I am always very wary of those who seem to solely assess the value of fashion in terms of quality or luxury, a result perhaps of having to defend the price of fashion against those who seem to draw some degree of satisfaction from scorning it, but it is a phenomena that even rears its head industry side and I would not like to live in a world where that was the case. In the case of Japan it is pretty clear that the current generation is right against that way of thinking and is defined instead by fashion as context, in the simplest possible terms, that fashion is a medium for establishing or selling a context. You can see examples of this in Paris too, people are not buying the latest collections from Saint Laurent because of the quality of construction, they are buying it because it is a medium for context, in that case the lifestyle of Hedi himself, likewise the cult of Rick Owens centers around the shows as a means of ritual you then buy into. Obviously that world is constantly defined by aspirations to a Vogue society world, a bastion of fashion as previously defined, but definitions can change. This is especially in the case Tokyo where those brands can be picked up outside their gleaming flagship contexts in the resale shops, their racks crammed with stationary Dior and Lanvin. It is the consequence of complete market saturation, the glitz wears off for the fashion crowd who will pay more and hunt harder for the underground icons and that level of luxury fashion is largely left for the mainstream to enjoy.
So what is it that Tokyo fashion wants from context, as it turns out the stories of WrittenAfterwards, the cult of Keisuke Kanda, the rarity of Balmung, etc. The binding element has to be a rejection of consumerism and an increased focus on the societal role of clothes that arguably relives the guilt of the designer as someone who is not a “productive” member of society. Taking this idea to an extreme even for Tokyo is Potto, a brand based in Okayama on the other side of the Japan from Tokyo, in a store that is so remote that the trains only run once every 30 minutes if you are lucky. There every garment is made by hand in limited runs, not to exacting specification, but deliberately naively, or maybe honestly, at any rate it is a context that was delivered through an outdoors show followed by a talk event in 2.5D in Parco with performances and songs. It is a bit of an abstraction away from the business of selling clothes by anyone’s standards, but this is where we are in Tokyo fashion right now and I see no sign of trajectory changing amongst the real innovators.
The first part of the show was held in the strip that leads to Yoyogi park from Shibuya, a long leafy path that on the day was a scorching 34 degrees.
As guests gathered the collection was placed with varying degrees of ceremony into the bushes along with radios that gave you clues as to where the clothes were.
It was obviously very unstructured as a show, the public were cycling through, homeless people looked on and people wearing Potto became models for street snap sites, but were not officially invited or part of the show. Either way, the fans came out and it came together really charmingly.
There was no guidance given as to how to view the collection, some people picked clothes up and tried them on, some people climbed up onto the railings to get a better look. It definitely created a mood of curiosity amidst the confusion, as people asked “has it started?” 20 minutes into the presentation, but that again is all part of the context.
Potto’s clothes remained naive, honest almost child-like as ever, a simplicity that rejects fashion as status and as luxury.
But beyond the clothes, it was the gathering of people that made the show work, fans and industry all chatting in the sun. No structure, no order, no sales, no lofty aspiration – I left struggling to think where else in the world is capable of producing and supporting fashion like this.