Monday, July 13, 2009

Fashion Cool for 2010 - Look East

Junya Watanabe

Where to look for cool fashion for 2010? I say - JAPAN! Well Tokyo has been the mainstream for fashion and cool for a long time. Japan first made an impression in the world stage in 1982 with 12 designers showcasing their contemporary ready to wear collection in Paris. Collectively they were the mode Japonaise: Rei Kawakubo (of Comme des Garcons), Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Kenzo and Hanae Mori.

Aguri Sagimori

But the world still look to other places like London, New York, Madrid and Milan for inspiration. The west still dominates the fashion world including fashion tastes, I supposed in summation they also have higher purchasing power than the east collectively. But Japan has been a fashion powerhouse mainly as a consumer but conducive enough the last 3-4 decades to breed brave new fashion designers who are ready to make their mark globally if not some have already done so. They are already amassing fans back home in Japan and the neighbouring Asian countries however, many young designers in Japan and other parts of Asia still suffer from the lack of funding infrastructure hence limited global impact.

WGSN mentioned in their report recently:

While Japanese fashion retail is loaded with
potential, its young, independent designers failing to live up to their
promise. “Japan’s vibrant culture and focus on creativity means that running their own label is the inspiration for many fashion graduates,” says Halliday. "But funding is hard to find and young labels struggle to
attract the investment and backers that support young European and US
labels. Financial pressures mean the safe haven of a job in a retail-based
design studio, brand or wholesale company is becoming a more popular
option despite the creative frustrations. With no internationally
recognised fashion event and retailers focusing on building their own
brands, the situation for young designers is unlikely to improve.”

Hopefully this report serves as a warning rather than a harbinger of what will become of Japanese designers. JFW (Japanese Fashion Week) invests heavily now on young upcoming Asian designers. It is supported by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and in turn JFW subsidises fashion shows and helps share the costs for participating designers. Being part of a concentrated fashion week, that also guarantees media and buyers from around the world showing up. But JFW is costly, and it has yet to turn a profit. They have 6 years to make that cut to be independent from government support.

The good news is in San Francisco, the newest permanent Japanese pop culture attraction – NEW PEOPLE – is opening August 15th in the city’s historic Japantown. The 20, 000 sqft structure will house edgy fashion labels like Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Black Peace Now . In addition to the permanent attractions, a part of the short-term rotating retail program will include 6%DOKIDOKI and SOU • SOU.

Black Peace Now

The gothic/punk/rock look may not be the look for everyone (although Gwen Stefani digged it)but it has always managed to appeal continuously amongst Japanese youth. That is what Cyberpunk, Gothic Lolita and Cosplay have got most of us outside Japan , thinking their look to be synonymous with Harajuku fashion today.

Sou Sou - funky Japanese boots

Indeed happily to note also, Uniqlo and Commes des Garcons already made waves in the UK.


My personal favourite is Tomorrowland. At the moment you cannot get their items outside Japan or buy it online. Tomorrowland has a reputation for paying special attention to every last detail. Not renowned for their celebrity following or endorsements, this tasteful label excels at creating basic yet beautiful apparel that are both wearable and timeless. For the Men's line I am totally in love with Bedwin's coming up Fall/Winter 2009 collection.

Bedwin & the Heartbreakers

Some of the other note worthy designers are :

1) Naoaki Mizuno 2) Aguri Sagimori 3) Yoshiyuki Ogata 4) Junya Watanabe 5) Hidenobu Yasui 6) Takehiro Nagasawa and Shintaro Fujikawa... to name but only a few bright sparks from Japan.

Nuj Novakhett

And not forgetting Asia altogether, there are many upcoming Asian designers to look out for. One cannot but adore the ruffles/origami like patterns of Ying Gao and the romantic look by Nuj Novakhett.

As the godfather of Denim once said - Adriano Goldschmied who works with about a hundred denims, mostly Japanese."I use Japanese," he says, "because they go very deep into the fabric. They will spend two months just under-standing the weave, the dye, and the construction of one denim". I supposed the Japanese do, do it better!

Fashion constantly changes and the idea of cool is evasive, so not surprisingly there should and would be the direction the global fashionistas are heading - EAST for inspiration and a little something unusual (aka cool)!