Front row at Tokyo Fashion Week
LIVIN’ AND LOVIN’ - Tetta Ortiz Matera (The Philippine Star) - April 2, 2014 - 12:00am

The last time I was at Tokyo Fashion Week was in the early 1990s, walking the runway for Junko Koshino. Fast-forward to 2014 and here I am at Tokyo Fashion Week once again, sitting front row and the only Filipino media person to cover this important weeklong fashion event.

Tokyo Fashion Week is the final stop in the bi-annual Fashion Week series supported in a large part by Mercedes-Benz, which spans three continents and five of the world’s fashion capitals, beginning with New York, moving on to London then Milan, followed by Paris before it crosses over to Tokyo.

Tokyo Fashion Week stands uniquely apart from its North American and European counterparts since there are no supermodels on the runway, no Hollywood celebrity sightings front row, no larger-than-life, head-to-toe designer-clad international fashion media personalities, no flown-in social media superstars and global blogging demigods, no elaborate productions and no over-the-top runway designs. But what it has is grit — true fashion grit and plenty of it.

Tokyo Fashion Week was a display and an affirmation of mostly Japanese creativity, imagination, talent, passion and respect for fashion. It was a celebration of design, a platform to showcase new talents and appreciate existing ones. Fashion, not personalities, reigned supreme — raw, unadulterated, uncompromising, unapologetic, almost poetic, even mind-blowing fashion was front and center.

 

A DEGREE FAHRENHEIT: Stunning simplicity and glamour

This was one of the most awaited fashion shows of the season, according to Misha Janette, the American Tokyo-based fashion blogger who is a regular fixture at Tokyo Fashion Week, and I immediately understood why. In a sea of colors, textures, prints and patterns, which was the predominant trend for this season, A Degree Fahrenheit stood out like a rebel presenting a stunningly simple collection in rich, luxurious blacks and neutrals that was quiet and powerful at the same time. Each piece was a testament to the beauty and premium of a flawless, high-quality finish and — save for the occasional appearance of a hat, thick black belt and fur arm muff — the clothes said it all. Minimalism is hardly ever used in conjunction with glamour but in A Degree Fahrenheit’s case, the two together never looked this good.

 

IN-PROCESS by HALL OHARA:  Where dreams meet reality

The design duo of Steven Hall and Yurika Ohara both graduated from Central Saint Martins and were one-time recipients of the New Generation Award given at the London Fashion Week. They began their design career in 2006 and had their first Tokyo Fashion Week show in 2010. The two share a love for the absurd and the surreal, both of which they quite eloquently apply to their designs. Their exclusive digital prints depicting The Exquisite Corpse, Automatic Drawing and Dadaist Collage, for example, are masterfully crafted into youthful, playful and easy-to-wear pieces that are aesthetically appealing with a hint of sartorial cheekiness. The colorful brogues and brightly printed silk socks and tights add just the right amount of fashion flavor to fully realize their vision of a collection woven from a special dream integrated into the real world.

 

ONITSUKA TIGER x ANDREA POMPILIO: Daft Punk meets sportswear

Onitsuka Tiger, one of Japan’s most beloved and respected Japanese sports brands and known primarily for athletic shoes, is collaborating for the fourth season with Milan-based Italian designer Andrea Pompilio. Mr. Pompilio brings his Italian flair and futuristic vision with an AW collection based on the concept of the Urban Spaceman: models opened the show in metallic silver bodysuits and Daft Punk-like helmets followed by clothes, shoes and accessories in black, white, silver gray, orange, Bordeaux and green, perfect juxtapositions of the future and the present, of sportswear and active wear, of style and fashion cred. The iconic tiger symbol of the Onitsuka brand is stamped quite appealingly on sweatshirts, jerseys, T-shirts, skater dresses and blousons in high-tech athletic materials like neoprene mixed with more traditional fabrics such as lace, suede, viscose, nylon, tweed and silk. Details like industrial zippers and linings in contrasting colors is Pompilio’s way of bringing luxury to sportswear without losing its youthful, casual and ultra-fun vibe. 





FACETASM: Fashion beyond the surface

I was in quite a predicament trying to pronounce Facetasm until I found out the brand’s name was derived from the English word “facet,” which in this case means “surface.” Facetasm makes clothes under the mantra “What you see isn’t always the whole story,” and this latest collection drives that idea home with creative aplomb. Not quite formal yet not quite casual, not necessarily retro but not necessarily modern either, somewhat complicated but at the same time rather simple, these opposing elements come perfectly together in this collection. Each very individual, unique design utilized layering to the max showcasing contrasting shapes, textures, colors, prints and patterns, in some cases all five at the same time in a very deliberate and powerful yet fluid manner.  The styling is impeccable and the hair and makeup provide the final touch to this fashion opus.

