitor to fashion week. This not only allows customers to take in the clothes, and the way they move, at their own leisure, but also gives a little insight into what was once a very exclusive event. It’s a concept that could potentially be brought into the home as VR technology becomes more affordable, meaning, in time, we may all be able to enjoy a trip to fashion week, no matter who or where we are.
Hundreds of years ago, the pristine white shirt used to be a symbol of gentility in Europe, primarily because keeping it stain- and wrinkle-free involved much conscientious effort, making it a conspicuous display of affluence akin to owning a Birkin bag or hand-wound watch today. While that notion lingers in terms of the crisp shirt as formal and business wear, the romance of taking care of one has long been lost to become mere inconvenience.
The battle against ironing in general isn’t new and Uniqlo is weighing in for men with its new Wash and Wear range, which launched this month. These shirts are as convenient as you are likely going to get without having to abandon a 100-percent-cotton textile. The range of business shirts are woven from extra-long fibers of cotton, which reduces pilling, and have undergone a wrinkle-resist treatment, making them wearable right from the line or dryer. They also remain noticeably sleek, whether worn with a tie or rolled-up sleeves.
Unlike days past, the shirt, at ¥3,229, is also inexpensive. So should you lose out to an errant stubborn stain, it won’t break the bank to replace.
Collaborations still rule
Some things don’t change, not least the fashion industry’s reliance on brand collaborations to garner interest and amass new fans. It’s easy to be snobbish about such ventures, but the fact remains they are popular, especially within menswear. They’re doubly popular when it comes to collectable limited-edition sneakers.
This year’s early frontrunner is between Onitsuka Tiger and video-game company Capcom’s “Street Fighter,” which is now marking its 30th anniversary. The campaign has “Street Fighter” character Chun Li wearing Onitsuka Tiger’s new Mexico 66 SD model (an update to its popular Mexico 66 line), which debuted this month.
This is just the first bout for the “Street Fighter” collaboration, so if you’re interested, watch out for more on Tokyo billboards and social media.