Fashion spotlight shines bright on Tokyo

21:31, March 30, 2010      

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The month of March has seen the spotlight trained firmly on fashion in Tokyo as designers and fashion houses showcased their latest creations in a series of shows and exhibitions that extend far further than just the mere Tokyo Collections.

Up and coming talent, for example, was showcased at the 2nd SHINMAI Creator's project (shinmai meaning "fresh rice" in English) , which itself attracted the corporate backing of the likes of Shisedo Co. Ltd., All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd. and Fiat Group Automobiles Japan, Ltd. and the 2010 Asian Designers' Collection brought together nine designers from nine Asian countries and regions and four designers from Japan to add some international, yet quintessentially Asian, flavor to Japan's flagship fashion bonanza.

The Asian Designers' Collection was supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the 10th Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo, for many fashionistas the highlight of the month, aside from a myriad of corporate support was also the beneficiary of local government support, in fact the event was underpinned by the Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation, Japan (OSMER).

Japan's biannual fashion fiesta has blossomed since its embryonic beginnings a decade ago, when a handful of nobodies presented their interpretations of fashion in disparate locations dotted around Tokyo to audiences comprised largely of fashion school students, with both buyers and the international press both being conspicuously absent, into a fully-fledged, well-oiled, high- octane, reputable, global fashion magnet -- attracting both buyers with deep pockets, as well as the very best in established and emerging talent.

Indeed, rising levels of corporate and government support over the years, has certainly aided the industry in refining and polishing it's twice-yearly act.

With collections and exhibitions based mainly in Tokyo's illustrious Midtown area, fashionistas, buyers and the press could flit at will from show to show without the fear of missing any of the Japan Fashion Week Organization's (JFW Organization) productions, or indeed individual designers and brands that just happen to be exhibiting their collections this month but opted not be bundled into JFW Organization's tailored paradigm.


One fashion maverick who continues to, not just turn heads during his eclectic shows -- this has, over the past few season come to be taken as a given -- but actually make 1960s mod lines both contemporary and accessible, or put simply, wearable, is Kazuhiro Takakura whose @Izreel brand goes from strength to strength with each season that passes, with his 2010-11 Men's Autumn/Winter collection being no exception.

Perhaps it's a rebellion against his studious days as a mathematician in university, or maybe it's just that he's got a keen eye for all that is 'male urban chic', but Takakura's layered approach to men's fashion, which sees leopard print stockings worn with Chelsea boots, under knee-length, khaki cargo shorts, on paper at least, is far from logical.

In the flesh, however, Takakura's extraordinary vision makes perfect sense.

The stockings, an @Izreel signature piece this season, could be seen worn with sneakers, cargo pants in grays and blacks and worn with flying jackets with heavy fur-lined collars. Simple skinny- legged jeans in dark charcoal were worn low and off the hips, with dark-hued, open, knitted cardigans drawn closed by bulky belts emblazoned with gold embellishments.

In fact the cardigans were reminiscent of the upper-half of a traditional Japanese Jimbei or Shiromusashi jacket, or even a Gi worn in Karate and Judo dojos, but padded out for winter and given Takakura's contemporary, street-level twist.


Another shining star burning ever-brighter in Japan's world of fashion is 25-year old Aguri Sagimori. The youngster is soon-to-be one of Japan's iconic fashion-exports, following in the footsteps of Comme de Garcon's preeminent Rei Kawakubo and much-feted protege of Kawakubo's, Junya Watanabe. She is simply that good.

The Vantan Design Institute graduate first debuted at Japan Fashion Week (JFW) in March 2008 and in October 2009 she participated in the Vantan Tokyo group exhibition in Paris where she showcased her fourth collection.

Sagimori has grown and matured as a designer in no time at all, in fact such is the pace of her stunning evolution that it won't be long until she outgrows the homogeneous Japanese scene and is commanding the attention of fashion Mecca's like Paris, London, Milan and New York.

A mere three years after graduating, Sagimori presented what for many fashion-insiders was the absolute epitome of all that is brilliant, modern, individual, creative and perceptive about Japanese fashion, during the collections in Tokyo and her effortless understanding of the female form and seemingly innate ability to tailor lines that cast, long, dark, slender silhouettes, whilst momentarily playing with color, sets this designer very much apart from her peers.

Daring micro-mini skirts in sheer, silver silk with fearless zips audaciously lacerating the front of the fabric, were worn with sharp, bespoke, two-buttoned gray jackets, with prominent upturned collars and edgy leather biker boots, comprising a look that struck a perfect balance between fine tailoring and street couture -- a look only Sagimori could pull off.

Elbow-length leather gloves were worn brazenly with black, sleeveless vests and when hemlines were not shockingly short and figure-hugging, they cascaded from the waist to the knee for a slightly more conservative, yet utterly chic look. Sagimori, clearly a fan of monotones, added cheeky screen prints of butterflies to the right-hand side of an exquisite, eggshell white, silky skirt that flared out from the waist to mid-calf where it tapered to a stunning finish that was high at the sides and long in the front and back.

Sticking with the butterfly theme and in addition to a gray, heavy-knit cardigan that doubled up as a shawl, Sagimori's showstopper was a full-length black, tailored dress, with high, overly-defined collars, but the uniqueness of the piece came from the fact the back was artfully cut away, and engineered into the open section was a breathtaking butterfly adornment that came to life as the model sashayed down the runway -- the wind causing a hundred tiny wings to flutter coquettishly.

Aguri Sagimori and Kazuhiro Takakura will, henceforth, thanks to the ever-growing platform that the JFW Organization can now provide designers and due to increased support from local industry and government, join the ranks of JFW veterans such as Theatre Products' Akira Takeuchi and Takuya Nakanishi -- themselves newbies to the world of fashion just a few seasons ago -- as well as highly accomplished and commemorated designers such as Miss Ashida's Tae Ashida.


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