Mikio Sakabe has continued in his quest to be truly representative of modern Japanese culture in his latest collection, this time combining popular visual culture with street fashion and has managed to create something altogether quite disarming. The work is mainly themed around traditional western religious imagery combined with that of the modern gods and goddesses of Japanese culture derived from anime, manga and so on. It is a quest that has seen Mikio Sakabe bring his vision to literal life with the help of the Akihabara idol group Denpa-Gumi.inc who he also worked with on his last collection, and paraded his hyper-real version of the future of Japanese fashion through the streets of Harajuku and Shibuya this last fashion week.
While the collection that sees retail racks is distilled version of that, what his highly exaggerated haute-couture versions do achieve is to establish the visual elements and signifiers that are representative of modern Japanese aesthetics. Whether that be the hugely unrealistic proportions beloved of Magical Girl series, the apron / maid constructions or the endless filtration and abstraction of the Japanese school uniform. For better or worse it is those visual signifiers that are increasingly symbolic of modern Japanese aesthetics and their literal use in fashion can be very effective without faltering into cosplay (so can the make-up as exemplified by Hime and similarly Shoujo manga inspired makeup).
Mikio Sakabe’s second source of inspiration in the collection has been drawn from the aggressively cute brigade that regularly frequent Koenji’s finest Spank! and so on. The girls who dress head to toe in pastels or mint and pink, but in their middle-finger to the expectations of adult femininity have a huge amount of cultural currency which is probably as close to a new punk as this generation is going to muster. From this Mikio Sakabe has drawn the colour palette and also faded vintage 80s prints to form the core aesthetic of his collection and then topped it all off by making it very unisex friendly to boot.
The mixture of occult and religious imagery, geometrics next to faux vintage prints and anime structures next to the amorphous may seem a little unexpected, but what it is is representative of current Tokyo fashion. If someone asked you to define the elements of Japanese street fashion that define this moment right now – this is probably what you would come up with. In terms of defining the “now”, this is a collection that does a pretty neat job of it.
Some close-ups from the showroom: