The era of East meets West tailoring that is predominantly associated with late Meiji-era Japan, as the powers that be tried to eradicate all that was traditional and Japanese from clothing, is perhaps one of my favorite in the history of Japanese fashion, the resulting daireifuku and later tonbi coats being at once obviously derived from Western tailoring and yet utterly Japanese at the same time. However, in the postwar as the market is flooded with genuine imported clothing and patterns the wheels do rather fall of this particular aesthetic to be replaced by an altogether more isolationist idea of what traditional Japanese clothing is. A particular shame as this makes items such as the kimono a more and more fixed entity that with every passing year has the potential to fall into the category of “national dress” – a euphemism for an archaic device to be worn in ever limited contexts and to the same scorn that the Meiji court once bestowed upon it.
Mercifully there are movements and indeed people in Japan who do keep the fashion (not just tradition) alive be maintaining it as daily wear, something which might just be unique in the developed world, but also designers such as Jotaro Saito who have added punk spikes to kimono, and if his latest Tokyo Fashion Week collection invite is anything to go by, is promising us neon kimono later this month. However, when it comes to progression of these traditional Japanese aesthetics (NB not appropriation as in every editorial with “geisha” make-up), you find yourself looking abroad to the likes of Rick Owens and today’s topic – Kazu Huggler.
I interviewed the designer for The Japan Times newspaper some time ago (archive here), but due to the limitations of paper, didn’t get to introduce my picks from the collection. The muse of Kazu Huggler is to take elements of Japanese dress to couture, whether it is to allow garments to be sized when worn as with the kimono, or more literally by using vintage textiles or production methods. In doing so the clothes are a perfect half-way point between sensibilities, a fact appreciated by Mr Nezu who allowed his museum to play host to the show – a first I believe.
Here the chest detail is of Ainu extraction.
This piece uses vintage kimono fabric that the designer makes a habit of sourcing whenever she is in Japan.
The issue of a bag in traditional Japanese fashion is a difficult one, Kazu has opted for a sterling silver option that reflects the Imperial tradition for silver boxes in court life.
This silk print is inspired by the surface of the heart, a beautiful yet raw image.
I hope you enjoyed that rare glimpse into the world of Japanese couture, there isn’t a huge amount of fashion at this level in Japan, but it is there if you know where to look.