I have already written about Jotaro Saito’s wonderful A/W 2012-13 Collection for The Japan Times (archived here), but the one thing missing from that coverage is the deluge of images that I can offer you now. It is a Tokyo Fashion Week institution that I still feel truly honored to be part of, as I role up to the show even in my Rick Owens that I proudly point out the references to traditional Japanese dress in, I am still very much an outsider to the groups of exquisitely dressed ladies in kimono. As they call each other “sensei” and sit with perfect posture in the front row next to your team at Tokyo Telephone, it really hammers home just how culturally distinct this little pocket of fashion is, and how tragic it would be should we ever lose it. We may understand the basics, the importance of the pull of the fabric in motion, positions of knots and so forth, but by and large we are on the outside looking in, perhaps because the only time we wear traditional dress is obnoxiously at festivals.
Jotaro Saito is likewise, deeply concerned with the future of traditional Japanese dress, and how dangerous it might be if the Western tendency to associate it with geisha-esque restraint makes its way to the Japanese youth. Instead he looks back to the raucous world of the entertainment quarters, young women peacocking for male attention and the aforementioned fun of festivals. To this end he brought in a vocalist who would have been at home in classy (but slightly dodgy) Ginza club, references to 20s and 30s glam in the setting and lighting and let his women and me have fun on the catwalk. Even without the modern and futuristic patterns that turned up in the individual items, it was the attitude of the show that alluded to a rose-tinted view of retro Japonica and fun that made this seem current and relevant to moden Japan. After all, it is the very acknowledgment that these clothes are fundamentally earthed in the past, but a past that is still relevant that Jotaro Saito embraces in articulating the future of the kimono.
Jotaro’s women have a surprisingly modern femininity, the kimono worn by un-married women were boisterous and strong, and the accessories referencing current luxury culture with exotic leather and gold spikes.
Jotaro Saito’s man harked back to classic Japanese masculinity, with broad exaggerated rounded shoulders picked out using stiff fabrics including denim.
Elsewhere geometrics taken from classical Japanese imagery, found their place next to distorted gradients that seemed to be closer to modern faded prints than gentle hand dying.
I cannot stress how strong the show was, and you could not help but be swept along in a wave of wonderful shapes, colours and grace. Enjoy:
How many items of clothing so effortlessly achieve the shapes above – stunning.
If you would like to see more form the show, I put a couple of our videos up on our You Tube channel here.
I just wonder what Jotaro Saito has up his sleeve for us next Tokyo Fashion Week. I think the fact that I am seriously looking forward to it is the best evidence that you could ask for that his work is still relevant, exciting, and most importantly of all, belongs at Tokyo Fashion Week.