On the changing face of Japanese styling

by Samuel Thomas

Contributing Writer

As our lifestyles and desires change, fashion has always adapted with the times. But now, with changing demographics and easier access to global influences, it has become more eclectic than ever. From casual looks that match a lifestyle, to fanciful contemporary art collaborations, Japan aims to please all.

Fashioning lifestyles

While it is patently clear that print media is in a state of flux as it continues to adjust to online competition, Japanese fashion magazines hardly seem to be in a state of crisis.

The market may have lost some former fixtures of the still-heaving magazine racks, but it is worth noting that most of those catered toward distinctly subcultural or niche fashion markets. The loss of Harajuku street-fashion chronicle Fruits and Egg, the gyaru (fashion-conscious girls “gals”) bible, may have been less to do with the state of the media and more because the acolytes of those styles had long-since graduated and were reading something else.

Still, there are some subcultural styles not content to settle for a niche internet following. Case in point is Le Panier, a self-titled “new wave Lolita magazine” from former editor in chief of the now digital-only Lolita-focused Kera. Coming out of the same editorial office as Fruits, the new magazine aims to update the rococo-inspired fashion style.

Launched May 16, Le Panier is printed in Japanese and Chinese, acknowledging, in part, that the market in Japan may not be enough to support a regular print magazine. More important than this eagerness to gain a foreign following, however, is the de-centering of Lolita style, which was once a street fashion tribe. With the decline of the Lolita street scene in Japan and the lack of one abroad, the tea parties, other events and surrounding lifestyle of Lolita fashion have been brought back to the fore in Le Panier, making it more of a lifestyle magazine than a fashion one.

If that sounds like an extreme example, it is worth mentioning that Liniere, published by Takarajimasha, topped the women’s fashion magazine monthly sales rankings for the first time in the last quarter of 2017. A monthly publication since 2010, the magazine has largely been ignored by the media. But with a focus on coordinating lifestyle with casual yet conservative fashion, it has won over a vast market share of women in their 30s. It seems such women want articles devoted to activities, such as candle-making, cuisine and interior goods that match the way they dress. Meanwhile, fashion itself is increasingly taking its cues, aesthetically and practically, from lifestyle choices too.

Le Panier: www.lepanier-lolita.com (Japanese only) Liniere: tkj.jp/liniere (Japanese only)

George Nakamura
George Nakamura’s ceramic works for Matohu. | MATOHU

Artisanally inspired

Matohu, from design partnership Hiroyuki Horihata and Makiko Sekiguchi, has long taken its inspiration from traditional Japanese kōgei (handicrafts) and mingei (folk crafts). Recently, its journey came full circle when it launched a series of exhibitions showcasing craftspeople’s Matohu-inspired work at its Omotesando flagship.

The 10th iteration in this series opens on June 1 and features pieces by ceramicist George Nakamura, who brings his distinctive style from Kyoto to Tokyo for an exclusive showing. Much like Matohu’s work, Nakamura’s ceramics are inspired by daily life and are both functional and artistic. The exhibition is a chance to observe Matohu’s dedication to bringing traditional aesthetics and crafts back into the home.

The George Nakamura exhibition runs June 1-10 at Matohu Omotesando: 1F 5-9-25, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Matohu: www.matohu.com

The art bag

| GUCCI

High-end fashion collaborations with artists could arguably have been a precursor to its intersection with lifestyle. In a world where even Lanvin, known for its refined elegance, has collaborated with manga artist Hirohiko Araki and his quirky “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure,” it’s hard to imagine such projects being striking enough to shock. But it’s worth remembering that when Louis Vuitton released its Takashi Murakami bags in 2003, it brought Omotesando shoppers to a standstill.

The latest meeting of such worlds is between Gucci and painter Yuko Higuchi, who collaborated with the brand late last year for a series of children’s wear. This month, Gucci has released a new, exclusive lineup. Higuchi’s whimsical illustrations of bunnies and birds find their place across a range of classic Gucci handbags and wallets, and will be found on an upcoming Japan-only clothing capsule collection.

The accord between Gucci and contemporary art almost appears too natural at first glance, but when you look closer at Higuchi’s anthropomorphized creatures, you’ll find they are distinctly unsettling and subversive. It may not shake the status quo as Murakami once did, but it’s nevertheless unusual.

Gucci: www.gucci.com/jp (Japanese only)