AFwww or Akihabara Fashion War Week W is the first fashion show to come out of the series of events curated by the group of fashion designers synonymous with underground Tokyo fashion broadly compromised of Mikio Sakabe, Junya Suzuki (now under the name of Chloma), Bodysong (with Bodyrotten), runurunu, 5Toy, Balmung, Hatora, Jenny Fax and Veveropparuuu. Together they have participated in Akihabara culture themed exhibitions and somehow managed to channel the 2D aesthetic and lifestyle associated with it into fashion that is sculptural, challenging and most importantly of all – representative of modern Japan. In the same was as Mikio Sakabe’s runway presentations with Denpa-Gumi embrace the disconcerting and uncomfortable associated with this 2.5D compromise between the flat world and our own, so too is this a core aspect of the aforementioned designers work although rarely admitted to for fear of not finding an understanding audience.
That is why it was such a revelation to see a fashion show from this group of brands where their models were not the inexplicably traditional models of Tokyo fashion week, but their idol muses. Instead of the strong stride associated with the catwalk, the idols jumped around the Akihabara stage sending fabrics swishing and billowing, their youthful exuberance the obvious match for the explosive fashion they wore. In many ways it highlighted the power of these designers clothes to completely consume their wearer, but even with the obvious Cosplay inspirations from the designers, it never felt like a costume as such.
The show was tucked away in Dear Stage in Akihabara and even though I arrived with my customary 5 minutes to spare the line to get in was already causing a blockage on the street, organizers on the door were looking concerned and it was clear that not everyone in the line was going to get in (by a long long way). Mercifully the designer of Bodysong spotted me on approach and got me inside and away from the impending anarchy outside as the surprisingly pushy fans of the idols themselves jostled with fashion types (a very odd combination of people).
The stage inside was likewise a mix of the two cultures with Akiba idols “Bromides” (pictures of the girls) mixed with clothes by the designers as well as pictures of their fashion inspirations. It was odd to see pictures of Vivienne Westwood mixed in with maids, school-girls and the like, but it somehow held together as an aesthetic and collided the fashion-otaku with the Akiba-otaku nicely. As for the show itself, I hope that these pictures give you an idea of what it was like (all that is missing is a high-pitched Akihabara soundtrack…).
A classic Junya Suzuki / Chloma design that summed up the “war” theme of the show.
This outfit made me see Balmung’s work in a whole new light.
Bodysong’s fantastic work that this poor girl’s body could barely support!
It takes a very special girl to look confident in this Jenny Fax prom dress.
A custom maid outfit by Junya Suzuki – the man comes closer to capturing 2D in reality than anyone else that comes to mind.
Mikio Sakabe stole the show for me with this urban landscape inspired outer. The combination of the urban otaku space that is so fundamental to our modern definition is rarely effectively expressed in any medium, so it was a shock to see it done justice in fashion form.
This model in runurunu easily got the biggest response from the crowd – a fan favorite perhaps?
After the fashion show the girls burst into song which was a great chance for me to see the clothes in motion and the fans who were clearly here for the girls and not the fashion came out of their shells and started singing along, doing the routines, etc. Overall I would say that the success of this show was that it did not isolate either group, but somehow managed to bridge the Akihabara and fashion world together in a way I truly wasn’t expecting.
For a bit of further reading, I recommend starting with this piece and if you have any questions or comments then ask away!