Shunsuku Hatakeyama is a designer who has come out of nowhere to address the distinct lack of dark, artisanal and austere fashion that we are sorely missing in Japanese fashion right now.  As brands around the world clamor to be the next minimalist Rick Owens or experimental Carol Christian Poell, Japan is very quiet on the topic (save for Aptform and NUDE), with its previous exponents – Julius and The Viridi-anne having long gone with the market to Paris.  Shunsuke Hatakeyama is only a couple of full seasons into his career, but has recently been picked up by Carrefour in Meguro, Tokyo who happen to stock pretty much every designer that this guy will eventually be compared to.  We will be going to meet the designer next week, check out the fabrics, and see the man himself has to say about his work, but for now, I thought we would get a good feel for the brand and look at some of his signature items.

The mood of the brand is obviously a little on the dark side, without verging into the gothic, and does well to balance formlessness with harder tailoring, a theme that is reflected in the designer’s frequent use of wood in the collection.  The collar stiffeners in the tailored shirts are actually made of wood, there are wooden panels worked in to keep certain lines sharp throughout, and in some cases large pieces that resemble armor.

We may have seen quite a few brands jumping of the so-called “goth-ninja”, band wagon lately, but I don’t see any reason why the market, especially in Tokyo, can’t support them.  Particularly in the case of a brand like this, where you do get a very personal relationship with a small brand who is still in control of every aspect of the creation of an item, this tends to be one of the best times to be involved with them.  Personally, jackets that incorporate gloves and cold-dyeing are things that I want in my wardrobe, and the more designers who experiment with what is possible with those techniques and ideas, the more individuality we will hopefully see in the long run.

The designer clearly wants to speak to the youth of Japan with this collection, a youth who are at one, very well dressed, but generally without restraint.  I have said it before, but a boy walking the backstreets of Harajuku with spikes covering every inch of his body, will actually stand out far less than one dressed with austerity and care as above.

The overall silhouette is as you would expect with a very long torso and draping elements throughout, but that is broken up in places by tailored shirts that introduce a nice bit of variation into the mix.

But where the potential of the brand shines for me, is when you look at the items in isolation:

Beautiful textures, great object dyeing, and don’t miss out on the clever seam work in the dress on the left.

Here you can see the wooden panels that add a bit of structure to the forms.

And the obvious winner of the collection for me is the shirt above with that very fun play on the organic texture of the wood contrasting with the abstract geometrics of the design.

I think there is a lot to like here, and I will report back once I have seen it for myself very soon indeed.  And if you are in the Tokyo area then you too can preview the collection for yourself from the 7th to the 10th this month at Carrefour.

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