Following on from Runurunu’s half of the Cocoon exhibition we have Balmung, who in stark contrast to Runurunu’s refreshingly dark offering is focusing on light this season, indeed, almost all of of his textiles are reflective and the effect is almost crystalline in person. This glittering and bejeweled result is all the more surprising when you hear that for this season Balmung designer Hachi has been inspired by the stacks of rubbish in Shinjuku, an area of Tokyo that is known for being one of the cities dirtiest, but also the area where the juxtaposition that sums up Japanese urbanism peaks. In Shinjuku a fabulous Gucci store sits a hundred metres from the red light district where gleaming hostess bars are neighbors with squalor and the best things in life meet the very worst. It is a contradiction that I personally feel more at home with than other parts of the city, and I am glad to see Hachi articulating this phenomenon in fashion so well.
In the collection fur meets plastic, artificial materials are set with organic and then the whole wrapped up in rubbish bags to give the surface of the clothes the appearance of a full trash bag with its contents just slightly obscured beneath the surface. In this case many of the fabrics are printed (with designs that echo the key visual theme of rubbish morphing into crystals), or else tinsel-like material is trapped between the layers of fabric and plastic so that the clothes themselves are literally vessels themselves.
It is a bold visual step for Balmung, but also a firm stance on the nature of fashion for this Tokyo underground designer. This is fashion that on one level declares the wearer as rubbish, but also finds a beauty in the resulting form and through it challenges our sense of values perfectly. In effect the true value of the collection comes from the social expression rather than the equation of “quality of materials x labour” that determines value in the real clothes movement we saw at Fashion Week from the likes of Sise.
Even if the Shinjuku squalor inspirations are something of a departure, the core of angular bold futurism remains very much intact.
In developing his aesthetic further in this collection, the result is likely to be probably all the more divisive. Still, there are enough elements here to make it worthy of a closer look whatever your personal opinion, so with that established lets move on the Cocoon exhibition:
Triangles as ever remain key to Balmung’s presentation, the idea as ever being to connect three visual themes throughout the collection as a whole.
The mix of textures and colours make sense on a level you might not have been expecting and in person I can report that the mixture of soft plastic and fur feels surprisingly satisfying.
Apparently working with the plastic sheets was not too difficult in their original flat state, but apparently once disturbed getting it to lie flat again after was almost impossible. Needless to say it is not the kind of thing you want to throw in the washing machine, but then again once the plastic has started to decay I think the result will be very pleasing.
But if I can’t tempt you with the plastics then there are plenty of easy to implement t-shirts and layers elsewhere.
Here you can say how the plastic acts as an integral outer layer to the whole and the prints hidden behind the rustling translucency.
There were also plenty of simpler pieces in conventional fabrics as well (all things are relative).
For the bags there is a crystalline clutch,
and a vast backpack.
The overall aesthetic does feel very fresh but familiar at the same time. It makes sense in a way that is hard to articulate and I left feeling that Balmung really had created something beautiful from trash.
The true test is to take the collection out of this context and put it in its Shinjuku urban setting:
Well there you have it, probably a challenging one for some readers, but hopefully an interesting one for all. At any rate it continues to mark Balmung as one of the most exciting designers working the Tokyo underground fashion scene and now that he is starting to develop an identity that is truly his, Hachi is showing more and more skill in deconstructing the fashion norms.
Stay with us all this week for more from the Tokyo underground, it is shaping up to be a great AW 2013-14 already.