Wannabes walk the streets of Fashion Night Out in Tokyo

JACKIE O' FLASH - Bea J. Ledesma - The Philippine Star

TOKYO — “This is basically a night for wannabes,” she said, mascara wand in hand as she steadily glopped black paint on her lashes, while the cab speeded towards Omotesando for Vogue’s Fashion Night Out — Tokyo Edition. “She” is a fashion-insider, a Tokyo native who mingles with designers and brand VPs and calls it a job.

Omotesando, Tokyo’s version of the Champs-Elysees, played host to the majority of high-end labels opening their doors to the public. At the flagship Prada boutique in Aoyama, our first stop, we encountered the brand’s GM — garbed in Prada’s pajama suit — hawking men’s slippers and the label’s black bejeweled footwear, while handsome men in suits offered cranberry-colored drinks.

“He’s hot.” My friend Mo pointed to one of the guys in those sharp suits by the door. That evening, lots of good-looking model types played double duty, serving as eye candy and actually serving candy to guests in the store.

Outside, we mingled with Tina Tinio, the Manila transplant who now heads one of the divisions of Givenchy, Fendi and Kenzo Fragrances in Japan, and a few other transplants: expat stylists and label people off to swindle some free booze from stores hoping sharply-dressed bystanders will buy a bag or, God forbid, even just pony up enough money for a wallet.

On our way to Loveless, Tokyo’s cooler answer to Kitson, we dropped by Moncler, who wisely opted to invest in a polar bear — or a man dressed as a polar bear, I wasn’t quite sober enough to fully digest my surroundings. “Tokyo, we love you long time!” we screamed as we entered the otherwise silent-posh enclave that was Moncler. There I was, in a shapeless black Natori dress I packed for its wrinkle-repelling qualities and shagreen sandals, accessorized only with an LV pre-fall clutch I nicked from Tina’s closet and a runny nose courtesy of Tokyo’s free-flowing pollen. “Moncler Bear! Moncler Bear!” I chanted at the Japanese guy inside the bear suit. He appeared to have enjoyed my attentions, but what do I know? Maybe overloud tourists with an inability to elegantly enjoy alcohol weren’t his thing. (Though for someone who’s paid to wear a bear suit, I think he lost his chance to be picky.)

At Loveless, a Red Bull station (“Real classy,” I said to myself pretentiously) flanked the retailer’s doors, with a table full of glowing fans and neon skulls. The pitch: Buy something now and get some tacky freebies to go with it.

Known for its custom collabs, Loveless — with its dark semi-gothic interiors and dark wooden floors — was hawking plenty of sheer tops with lingerie-like elements, colorful accessories and a line of MCM X Loveless bags. MCM, a German heritage label finding a second life as a K-Pop force, created spotted prints in leather and coated canvas in a range including totes, clutches and studded backpacks. A table with the most attractive merchandise? Plastic goblets, piled high with free champagne.

Opening Ceremony, which boasted a line around the block, offered party favors like popcorn and candy and much-needed fans on a sweltering Tokyo night. Hundreds lined up for Gucci. I didn’t even come close to approaching the flagship, worried about the sweat pouring off the backs of people assembled solely for the sake of spotting a pseudo celeb inside the store. Yikes.

That shouldn’t have been a problem as we spotted plenty of models off duty and hot actors (we met a Mr. Japan 2013 on the street! He was cute and really friendly — not at all Schwarnegger-ish) on the street alone. In front of Bape and Valentino, we chatted with three flamboyant really gay stylists (lots of spandex and gold) and spotted an HSG (Hot Straight Guy) walking by.

While chatting with HSG, we discovered he spoke fluent English, thanks to a Canadian college education, and was currently an actor. “Oh my,” we said. “You’re so cute.” (We had lapsed into Valley Girl speak at the sight of an HSG — a rare spotting at fashion-y events.)

While not many trekked to Celine, the folks inside were definitely buyers, professionally zipping and unzipping bags, checking out proportions against full-length mirrors. I was tempted to unload P30,000 (“What a steal!” I drunkenly convinced myself) on a discreet two-tone clutch only to realize I had left my passport behind. No tax rebate, no sale. (Sometimes the Universe conspires to keep me out of debt.)

Isabel Marant kept it classy and French downtown-y (an expression that will probably drive the understated designer to commit hara-kiri at a Victoria’s Secret chain) with short video clips of her shows projected onto the building wall. A first-floor room, decorated only with cowhide rugs, modern chairs and bottles of chilling champagne-filled flutes, was devoted to the screening. Upstairs, her collection of cool, downtown clothes practically convinced me that a $2,000 coat was precisely what I needed for Manila’s cooler holiday climes. Only the desperate state of my credit card let me leave the store unscathed.

At Carven, a meter away from my downtown friend Isabel’s store, cute salesgirls in gray pullovers and swing-y skirts were doing their best to prove that they had the cutest merch this side of Omotesando. At around 20,000 yen (about P10,000, given my lazy math skills), those sweaters looked just about right for Manila sweater weather (i.e. movie apparel). Carven’s colorful tweedy coats, embellished with spotted prints and paint splatter, managed to be both young and sophisticated at the same time. I was sorely tempted to splurge next month’s rent money. Maybe homelessness wouldn’t be so déclassé if I jazzed it up with some printed cotton collars over a pair of au courant pullovers?

If Vogue’s Tokyo FNO convinced me of anything, it was that poverty and debt — not glamour — were clearly within reach. I only had to heed the siren call of high-end merchandise to realize it.









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