Even though Tokyo Fashion Week in its official Mercedes-Benz sponsored capacity doesn’t begin until Monday next week, we have been treated to a smattering of off-season shows and exhibitions here in Tokyo already, and with Nozomi Ishiguro’s Haute Couture line set to show with the fabulous Shibusashirazu Orchestra tonight in LaForet Harajuku there is a lot to be excited about right now. On that note, is there any better pairing on the planet than that? Nozomi Ishiguro, a designer who mocks the notion of haute couture with collections thrown together like jazz, sewn with machines where the tension is deliberately distorted, and the Shibusashizaru Orchestra, whose improvised joie de vivre and untuned instruments are likewise attractive in their unexpected imperfections. It really got me thinking about the importance of context in Japanese fashion as a whole, and how that transfers to an increasingly globalist official week where the Mercedes-Benz portfolio of fashion weeks promote a laudable degree of cultural exchange worldwide, but is still a fundamentally Eurocentric fashion establishment in context. Unavoidably you find the shows there are more in line with a more global view of fashion, and I find it very telling that a certain Tokyo based fashion site actually got hate mail for covering the official week, as its readers deemed it not “Japanese enough”, whatever that means. On the other hand it clearly means something, and in the case of the parallel roomsLINK shows and events which endorse the idea of Asian fashion, with side events held in Seoul and Taipei, it is clearly possible to stage a Tokyo Fashion Week in its correct cultural context while also relating that to the world stage without compromising its identity.
Even though I am forever banging the drum for viewing the show as a means of providing context for the collection, I would be the first to acknowledge that that is no mean feat. Designers like Yoshikazu Yamagata of WrittenAfterwards excel at it precisely because they barely focus on the idea of clothes to sell, but how does the idea relate to a brand like Anrealage whose designer Morinaga is often depicted as a clothes technician over the artist who benefits most from the contextual view of fashion?
His last show was widely and unfairly compared to the work of Hussein Chalayan, even though they differed in pretty much every aspect apart from the superficial. Not that that is a defense, the show made it easy to focus on the technical aspect, and miss the sociological implications of the idea of “sizing” in women’s fashion.
The gamut of implications we read into hem lines, the kawaii of wearing clothes too big for the wearer, the subtle changes even the models displayed in the way they walked in looser vs tighter dresses was all articulated in the show, peaking with the garment below:
This outfit might have got lost as everyone fell over themselves to focus on the idea of clothes that changed size, but thematically I for one feel that this over-sized sailor uniform says more about ideas of clothes size in relation to society than any other in the show. As I side note I recently heard Morinaga speak about how his first collections were heavily influenced by Keisuke Kanda, well, all I can say is it is very interesting to see how these ideas return now that Anrealage is the toast of Tokyo.
Next we find KISS rocking out at Christian Dada, a succinct way of explaining the glam rock in his own work, but ultimately a bit of a distraction from the collection. Not that I am complaining, the fact that Gene waggled his tongue at my wife is an amusing memory I will continue to laugh about, but it just goes to show the difficulty in making sure the show fits the collection.
For example, every shot from the show was of KISS (how couldn’t it beQ), the fact that the collection was one of the most progressive yet from Dada got lost along the way.
Mikio Sakabe as ever is a master of presenting his work in the relevant context, here using his muses Dempagumi.Inc in a idol concert to sell his un-gendered clothes to his captive audience.
Mikio Sakabe was showing as part of Shibuya Fashion Festival which sits on the last Saturday of Fashion Week and literally places the fashion in its urban setting, always worth a look, even if only to see how they dress Hachiko this time.
Other shows that married the idea of context well were Ne-Net who enlisted the cutest line-up of models to wear their progressive whimsy, all against a soundtrack of birdsong so quiet you could hear the “awws” from the audience.
Theatre Products kept their glamour by showing theirs behind closed doors in a hotel suite.
STOF rather literally created their bohemian context by building a flower garden in Hikarie, and beginning their show with an interpretive dance.
But that is not to say that a collection hinged on clothes need not flourish, In-Process went with a low-key staging that highlighted their beautifully refined collection.
And even 99%is, who you might have expected to play up to his punk roots went with a surprisingly conservative setting, but that made him seem all the more credible.
As you can tell I am not one given to negativity where fashion is concerned in general, and in the case of the designers I have highlighted above in particular, but even if I can find the positive of each show in isolation, it is the overall context of the week that I can’t help feeling needs definition. Coming as it does at the end of the buying season it needs a reason to be seen by the world, hopefully without resorting to the pantomime of Paris and the faux context that celebrity culture creates. At any rate, I for one will enjoy the ride.