Style & Design

Japanese fashion taps the potential of digital media platforms

by Misha Janette

Contributing Writer

Fashion has had to adapt to social media — its early exposure of new collections, its influencers starting and accelerating trends and its new forms of retailing. But it has caught up, and in exciting ways.

Insta-dreams

The dream of every small-time designer is to be plucked from obscurity and become the talk of the fashion world. In reality, it rarely happens, but for Tomo Koizumi, the dream just came true.

Bright exposure: Tomo Koizumi
Bright exposure: Tomo Koizumi’s collection at New York Fashion Week was an explosion of ruffles and color. | COURTESY OF TOMO KOIZUMI

Earlier this month, Koizumi received an all-expenses paid trip to show his collection at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) for the first time. In the short space of time since then, he has gone from an unknown to a breakout superstar. And how he got there is a fashion fairytale in itself.

Koizumi, a Tokyo-based designer, has an Instagram feed full of colorful, ruffled designs in big nebulous shapes — his specialty. When the London and New York-based stylist Katie Grand, arguably one of the most famous stylists in the world, was tipped off to Koizumi’s Instagram by a colleague, she was so impressed, she offered to get him to NYFW, which, at the time, was only a month away. Koizumi took her up on her offer and the deal got even sweeter. Supermodels Bella Hadid, Karen Elson, Chiharu and “Game of Thrones” star Gwendoline Christie, among others, were booked to walk in his designs, while Pat McGrath did makeup and Guido Palau styled hair — two of the most iconic artists in the industry. Could it have gotten any better? Yes, apparently so. The venue turned out to be New York designer Marc Jacobs’ own Madison Ave. boutique, which he shut down just for the show.

Though it was the first time NYFW got a taste of Koizumi’s meringue-like ruffle designs, the designer has a large archive of work under his belt and is well-known in Japan. Like many avant-garde artists in the industry, he makes his bread and butter by designing custom wedding dresses and stage costumes for pop stars and idols, including AKB48 and Miliyah Katoh. But Koizumi’s work was never purely relegated to the saccharine world of idols. It was often picked up by high-end fashion magazines that saw the eccentric appeal of his work.

What’s next for Koizumi? Well, he is now been taking appointments with top department stores like Dover Street Market and Selfridges, and he has been asked to design a costume for an invitee to New York’s Met Gala in May. For this designer, the world has certainly become his oyster.

Tomo-koizumi.com

Imma is a Japanese computer-generated Instagram star.
Imma is a Japanese computer-generated Instagram star. | COURTESY OF IMMA

Virtual stardom

Speaking of Instagram fame, Imma is the name of the hottest new Instagram-born model in Japan. With pink hair, trendy makeup and donning the latest fashions, you may think of her as just another stylish kid from the streets of Harajuku. But upon closer look, you’ll find that Imma is in fact computer-generated.

Imma is part of a trend of “virtual models” found on Instagram around the world who, in this digital age, are nabbing lucrative deals with some of the world’s top brands. In the seven months since Imma’s “debut,” she has attracted well over 35,000 followers and already cultivated friendships with cool Japanese brands such as Undercover and Ambush.

CG characters such as Hatsune Miku have become well-known among anime and manga-loving folks, but this kind of fashion-ready 3D character is a first for Japan. While the comments on her posts are a mix of “is she real or isn’t she?” the character herself appears very self-aware, poking fun at her existence with very “real”-looking blurry bathroom shots, hashtagging: “Lol, apparently I’m CG.”

Instagram: @imma.gram

‘Physical Explosion’ by Ove Magazine | OVE

Just the beginning for Ove

Where have all the cool, independent fashion magazines in Japan gone? Online, of course.

Ove Magazine is an online-only vehicle for some of the industry’s most creative talents, with high-fashion done in a unique, fresh and boundary-pushing way. But its founders don’t want to call it a form of “media,” as it is devoid of advertising. They would rather let it be a vehicle for creativity without conditions.

Illustrating that ethos, Olive Araki, the editor-in-chief listed on the masthead, is actually a dog.

‘Art of Blue’ by Ove Magazine | OVE

Celebrity stylist Kosei Matsuda explains, “There are not many opportunities for us to be creative in most of our assignments, so this is allows us to do whatever we want.”

Kosei has styled for Canadian singer songwriter The Weeknd and worked on advertisements for the Coca-Cola Company and health and fitness company Rizap. He taps other top-shelf team members for contributions to content, including hair artist Ryoji Imaizumi (Vogue Japan, Barneys New York) and photographer Takuya Uchiyama (Numero Tokyo, Namie Amuro), as well as supermodels like Sumire. Every “issue” revolves around a concept, such as “Horror,” “Biology” and “Smile,” with brand new shoots going up every week.

ovemagazine.com

This is the last fashion roundup by Misha Janette, who has been writing regularly for The Japan Times for 12 years. To see more of what she is up to now, visit her Instagram: @mishajanette.