Makin Jan Ma is one remarkable designer, with what I find to be a fascinating approach to the creative process.  Japanese, but based in London, he has been diverse with his output in recent years designing for Topshop, but also producing pieces that have been a styling cornerstone for Shibuya street style masters Candy.  I thought I would try to give you something of an overview for what this guy is all about, but you should definitely follow it up with a look at his website as he is always up to something vaguely exciting.  Read on for a look at the clothes and the concept, that is to my mind, unique.

On the tenth day of Christmas Tokyo Telephone sent to me: a true artist.

Now, I am going to try and describe his concept as succinctly as I can – basically, he creates characters through creating short films and then in turn designs the clothes for those characters.  Not that any creative process is that linear, but you get the idea.  The interesting thing comes when he articulates quite abstract aspects of a character’s character into a visual theme of a collection.  For example, the re-occurring moon print is said to represent Guts (one of his characters) sense of longing.  So each of his collections is linked to one of his artistic endeavors that then in turn becomes something of a collaborative project as he invites musicians to produce work inspired by the character or invite different actors and models to play his characters which in turn evolves the original project.  In short, his work is the pursuit of the overall project, which as you might have guessed is actually a full length film.  The clothes are just part of a creative process, a wonderful by-product if you will, and something you should be very excited about.

My introduction to his world came in my own pursuit of a far simpler goal – a “perfect” riders jacket, which I found in the jacket above (you can see a picture of me in it here) in Tokyo.  I admired the simplicity and classic cut on the hanger, but by the time I had got it on I could see that this was a very cutting-edge cut, ironic given I was on the hunt for something as conventional as possible.  Anyway, what I am getting at here, is that his genius is to approach classic shapes and clothes, but to soak them in as much character as possible with over-sizing, great fabrics and playful proportions.

At times he has reminded me of H>Fractal, which is suprising given that he has a very different fashion background.  He studied as St.Martins in London and went on to produce collaborative work with the “Janfamily” – a group who have all gone on to do rather well in their respective artistic fields, but Makin Jan Ma was the only Japanese designer of the group, which I would suggest makes the majority of his inspirations external to the Japanese fashion world, though I would be interested to hear from him which Japanese designers have been inspirational.

His clothes fit effortlessly with the Candy aesthetic and it is interesting to note that the shoes in the look above are from a London based designer as well.  I suppose when it comes to edgy street style we can hold our heads up proud in the UK.

I personally love his space inspired prints and looks, I feel myself wanting to tackle some of these themes myself very soon.

I find it interesting that when someone wears Makin Jan Ma, they are effectively wearing a costume for a character.  I think that adds an important aspect to the story of each item and makes watching his short films all the more entertaining for it.

This is from his current collection and there really is so much detail going on here around the shoulders and collars that I feel faintly bewildered!

A nice combination with Tarzan Kick.

I think he has an amazing sensitivity with his work, when it would be all to easy to make all his little details that little bit more obvious.  Maybe it is because he is so involved in the reality of his characters that he creates something so sensitive and personal.

A simply stunning bag.

Something that little bit more adventurous.

At the end of the day you have to keep in mind that this is a creative venture to produce a film, that the clothes are part of that the process.  The designer lives by the motto above and you can really see it in the evolution of his work, that has gone from the level of a fashion graduate to fully-formed in no-time at all.  If I were to play devils-advocate for a brief moment I would say that without the context of the films his work loses some of its meaning, but that is the point, you cannot separate the films from the clothes and they are all the richer for that experience.  All I can say is that I am looking forward to seeing the end result, but that may very well take a lifetime of beautiful creations – that I for one plan to endure.


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