I was going to put a question mark in the the title of this collection, but as we shall see, the question is clearly a rhetorical one, and one that I think deep down we all know the answer to. As spring rolls around once again here in Tokyo it is the season of new beginnings, and even in the excitement of the new (not least the news that this author is Tokyo University bound), the challenge at hand has a tendency to send you scurrying for positions of safety and nostalgia. Likewise in fashion, the laser-cutting, 3D printing, thermal reactive collections of the current day can bring with them a certain trepidation – you assume they are good because they are new, they are expensive, and thus they must have value, but deep down you wonder if they are ultimately just distractions. Personally, when faced with that unknown future, I for one find that the only thing that is truly capable of bringing a smile to one’s face is a little wallow in nostalgia and heart.
Jenny Fax from designer Shueh Jen-Fang is no stranger to nostalgia, indeed she has made a career out of tapping into that curious emotion, not with the refinement, whimsy or irony that same might employ, but with a naivety which finds a place halfway between natsukashii and kawaii that tugs at the heartstrings.
This season Jenny Fax presented the collection via a series of photographs, intended to be viewed as a whole and packed with references that fans of the brand will understand, but even to the uninitiated the atmosphere they create is palpable enough. For those wondering the location is the designer’s own locale here in west Tokyo, coincidentally a stone’s throw from my study, and the dated restaurants, hairdressers and dry cleaners are a fitting place for this heartfelt nostalgia. The giant props too, which are placed in a bizarrely correct context, such as the early 2000s mobile above invite you back to simpler times, even while making you aware of the ludicrousness of the pull that sense of nostalgia gives, the collection indulges you in it, giving you permission to apply it to yourself beyond a “like” to a digital image on a glowing screen.
Jenny Fax joins partner Mikio Sakabe in scattering knowingly orientalist imagery throughout her collection in self-referential nods to how her home country of Taiwan is perceived. However, the cute dogs and bamboo embroidery sit incongruously on European shapes and fabrics, the sleeves are also mismatched, the back of the beige trench coat is cut in contrasting coral, but when seen in the photographed context this mix somehow clicks into place as if suddenly bringing into sharp relief the heady mix of cultures, generations and aesthetics that Tokyo is built on.
Those who have studied both collections are probably looking for links between Mikio and Jenny’s collections this season, but even if the imagery is similar, it is clear that they are both aiming for very different effects – always remember there is a reason that the two brands are separate.
It is easy to get lost in the show pieces, but just wait until you see how this folded fabric theme established around the waist here turns up in the tailoring later.
Personally I love how the waist of this sweater comes together – this degree of awkwardness requires immense planning!
Here you can see the folded fabric theme turn up on the arm of the shirt, never underestimate Jenny Fax’s patterning prowess.
Illustrations this season come via “Rika-chan” a gloriously analogue breath of fresh air in the high definition Givenchy age.
Sometimes it feels like Jenny Fax treats fashion as toys – and capturing the cumbersome nature of toys in the process. Her clothes are almost challenging impractical, never just using a print as above, but billowing ribbon and applique that push beyond being simple imagery and actually make their presence physically felt.
The collection is pure joie de vivre, and even though light-hearted, the quality puts many poe-faced brands to shame.
This furry dog is sown onto the beautifully delicate fabric as if scribbled by a child.
The ceramic on this sweater is actually an illustration of one of Jenny Fax’s own.
Ignore the merry piece of chicken for a moment – I am glad Jenny Fax took this chance to show with this look that she can produce knock-out looks free of anything verging on a gimmick when she wants to.
In what is rapidly becoming a tradition, this collection also includes an illustration by the designer’s sister.
I am aware that this collection probably verges on art for many readers, and certainly without the Tokyo street context where this collection (with the potential exception of the chicken) could actually be worn I might agree with you. Still, as an example of tapping into a sense seldom explored in fashion I think you would be hard-pressed to deny its potency, but maybe that is just because I remember owning a phone like the one in the first photo – such is the power of nostalgia.