The recent situation at Phenomenon has given me (and many readers – thank you for your emails!) a lot to think about, so against that backdrop I thought I would look at a brand who are approaching their operations in an altogether different way and who I think are pretty adept in doing so. Needless to say, this isn’t a matter of direct comparison or value judgements, just something to have a think about if you are so inclined, and if you are not then feel free to just bask in the fashion.
Banal Chic Bizarre has been a frequent participator in Tokyo Fashion Week since 2009, but have taken a couple of seasonal breaks since and don’t actually appear on the official schedule. Instead, they time their shows to “coincide” with the week or else appear at related events such as the Shibuya Fashion Festival held in Miyashita Park on the last day of the official Tokyo Fashion Week. It is a position that suits them perfectly, as is their open policy to allowing fans to attend if they are happy to stand, a direct contrast to some brands hype-heavy illusion of exclusivity demonstrated by some that the ever-inclusive world of Japanese fashion always seems at odds with. When they are not at Fashion Week their lookbooks are often shot on the street in Harajuku a stone’s throw from their flagship or nearby Yoyogi park – a declaration of authenticity that few can lay claim to.
One of the reoccurring themes with their shows is that of “The Teamer” Banal Chic Bizarre’s own term for their masked models and fans. The idea being that it could be anyone wearing their clothes, a pro model or alternatively a street fashion revolutionary who had made this brand what it is today. It is a neat compromise and generally one that works better when the faces are completely covered, but it aludes to the overall respect that this brand has for its fans and the role it is willing to let them play in the formation of the brand. Also don’t forget that one half of BCB was also behind the brilliant Root magazine which did more than any other publication during its lifespan to promote real Harajuku street fashion. In short this is a brand that accepts the closer relationship that fashion fans want with their designers and even though many will disagree with it, it is certainly something to think about.
On to the collection at hand and right from the start the ever-contrary BCB decided that their menswear collection should be modeled by women, a move meant to echo the key theme of finding a softer side to men’s military wear.
The collection also included blacklight reactive elements in every outfit, something hard to capture on camera, which was subversive move to deny the camouflage heavy collection its function, i.e. this is camouflage that makes you more visible.
The core look featured a lot of military references, which were further undermined when rendered with beach-ready materials, water pistols in the holsters and beach sandals worn with military socks.
The show began with the military ensemble above, which was then gradually deconstructed as the show progressed.
The striking makeup was inspired by old pro wrestler masks, again an attempt to find a contrast between the young female model and images of aggressive masculinity.
All in all the point came through load and clear, and once you are past that you could really start to appreciate the crisp gathered silhouettes and fresh fabrics.
Talking to the designer Nakagawa (who took the lead on this collection – BCB being a design duo) he did say that some items were from the female line, but first and foremost he wanted everything to be able to be worn by men.
This tsunagi was the strongest single piece for me – and not just because it was in black.
The final shot included the helmet as a nice reference for fans of the brand – the Teamers.
It should also be said that the secondary soundtrack to the show was provided by the Yamanote line that whizzed by constantly as the show went on – you can see it in the background of this shot with Nakagawa below during the interviews:
All in all this was a show that embraced the brand’s position in Japanese fashion – quite literally as it was located in the Park at the end of Cat Street, Harajuku, but still made a stand against being an official participator in the week proper. However you want to spin it it unavoidably shows that this kind of authentic Harajuku fashion still stinks of itself as an outsider to the more western model of Tokyo Fashion Week, but for now at least, Banal Chic Bizarre’s compromise is without a doubt the best thing for Japanese fashion as a whole.
For more on the collection, including a full set of blacklight shots, you will want to go here.