 

MOTONARI ONO:  A girly-girl kind of fashion

While this was an autumn/winter collection, Motonari Ono did not shy away from designing flirty, flouncy short dresses and skirts with fringes and lace peeking out from the hem that have just the right amount of sexy in them. The silhouettes were pretty straightforward but his combinations of fur with silk, lace with wool, sparkly or printed with solid, sheer with opaque and soft with structured were fresh and very attractive. He did away with layering and instead designed beautifully tailored elegant winter coats and chic jackets to wear over the lovely, feminine clothes. His approach to women’s fashion is right on the money because his clothes have a universal and timeless appeal.

 

SUPPORT SURFACE:  Modern chic reloaded

It takes a certain touch, a delicate balance of experiments and conformity to pull off a carefully curated, exquisitely crafted collection of effortless, modernly chic garments and Support Surface definitely nailed it. The jewel-colored pieces in the softest silk, supple tweed, heavyweight cotton, silk wool satin blend and the lightest premium wool are a perfect example of beauty in restraint. Norio Surikabe, the designer behind the brand, applies her most favorite design technique, draping, to come up with sharp pieces that require minimal accessorizing. The live piano music and Old World-inspired ballroom with crystal chandeliers of the Ritz-Carlton added a romanticism that was subtly implied in the easy, breezy movement of the garments as the models walked by. These are the kinds of clothes you do not think twice to buy or take a long time to decide to wear — they are definite keepers.

 

TAMBOURINE: An unconventional expression of street fashion

Streetwear, aka “fashion with attitude,” is a newish segment of the fashion industry, one that has grown in size exponentially and one that Tambourine has cornered and quite skillfully dominated in Japan. Tambourine is largely a men’s fashion brand that “gets” what consumers want in their clothing; they deliver this message with such confidence that when I saw one male model wearing a pair of shorts together with a pleated trail, another wearing a printed skirt and yet another wearing patterned tights, I said, “Yeah, I dig it!” Print on print on print? Sure! Texture upon texture? Why not? Tambourine utilizes all these elements and more to come up with a streetwear collection that is convincingly wearable and scores A+ on the “cool and hip” chart.

 

SOMARTA: Edgy, graphic bodywear

Tamae Hirokawa, who worked under Issey Miyake, is the female designer behind the brand Somarta. She took inspiration for her Skin Series collection from the Japanese scientist Ugichihiro Nakaya, best known for his book Sinrabansyou (loosely translated as “every existence in the general universe”) and his studies on crystal formation. Hirokawa utilizes these crystal formations as a motif in the knitting and digital printing of her designs to create a high-quality line of body wear called Skin by Somarta. Worn under an eclectic selection of mostly mid-length separates, the seamless, no-stress-from-stitches body wear replicated from antique lace have tattoo-like minute patterns, and a precisely calibrated, high-density quality that makes them fit like second skin. Versatile, playful and somewhat sexy, these multi-colored body-wear pieces are bold and beautiful, definite must-haves for the cooler seasons.

 Second skin: Somarta designer Tamae Hirokawa took inspiration for her Skin Series collection from the Japanese scientist Ugichihiro Nakaya and his studies on crystal formation.

 

JOHAN KU GOLD LABEL:  Dramatic, emotionally charged, wearable art

Johan Ku is a Taiwanese designer who splits his time between London and Taipei. A graphic designer turned fashion designer, Ku took his master’s in Fashion and Textiles at Central Saint Martins and established his design studio in 2005. A film buff, he derives inspiration from movies and tells his own version of the story through his clothes; for autumn/winter 2014-15, he chose the dark, fantastical movie Pan’s Labyrinth. Perhaps it is his original training as a graphic artist combined with his knowledge of textiles that allows him to do this effectively in moving, dramatic and provocative pieces overflowing with emotions, but there is nothing costume-like or absurd about his clothes, which are actually quite relatable and wearable. His knits, handmade in London and Taipei, are fabulous captured in yarn, his jackets, suits, skirts and dresses in hand-embroidered textured fabrics exclusively designed by his studio are like sculptures made to be worn. His discreet detailing in leather, silk, cotton and metallic fabrics gives the clothes a very luxurious, couture feel and his choice of colors in autumn hues adds to the mystery and the allure of the collection. The hint of couture makes me think he has a future in haute couture. Perhaps after Berlin, where he is working on a theater project, his next stop will be Paris, the center of haute couture.

