Continuing our search for the best new Tokyo talent to watch out for this 2014, we have new brand Otonatoy from design partnership Kanehiro Yukie and Kobayashi Misa. The concept is simple, to encourage adults to play with fashion once again, appropriately enough starting with collections themed around the kindergarten, and even playing “Doctors and Nurses” for their first full seasonal line-ups. Now, I know that introduction might well have set off alarm bells in some readers’ heads, but rest assured that even if there may be some unavoidable crossover with certain kinks out there, that is no good reason to relegate this topic from fashion entirely, and I would say that if you can’t get beyond that then you might do well to stop reading right here. Indeed, I have interviewed both the designers at length for another project, and what comes through strongest of all is that they want to recapture a sense of innocence, fun, humor and playfulness with fashion, afterall, fashion can and should be serious, but we are kidding ourselves if we think that it is anything but a game, a dalliance, a spectacle to enjoy – Otonatoy simply asks that we are honest about it.
Their first collection starts with the image of the Japanese kindergarten uniform, blending it with motifs from play mats, wallpaper and so on as they go – the first layer of subversion might be lost if you are not familiar with the original uniform so check that out so you don’t miss a single detail. The second layer is altogether more obvious, in that it is an adult refusing to adopt the uniform of a member of society, opting instead to refuse the values of adult society through fashion. This concept has been explored by lolita fashion in the past, but now that that has become an accepted part of the palette of Japanese fashion, is it any surprise that Otonatoy has had to dig a little deeper?
Moving beyond the social message, I do have to be dull and say that the clothes are exceptionally well put together as you can see below:
There is something of a hip-hop silhouette to the mix with a lower centre of gravity and exaggerated shoulders, but the patterns that make the slouchy forms are razor sharp.
As you can see this outfit is made from a pattern derived directly from kindergarten hats, and the fact that this is a very affordable retail piece rather than a graduate collection is all the more impressive.
This jumper is made from the “a i u e o” Japanese alphabet that kindergarten students have to recite, the idea being that it gets in your head to the point where it surrounds you like a cloud.
The arms on this are detachable if you want to tone down the look, something that might be necessary both inside Japan and out. The aforementioned age play related issues do make this a tough export, but I am pleased to say that the designers have already sold some pieces to early adopters abroad, so that might not be the stumbling block one might assume it to be.
Moving on to their second collection set to retail early this year, and we find a rather creepy wolf playing Doctors and Nurses:
The slouchy silhouette is intact, and bless them for being literal as ever.
There is obviously a little transgressive frisson to the idea of Doctors and Nurses that carries cross culturally, but I would put that down to a sense of playfulness, and the idea that an adult is playing a child’s game rather than jump to any seedier conclusions.
For those wondering the Japanese on the 2 pictures above says “Doctor” and “Nurse” respectively.
The technical showpieces of the collection make use of medical style gauze as above, and specially made ribbon that looks like plasters as below:
For more on Otonatoy you can visit their Facebook page here, where you can also see how people are working this brand into their own coordinates.