New York Fashion Week was home to a number of Japanese fashion events that I was very slightly peeved that we were not able to attend in person! First was the Vantan Tokyo fashion show that gave young Japanese fashion students a significant audience abroad, and then there was the Leather Japan 2012 exhibition that packaged some of the brightest stars of the Japanese leather industry in a fashion show that sent the clear message that when it comes to fine leather work, Italy is not the world. The former show will have to be a topic for another day, but don’t worry I have some of the finest leather artisans to show you right now.
The brands given the chance to take part in the show were definitely at the more fashionable end of the leather work spectrum, apparently in order to make sure that they stood out as distinct from the other designers exhibiting at fashion week. First up was the fantastic No, No, Yes! who are a brand that I have long championed as the best underground leather artisans you are ever likely to come across. A trip to their Tokyo flagship will reveal more leather treatments than Carol Christian Poell, inspirational minimalist seamless leather folding to rival MA+ and printed leathers of unrivaled quality. They may lack the ice cool identity of the aforementioned leaders of the field, but the results that come out of their hectic atelier are the results of a love for leather and a desire to coax every possible result out of the medium.
Perhaps that is why I was slightly disappointed to see that for their audience in New York they had played it very safe and chosen a conservative, retail-friendly ensemble (above) that showed the quality of work, but not their bombastic originality.
Mercifully Somarta, with shoes by Noritaka Tatehana, went all out with wearable avant-garde designs that highlighted hi-tech leather treatments, laser etching and the like, that represent something new and exciting coming out of Japanese designers.
Motonari Ono reached into his fetishistic and anime figure-inspired oeuvre of plastic shines, to give us something overtly feminine and strong.
Aguri Sagimori was perhaps the most wearable on display, but as ever let her details do the talking in her work.
My personal favorite from Somarta who puts an absolutely unrivaled amount of detail into every inch of her ready to wear collections.
More from No, No, Yes!
Motonari Ono with another fantastic design with more than a hint of a Parisienne boudoir.
And a final design from Aguri Sagimori.
The stage for the show was framed with this wonderful halo of bags produced in collaboration with the aforementioned designers.
And finally, some detail shots for you to drink in all the leathery goodness:
The Japanese leather scene is one that is really under-explored online, but in Japan there are a wealth of magazines devoted to the industry and a great affection for the subject amongst the public. People genuinely seem to care about where in Japan the leather comes from, how it is processed, and have a romanticized ideal of the artisan at work in his dirty workshop (as do I). I hope that this is the start of communicating this love of Japanese leather with the rest of the world, which especially in the case of pig and cow skin has a rich history and distinctly Japanese character.
Check back soon for more Japanese leather news come Tokyo Fashion Week next month, as well as the shows and showrooms from the designers.