Somewhere between the kimono and the Harajuku Girls lies Japan Fashion Week. NYLON investigates.
While we gear up for New York Fashion Week, NYLON’s international correspondent Helen Armide will be giving us a first-hand account of Japan Fashion Week. Check back throughout the week for runway reports and front row photos.
This story was published on September 2, 2008.
Konnichiwa, kids! Japan Fashion Week S/S '09 is here, and so am I, reporting live from Tokyo...Well, technically thirteen hours ahead.
Widely regarded as the cultural zeitgeist of Asia (think Hello Kitty, Uniqlo, Muji, both Murakamis, and Gwen’s girls), this huge, wealthy, and sprawling metropolis is actually more of a constellation of satellite cities connected by a winding web of subway transport, expressways, and discreet side streets. Each area differs widely by character, and what really connects each sphere is the sheer volume of stores that offer unparalleled degrees of quality and specialization, making Tokyo the indisputable retail capital of the world. With high-end Japanese and international stores (did you know Marc Jacobs has 46 stores in the country?) to small boutiques and subculture streetwear brands, any imaginable fashion product is available.
Japan Fashion Week launched in 2005 with the hope of providing a multitude of Japanese designers a broader platform on which to showcase their talents. True to it's aim, JFW is beginning to attract more international attention, while designers have begun learning to balance the demands of business and fashion marketing with expression and creativity. The designers at JFW may not have the secure financial backing most Western luxury brands do, but they are liberated by lack of corporate and contractual control, free to design anything and everything they dream. Experimentation is not anathema; so far, it seems quality and details haven't suffered from lack of serious financing. From food to fashion, high-quality manufacturing and packaging are notorious hallmarks of Japanese culture. The presentations and budgets may be small, but the ideas are not.
Standouts so far are mintdesigns and Ritsuko Shirahama. mintdesigns is the collaboration between two Central Saint Martins graduates, Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi, who established their brand in 2001. They won the New Face Designer Award of Moet & Chandon in 2005 and went on to join the Uniqlo Designers Invitation Project in 2007. Their clothes are breezy but artfully constructed in easy-to-wear shapes. Though repeating graphic patterns are used, they were rebelliously playful prints. Save for the erector-set headwear, there is nothing too flashy or hard about these street-friendly silhouettes. It's chic, but relaxed and soft. The heels of the flapping wellies were low and the make-up neutral, in keeping with the sense of youthful innocence. Ruffles, especially those in gingham, added to the effect.
Ritsuko Shirahama launched her namesake brand in 1984 and has been constructing ethereally glamorous pieces ever since. She showed very sheer, airy materials draped in sculptural, voluminous folds, and choose to work with a slightly stronger, more adult color palette. She was unafraid to accessorize with bold, shining jewelry, helpfully stitching some jewels onto the soft clothes so they arrive pre-adorned. Her hope, she says, is "to at least make clothes fun in the everyday sense of stagnation.”