The Japanese fashion industry likes to think of itself as a fairly liberal establishment, right up to the point where you present it with its own homegrown subcultures. You see, the street tribes that personified the 1990s and 2000s abroad (and still do for those still clutching their well read copies of the FRUiTS book) are something of an awkward subject for the generation that held its head high internationally in Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto, and yet internationally this is the face of Japanese fashion that people who make the pilgrimage to Tokyo Fashion Week want to see. In academic circles it tends to be agreed that this is a result of a complex concerning domestic pop culture (a topic for another time perhaps), but regardless of what causes it it means that you have Lolita fashion, gothic and V-kei worlds marginalized away into a peculiar category: they have their own shops, own magazines and often only coordinated with similar brands and many in the industry refuse to acknowledge them as fashion proper. This is what makes Alice Auaa’s presence at Tokyo Fashion Week a little odd to some observers, even as abroad it is the brand that the week could be best sold on, and it unfairly deprives designer Yasutaka Funakoshi of a superb design reputation he should be enjoying beyond his fantastically dressed fans who turn up for each and every show.
Alice Auaa uses each collection as a chance to exaggerate a certain aspect of their overall gothic oeuvre. This time it was spiders, a topic that has adorned many an ill-fitting Camden market t-shirt in its time, but one which Funakoshi explored in great detail in a thoroughly theatric show that Tokyo Fashion Week could really do with more of.
The first couple of looks explored the idea of beautiful shimmering threads before they become webs.
It is easy to think of the costume aspect of gothic fashion, but in isolation there is a lot that is really very wearable and would be widely lauded if it weren’t for the subculture label.
Next things got a little more literal as the webs took shape.
But the show really came into its own when the forms of the spider became structural and even draw applause and cheers from the audience – a very rare occurrence in Tokyo.
I loved the tarantula rendered in fur.
This outfit inspired by the swollen abdomen of a spider was a particular success and the kind of showpieces that you want in your packed fashion week schedule.
The show ended with a couple of looks that were in safer gothic territory but on a level that is only justified in high fashion. Personally I think this level of fashion needs the scrutiny of a runway show to expand beyond the safety of dressing bands and win over the industry as a whole.
Yasutaka Funakoshi was gracious as ever after the show, even willing to respond through his sharpened vampiric teeth to questions such as “what was the theme?”. At any rate, Alice Auaa’s participation in fashion week seems to be working as they have a new store in Harajuku with fabulous fittings to match and I have been seeing a lot more of it on the street and most importantly worn not only a complete ensemble – Tokyo seems to be getting it at long last.