I am always keen to stress that the exhibitions in Tokyo are just as important as the fashion shows, indeed so many of my personal highlights from this season have been from behind closed doors as opposed to the polished catwalks of Hikarie.  And just because the clothes are on mannequins and racks instead of models does not mean they are not interesting presentations, as we saw in the case of Jenny Fax, showpieces are often made just for showrooms, and Shiroma even had an Oculus Rift set up for you to fly through their collection in comfort.  Saying that, my pick of the season came from a very sedate showroom where we find a young designer on her first collection, and without any tricks or showpieces to hide behind – luckily for this young brand, they did not need any.

Malamute from Bunka Fashion Graduate University alumni Mari Odaka has been on my radar for a while, ever since I saw her graduation collection as it happens, and thanks to her being behind the knitwear for Mikio Sakabe and Jenny Fax since AW 2012 I have regularly been treated to pieces from her, although all the while keenly awaiting her first independent collection.  Regular readers of this site should be familiar with her anime character knitted sweaters for Mikio Sakabe, as well as his later riffs on school uniforms in sweaters that he employed in AW 2013, and it is no great exaggeration to say that those pieces were actually the most wearable pieces from the line-up.  However, her work for Jenny Fax as exemplified by her contributions to SS 2014, show Odaka pushing for a more progressive use of knitwear, making deconstructed “barely there” pieces, that deliberately completely failed to conceal the modesty of the young models.

This season the “She’s a Woman” themed collection is at one a very personal interpretation of femininity, with the designer introducing textures and floral patterns from her own memories of her mother’s generation, but the overall story of elegance it tells is one that captures the mood in Tokyo at present.  In contrast to Parisienne chic Tokyo elegance has always required a sense of the organic that makes the sharp shapes and clean colors of the Vogue Asia / Fast Fashion influenced visitors look very alien indeed on the streets of Harajuku.  On the other hand Malamute’s raised textures, and color combinations that could have come out of a Kyoto aesthetics swatch book, are of the city and its fashion through and through, and sat very comfortably in context of the Soen White Exhibition on Cat Street, Harajuku where I visited the showroom.

The key theme for this first season is countenancing the femininity of the previous generation with the current one, and even if one thinks very superficially about the journey from 80s bodycon to the current Nadia post-kawaii generation, you can immediately see that dialogue running through the collection.  The silhouette takes the hardness and softness of those two points, and by doing so carves out a new path for Tokyo femininity beyond the sum of its parts that manages to feel new and yet very familiar at the same time.

Given that Malamute is first and foremost a knitwear brand, almost every item down to the accessories references knitwear – the above jacquard knit forms the focal point of the collection with a lovely raised and soft texture akin to towel.

The hard and soft theme continues throughout with Malamute exploring the textures possible in the knit medium.

This painstakingly puckered scarf was an obvious highlight for me, but don’t let it distract you from the great texture on the collar you can see at the top of this shot, and the cute floral detail on the button below the scarf.

Even the accessories do not escape the knitting needle!

The skirt above shows Malamute flexing their muscles somewhat, but is kept nicely restrained by the rest of the ensemble.

I for one love the mix of textures here, and even if I can’t quite imagine this reaching too far beyond Harajuku as a look, I can’t help feeling that the rest of the line-up has great international potential.

The accessories were very well observed, and are a good example of post-kawaii fashion tastes, in this case the signifiers of kawaii culture are contrasted against more worn elements.

On to my photos from showroom and we have one last chance to enjoy the play of textures.

For more on Malamute you can visit the homepage here and if you are still hungry a search for “Odaka Mari” should yield her BFGU graduate collection.

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