Japanese fashion has had a long affair with the most famous work of Lewis Carroll – “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and it has been a pleasure seeing almost every aspect of that tale expanded upon in Lolita fashion, Mori, Dolly-Kei and so on over the years. However, by these processes of endless interpretation, you can’t help but feel that somewhere the essence of the work might have been lost over the years. That is why it was such a pleasure to meet Okada, the creative director and owner of Mad Tea Party in Koenji, a man versed in English literature, who had spent time in England getting to grips with eccentricity and English fashion, and finding a way to reconcile that with his origins in Japan.
Through his boutique, Mad Tea Party in Koenji, Tokyo, Okada has long been an advocate for capturing the spirit of open adventure that the original work stood for, but without forgetting the undertone of danger as exemplified by the “Jabberwocky” which I am sure has given many a child a nightmare who read (or was read) the original. In short, by reaching back to the original work as his inspiration for the shop, he has managed to capture the inherent edge evident in the best examples of Mori, Dolly or Cult Party-kei. Also the fact that the owner is a student of fashion in general, and that when he selects his stock, tries to find original examples of what is trending on the catwalks, elevates the standard hugely.
Perhaps the final layer of background for the shop as a whole, and the one that gives it an inherently Japanese flavor, is Okada’s appreciation of the work of Yoshitaka Amano (of Final Fantasy fame). Indeed, as we were shooting the shop, we were accompanied by a version of Aerith’s Theme from FFVII, and it is not hard to see how that original, fantastical artwork is an easy match for the likes of John Tenniel of Alice fame.
Without further a do, let us follow the white rabbit inside and have a look round this wonderland:
Accessories by Incomplete Alchemist.
Gorgeous capes in fantastic condition sit next to cloaks some 100 years old which are so thinned with age that they are practically sheer.
Mad Tea Party keeps a good number of young Japanese designers who specialise in handmade accessories, and also antique examples like the wood inlaid brass crosses on the right.
Always a favorite with us at Tokyo Telephone, there are plenty of Masonic items from various orders around the world, with most varying in age over the last 100 years. A real find for me was a 1890 lodge robe with attached mask from an Oxford lodge I used to walk past every day when I lived there.
Obviously the table where the Hatter would host his endless tea parties is a prominent feature, and scattered with the right amount of debris.
Likewise the fittings are appropriately ramshackle, alluding to just the right amount of fallen glory.
Men and women on the hunt for longer layers, robes and gowns will be in heaven. There is so much that hangs from the shoulders to well past the waist to give you the nice long silhouette that is so strong in fashion at the moment.
And here is our host, I neglected to ask him whether he thought of himself as the rabbit who leads the way to the tea party or as the Hatter or Hare, either way, he is the one responsible for creating this unique bubble of culture on a Koenji backstreet.
Cup of tea anyone?