After a Fashion
Have you been worried
about what unexpected events Y2K might bring? In the midst of worries about water and
nuclear accidents, have you given a thought at all to the state of fashion when the new
millennium rolls around? We thought not. That's why we roll out the red carpet and take
you on a walk through Tokyo's fall/winter collections with Zita Ohe - a
dedicated follower of Japanese fashion.
& Winter Jun Ashida Collection
In less than a few
months we start the new millennium. So just how are Tokyo's designers and fashion
marketers envisioning clothes that will take us into the first winter of the year 2000?
Rippling throughout collections are nods to the past, fashion that effuses romance,
nostalgia, glamour, folklore and comfort. Some designers are questioning clothing, society
and the future, utilizing materials with functional, hi-tech and protective qualities.
Some are choosing luxury, others are embracing the natural.
An encouraging trend can be found among the waves of Japan's culture conscious avant-garde
designers who are fusing old and new technologies in creative ways with materials, cut and
tailoring. These designers' sensibilities have evolved from being part of Japanese culture
- a culture that created origami, folding lanterns and clothing that traditionally folded
Another trend is that some established family-owned Japanese fashion houses are finally
bringing globalization home... by giving more creative say to the younger generation of
their foreign-born or foreign-trained relatives.
elegance by Tae Ashida 1999-2000 Autumn & Winter Jun Ashida Collection
Farewell to the 20th Century" is the theme of Jun Ashida's
collection. In this veteran designer's autumn/winter show, held at the Akasaka Prince
Hotel, models with tightly upswept hair paraded the runway to classic film scores in
traditionally tailored suits, coats and ensembles. Luxury fabrics and styling recalled
elegant times from the past decades. Jun Ashida's foreign-trained daughter Tae chose
"Transition" as the theme for Miss Ashida. Her concerns are
about the world's state of constant flux and how nature, people and fashion can be
transformed. She proposes a natural, lean silhouette, classic elegance and urban
practicality for day wear and romantic clothes for cocktail, evening and weddings with a
Hanae Mori is gradually shifting to a more youthful direction with the
appointment of American daughter-in-law Pamela as creative director for her ready to wear.
Her collection shows a relaxed series of cashmere knits that Pamela helped develop as well
as some unorthodox soiree kimonos sashed low on the hips.
In Hiroko Koshino's "Rebirth of Cubism" collection the designer
envisions a futuristic new Asian couture using stunning avant-garde fabrics, leather and
fur in dark, neutral and earthy colors spiced with vivid and metallic accents.
Chisato Tsumori's theme "On the Earth" explores a sleek
folkloric look using simplicity of line, strong color and a modern touch in fabrics. Bulky
knits, fake fur, leather, down padding and embroidery reinforce her urban peasant look.
Kosuke Tsumura titles his contemporary collection "Sunrise
Tour." In his pre-show handout he says "We are about to leave the twentieth
century and embark on a new journey. Just like tourists... we don't need heavy outdoor
clothes, but rather things that are light and easy to pack flat, clothes and accessories
that will take us on our journey into the new dawn." Tsumura's contemporary
collection in his Aoyama boutique features his sporty, lightweight designs that draw from
the image of futuristic sixties fashion but with new dimensions of softness, practicality
Junya Watanabe's thinking on how to compact winter jackets and coats
resulted in his fresh vision that drew standing ovations at the Paris collections.
Surprisingly, his short shapely jackets can be folded into bags or muffs. By using bonded
nylon twill and tweed plus skillful seaming, Watanabe eliminates the need for tailoring.
What looks like a fur collar can fold out to a short jacket, and flat fabric cane shapes
fan out to form distinctive ribbed coats and capelets. Long circular skirts and simple
chemises complete the look, his ode to womanly femininity and a nod to Dior's postwar
Although Rei Kawakubo gave no formal theme for her Comme Des Garcons
collection, it is her transformation of familiar fabrics, the colors and draping which
stand out. Sequined fabrics are "decolorized" to shades of red, pink, orange or
are pure white, over-printed with color. Gold or silver lame threads shimmer through
traditional plaid, pinstripe and tweed fabrics. The beauty is in how, using only drape and
simple fastenings, Kawakubo makes a rectangle of fabric look complex on the body. She
staged her show in silence, in a vintage office building near Tokyo station that once
epitomized modernity, a reflection perhaps on just how quickly modern can become dated.
of Junya Watanabe A/W 90-00 Collections © J. François Jose
It was the younger generation of designers who offered the most refreshing changes. Using
unorthodox presentations rather than runway shows, they offered witty and provocative
comments on fashion and society.
