Thanks to Christel Takigawa’s hypnotic use of the word in her capacity as Olympic ambassador the word “omotenashi” has become a rallying cry bound in self recognition for a value system at the heart of Japanese society.  In translation the dictionary will falter, often distracting English speakers by calling it “selfless hospitality”, implying a subservience that misses the symbiotic empathetic relationship at the word’s core.  Regardless, it is a concept that you cannot escape in fashion, whether industry side or a consumer, omotenashi is nearly always the goal, and often the reality of service in Japan.

There lies just one problem with omotenashi – it just isn’t very cool, by which I mean Sid Vicious spitting levels of cool, and it is hard to get away from the idea of Kyoto ryokan, and well, traditional stereotypes in general.  However, it doesn’t have to be, as ably demonstrated by the rooms 28 trade show currently being held at the time of writing in the Yoyogi National Gymnasium.  As it happens the idea of mixing omotenashi with a decent dose of subversion is one that comes surprisingly easy to Japanese fashion, and the grinning oshibori (towel given to customers when they enter a restaurant etc) character that greets you on entry is a good sign that tradition can be upheld and chipped away at the same time.

The illustrator behind the somewhat creepy oshibori is none other than friend of the site – Aruta Soup, who has reined in his kink/drug culture style for this surprisingly mainstream setting.

Join me for a look around the best of this season’s rooms, you are very welcome:

For the interior of the venue we were treated to Wataru Igarashi aka LINDA, perhaps best known to readers of this site for his visual direction for X-Closet in Ura-Harajuku – his style walks between welcoming kawaii and just enough edge to keep it interesting

Moving on the fashion and we have SS 2014 work from Shiroma themed “Deeper” in a space where you can sport an Oculus Rift headset and experience the collection in VR.

Echoing technology as a means of transmitting fashion we have Mudsnail best known for producing hardware and 3D printing for Anrealage, and accessories for Keisuke Kanda, but here in their own right and ready to launch their first collection – MUDSNAILMADE in April this year.  Mark my words, they are one to watch.  The character above is the embodiment of their vision, a lighthearted tactical armor fused with a person that alludes to what we are going to see later this year.

Next up we have the anarchists from the Okutama National Museum of Art with an installation that invites dekotora into fashion, as you can see from the sweater above and the workshop below.  Make no mistake they are gearing for a fashion revolution in Okutama, and this too is one to keep your eye out for.

Back on the theme of communication Japanese hospitality through fashion and we find Miwa Yokoyama, a self-proclaimed “Make Smile Artist” who has already toured New York, Hawaii, Korea and Taiwan with her Japanese makeup events.  The mix of performance and makeup is really very effective, as are her results which you can see below (but please excuse the poor lighting).

The eagle-eyed among you should recognise the clothes the makeup models were wearing as SS 2014 Mikio Sakabe – great to see these showpieces worn again.

Already an established performance the Japanese tea ceremony has been given a modern, and fashion-orientated twist courtesy of Masayo Moki, a Master of Sencha Tea Ceremony and engaging proponent of a modernist tea ceremony, as well as accepting limited influence from western fashion as you can see with her apron.

Back on pure fashion and we have one of my favorite new brands – Dario, showcasing his heady mix of creepy kawaii culture as well as a return to the bold structural elements we saw in his graduate collection.

Meewee Dinkee’s second season was looking very promising, Aruta’s illustrations have evolved into great prints that gives the whole the appearance of corrupted childrens’ clothes – perfect!

Wut Berlin was strong as ever, and a good measure of what cult brands we are likely to see worn on the streets of Tokyo.

Personally I loved these scarab shoes from Depression, and everything Roberto Piqueras touches is fine by me:

Some more personal highlights includes crab themed jewelry from Licoyas, who even brought his pets along for the show.

I will save his actual jewelry for another time (it is well worth it – trust me), but I had to post this cute little shell that he made for some of his smaller crustaceans to hide in.  It is actually a pendant, but I doubt anyone except the designer would wear it with the live addition in the mundanity of daily life!

Elsewhere we were ticking off the trends of the moment with modern twists on kimono,

as well as the use of plush textiles and shapes to keep the street kids entertained.

In the mock 109 – 108 space the WC meets Mikio Sakabe collaboration stood out,

as did the plush artwork of Christophe Coppens who was entertaining and embarrassing visitors in equal amounts.

BFGU selected a number of students work for display, and if you are after more graduate work I can direct you here, for a look at the recent BFGU graduate fashion show.

So there you have it, a hint of what is likely to come next month at Tokyo Fashion Week, but also a reminder that omotenashi extends beyond the poe-faced and into the subversive, kawaii and out-right cool.

Thanks go to Haru for assisting me on the day.

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