I tend to stay out of the “Is Fashion Art?” debate, opting instead for the easy get out clause of applying an A. J. Ayer definition in use to it. Simply put, if someone intends fashion to be art then it is and if you just happen to be wearing fashion then odds on then it is just clothes. I do concede that difficulties emerge in the definition when the act of wearing an item, such as a restriction of movement, or the issue of inherent obsolescence in use adds something rather poetical to the fashion that some think of as art. But like I said, I don’t get too bogged down in it, preferring to limit myself to enjoying fashion and in particular, fashion that compliments the aesthetics of the arts that I happen to enjoy.
It is that focus on creating fashion complimentary to a creative lifestyle that Michail Gkinis’ brand Aptform excels at. When you are up close with his work and have absorbed the evident organic touches he has brought to a genre I am going to hastily name “Tokyo Industrial”, the inquiring mind will be endlessly fascinated by the sheer amount of creative energy that has been packed into every single piece. Case in point – in the showroom I tried on a jacket made from the warmest, yet thinnest wool, lazer detailing, handwoven leather touches and buttons that had been given an acid bath before being left out in the rain outside the Tokyo atelier, and just as I was about to put it back on the rack Michail said “Of course you can wear it upside down as well”.
Aptform’s S/S 2012 is as unisex as you would expect from this brand, artisanal to the core and put together with a contagious, enthusiastic engagement with the overall aesthetic so far removed from the elitism that usually surrounds these kind of brands. Of late this young brand has been recognized in Japan with awards at the Tokyo New Designer Grand Prix (full report coming soon) and internationally at foreign boutiques including H.Lorenzo who seems keen to champion this industrial aesthetic that thrives in Tokyo.
The lookbook is modelled by women, but rest assured that the vast majority of the work is resolutely unisex:
But to really appreciate the brand you have to get up close and personal to see the hand dyeing, experimental leather treatments (some with sun-screen!) and hand finished touches that soften the usually harsh industrial aesthetic.
The latter was truly remarkable in the flesh and given the domestic production and overall quality, very reasonably priced indeed. Incidentally the leather is mostly Japanese pig skin which the designer has an enormous affinity with the traditional production of and the culture that goes with it.
So what next for the brand? International success is clearly beckoning, as is a dedicated runway show. At the aforementioned Grand Prix competition organized by Bunka, I did have a chance to see what a show from Aptform might look like, but it was clear that we won’t have a clear idea of the full vision in motion until the catwalk is fully curated by Michail and not shared with others.