Instead of a show, Shinchiro Arakawa offered a wearable art exhibition.
What looked like flat, partly constructed garments were stretched on individual canvasses
hanging like paintings against dark velveted walls. Next to each stood a dress form where
an assistant demonstrated its conversion to three-dimensional shape on the body. What
appeared to be one thing turned into another; a pant would become a skirt for example, or
a jacket a dress.
Maria Virgine's designer Motoki Takahashi turned fashion into performance
art, intriguingly reconstructing his sixteen piece collection, titled "Intact,"
behind a transparent curtain. The clothing was pre-constructed and bonded onto two bolts
of fabric from which Takahashi and his assistants snipped the garments free to clothe the
Provocative images came from Mixed Up Confusion's Hiroshi Hasada, who had
butoh dancers, looking like victims of some unknown tragedy, interact with models
to weave a warning tale for our future, making his utilitarian clothing seem a protective
Hiroyuki Ohya seated faceless white clad mannequins along the walls to
the entrance of the Sogetsu Kaikan theatre where he screened his funny experimental film, Restwell
- Running, Sitting, Sleeping. Citing our need for rest in this fast-paced world, the
practical advantages of his functional urban clothes become apparent: Ohya's coats convert
to sleeping bags and his dresses have zip-on seat cushions.
Under Cover's Jun Takahashi handed out an illustrated book, a cartoon
version of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, at his show. Playing on the concept of
duality for his casual designs he presented his "Ambivalence" collection in two
identical rooms on twins!
"Dream. What do you want to be today?" said the program notes at No
Concept But Good Sense where Yoichi Nagasawa wittily replayed youthful fashion
classics backwards from the soulful '70s to wartime Britain. At the finale, a curtain
divider behind us suddenly vanished, revealing another audience where the men's collection
paraded simultaneously as we watched the women's!
Body Butter's Masako Saso and Yukiko Kurahashi held their collection in
four separate rooms of a photography studio where a Benneton-like array of models of
different races and nationalities wore upbeat street clothes in tune with the youthful
audience in attendance.
Ashida bids farewell to the 20th century 1999-2000 Autumn & Winter Jun Ashida
Two refreshing responses against high technology in fashion came from new collections that
closed the show season.
For his debut, Naiyma designer Takeshi Yanagida evoked a pastoral image
which was both lovely and strong. Using rustic leather, fur, and winter cottons, his fresh
proportioning owed as much to Oriental as to Elizabethan references.
In their presentation Yab Yum's designers Mami Yoshida and Patrick Ryan
envisioned a village of unknown Eurasian origins where people strolled the streets in warm
earthy-colored attire and natural fabrics. "(Our clothes) are intended for a
lifestyle where the wearer has a strong sense of contemporary individuality and sense of
non-conformist freedom in their style. Our style is not avant-guardist in the conventional
sense; it doesn't scream, it suggests. We only hope to suggest a world where there is an
element of the human experience with its flaws and imperfections... seemingly forgotten in
the rush towards the new age," state the designers.
But where will fashion be going for the average person on the street in Tokyo?
"In general Japanese youth are looking for smaller brands, something that no one else
has," says a young market director for a well-known American designer label here in
Japan. That may account for the recent surge in numbers of new names debuting shows in the
Tokyo Collections. The director also noted that many young Japanese still look to Europe
rather than America for something new in design.
While the pursuit of something different or trendy in fashion is such an intense game for
many style-conscious young Japanese, who for the past two decades have been the typical
customers for trendy fashion and designer labels, usually after the reality of children,
married life and mortgages sets in, the amount of disposable income these former fashion
addicts spend on clothing drastically wanes.
If the current winter collections can be any indication of what's awaiting us next, there
are some promising trends: The emergence of more lifestyle choice in clothing, a
generational shift among established fashion labels, and playful cultural twists from the
younger waves of fashion rebels. Some of these, as well as lesser-known foreign labels
will soon become established as those even yet unknown names waiting in the wings emerge
in the twenty-first century.
A note on name order: Some Japanese designers are identified, both here and abroad, by
their names in Western order, i.e., personal name followed by surname. In the interest of
consistency, all names in this article use the Western order.