Tatsuro Horikawa’s brand Julius is arguably the most important menswear brand in Japanese fashion today.  No other brand reaches the avant-garde on the hunt for fashion as a means of artistic expression, while at the same time appeasing lovers of artisanal perfection looking for the perfect blend of silk woven through python skin, while also being the aspirational option for street punks of the Tokyo underground, and somehow not forget salary men who can only wear Julius on the weekends.  It is a perfect balancing act of inclusivity, which might surprise given how progressive and subversive Julius actually is, but it is the kind of fashion that does not put people off with the unnecessarily conceptual, or even being hard to coordinate as so much can be.  At the end of the day, it is a brand that you get out of as much as you want, if you just want to chuck on a cool pair of jeans and a leather jacket, that is all very well and good.  But on the other hand if you want to get right into the heart of the Julius manifesto, explore Horikawa’s range of skirt-like wraps and experiment with a futurist androgyny then you too are welcome to do so.

With that current position within the Japanese fashion scene in mind it should come as no surprise that Julius’ latest Paris Fashion Week A/W 2012-13 collection bridges the gap between the avant-garde intellectual of A/W2011-12 “Halo” and the industrial underground of S/S 2012’s “Edge”.  This left the distressed, heavy waxing and combats, pitched against elegant draping and formal futurism, and as you shall see it is executed absolutely flawlessly to the point that it is vaguely humbling.

The theme of resonance found its home in one of Julius’ quintessential design features – the seams.  On closer inspection the seams of the denim and leather are a glorious smooth arc of lines, which echoes the overall pear silhouette beautifully.  A simular effect is achieved with the kind of masterful draping we have come to expect from Horikawa, but in the denim and leather, where street cool meets high-fashion, that is where I think you find the allure of the real Julius.

In the styling, we find echoes of the theme of androgyny approached fetishistically in “Edge”, but in this collection it is reflected in utter gender neutrality.  Even though there were some outfits that reflected the current trend towards oversized and rounded shoulders as an expression of hyper-masculinity (e.g. the picture above), by and large the swept back hair and exaggerated hips lent the models a subtly amorphous air.  It is the kind of progressive fashion that is likely to actually materialize on the streets of Tokyo, even if some of the wearers are unaware of it.

The first look of the runway presentation was probably my favorite, with a great tsunagi (all in one) providing a guide for the proportions that would follow, as well as being an example of the ma_julius minimalist aesthetic that has encroached on the mainline, stripping large amounts of unnecessary detail in its wake.

A perfect example of the new Julius androgyny.

Shapes and even individual items were familiar, but everything felt more refined than the last time we saw it on the catwalk.  The glossy treatment on the footwear in particular gave it a whole different futuristic feel.

The heavy waxing and object dying on the denim drape above was a nice way of bridging the black and the plaster in the Julius palette.

The new combat design was a triumph, with the anti-fit of current season on the drop crotch, voluminous pockets, but ended in a skinny leg, that all went to recall a classic military silhouette, but in an effortlessly fresh way.

Well there you have it, a collection presented entirely without criticism.  Some may say that it lacks aspiration to something new in the same way that Rick Owen’s “Mountain” did, but on the other hand, Julius is a label that has found its current direction relatively recently.  I may look back fondly on the (not so distant days) when collections were packed with Mad Max dystopia, and a love affair with the Tokyo underground and working-class Japanese construction wear, but I cannot deny that the current output is culturally and practically on a significantly higher level.

It is a collection capable of communicating all that Japanese fashion is with the world, at one populist, credible and focused on the street level, but at the same time using that audience to push ideas that would normally get lost among the few.  Japanese fashion has always been a revolution from the ground up, and this is no exception.

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