 

NOZOMI ISHIGURO: Fashion on speed

To say that watching Nozomi Ishiguro’s show was a trip is an understatement. Entitled “Lalalalala…” it was a vivid expression of Ishiguro’s flair for the extraordinary, out-of-the box approach to fashion. The models, with their barely there makeup save for lipstick-smudged cheeks, walked trance-like to the beat of the Ishiguro-clad orchestra of hip male and female musicians playing fusion Japanese music in Saran wrap-looking colored headpieces and highly deconstructed separates in every imaginable print, pattern and texture. “No rules” was the rule of the collection of short and long pants, dresses and flouncy skirts, mixing leopard with plaid and checkered print, black with brown and all the colors of the rainbow paired with black mid-calf boots, the de rigueur footwear. “There is order in confusion” is perhaps the best way to summarize Ishiguro’s whimsical collection, because while there were many things going on in his designs, they all quite charmingly came together in the end. Clearly, though, these visually arresting statement pieces are not for the faint of heart.

 

UJOH: Fashion worthy of royalty

The first thing that came to mind when the models at Ujoh came down the runway was how much the fashionable Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge, would have loved and looked good in these clothes. Tasteful, understated, impeccably tailored, feminine and modernly classic, the collection of mostly separates made predominantly from wool mixed in with some pure cotton and delicate silk pieces in cool solid colors were fashion perfection, the absolute affirmation of what “less is more” truly means. Ujoh’s polished pieces can easily transform from day to night, casual chic to formal wear with the littlest accessorizing, as seen with the appearance of the occasional tights on the runway. The no-frills, no-fuss collection captured the essence of elegant, utterly ladylike power dressing for the woman of the 21st century.

 

YASUTOSHI EZUMI:  A well marked-out collection

Another graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, Yasutoshi Ezumi apprenticed for the late Alexander McQueen, then went to work as a knitwear designer for British brand Aquascutum before going solo. A regular at Tokyo Fashion Week, he has also collaborated with the Italian brand Anterpima. His A/W 2014 collection entitled “Designare,” the Latin word for “design” or “mark out,” is based on a plan to create a ready-to-wear collection made from mass-produced materials with a contemporary feel much like #8 Eames House, one of architecture’s most revered and famous modern residential designs made from prefabricated parts available off-the-shelf and intended for mass-production. Using beautiful, soft feminine fabrics in solid colors and square prints, Ezumi constructs precise, minimalist shapes that are refreshingly simple but are far from boring. He stays away from body-con silhouettes and short hemlines and opts for loose, slouchy fits that are classy and chic, so very Jackie Kennedy-esque. The two-toned low-heeled boots and in some instances the colored patterned tights brought just the right amount of flair to the collection. If this is Yasutoshi Ezumi’s vision of ready-to-wear, then he is setting the bar very high for other designers in the RTW business.

 

DIANE VON FURSTENBERG: The bohemian ‘wrapsody’ travels to Tokyo

Diane von Furstenberg was the only international fashion designer to present a collection in Tokyo. While it was the same one she showed during the last New York Fashion Week, being a big fan and owner of several DVF dresses, I wanted to see her show. Von Furstenberg is fashion royalty and her trademark design, the wrap dress, is a reflection of her personal style. Her ballerina sweaters, peasant blouses, cocoon coats, sweater dresses, knitted fur jackets, knit sweater vests, jersey shirt and wrap dresses, column skirts, flared pants, tunics and stretch long-sleeve dresses, all in rich jewel tones and luxurious, rich fabrics, gives off devil-may-care attitude paired with chic nonchalance. Elegantly accessorized with black suede Angel sandals, red suede/mesh Love booties, black mesh Lara wedges, zebra-printed mesh tango sandals and bandana booties plus runaway totes, envelope and bracelet clutches and ink fur muffs, the woman who wears DVF, particularly this collection, is a glamorous vagabond who’s on the run with her dreams and colors. Von Furstenberg never strays far from her original design aesthetic and this, in a large part, has led to her success and longevity in the fashion industry.

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A very special thank you to the Japan Fashion Week Organization for providing most of the runway photos for this article.

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Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @tettaortiz.

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