| Jon Day |
TOKYO (Xinhua) – There’s a certain frustration that’s becoming increasingly perceptible in Japanese society in recent times. It may boil down to simple politics and economics; with the once such high hopes for “Abenomics” to rescue the economy from the doldrums of recession and put a few extra yen in everyone’s pockets, thus far falling short of the desired results.
And the fashion industry here has answered back. Its creators, buyers, leaders and followers are somewhat disgruntled to say the least.
The 80s and 90s here saw the nation all about big foreign brands – with Chanel, Burberry, Prada, Gucci, DKNY and Coach items all flying off the shelves like hotcakes, to be paired with cheaper generic items from domestic departments stores like Marui, Isetan, or, for the younger women, Shibuya’s revered 109.
And even as little as five years ago, the Louis Vuitton Monogram bag, in any of its hundreds of incarnations, was still a standard accessory and social signifier for women, as were Rolex watches for men. But there has since – as hinted at in some of the collections during the recent Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo (MBFWT) – been a broad shift away from collectivism and pack-mentality-fashion and back to individualism and self-expression.
“When people don’t know what to believe, be it politics or religion, or whatever, they finally have only themselves to trust – their own idea and vision of what is what,” Anthony Badonde, 48, an East Asian-based buyer/stylist for prominent select shops in the region, told Xinhua.
“And this ideology is perfectly reflected in the fashion choices made by people in any developed economy. And what I’ve seen at MBFWT for next year’s collections here reflects this perfectly,” he said. “A certain disengagement, a sense of directionless and forsakenness.
He highlighted some of the collections, including Yu Amatsu’s ‘A Degree Fahrenheit’, Atsushi Nakashima’s collection and Toshikazu Iwaya’s DressCamP as “addressing the needs of the fashionista who is looking to quite simply both retain and vent their individualism through a succinct, independent, yet modish narrative”.
But it will remain unclear whether Takafumi Tsuruta’s offerings, for example, were meant to be ironic or not, as the show itself was titled: haha. But either way, the Chiba-born virtuoso, a graduate from the venerated Bunka Fashion College, created something of a buzz among fashion insiders here.
“‘haha’ as Tsuruta uses the term can mean ‘mother,’ ‘laughter’, or ‘good fortune’, so I think he’s playing with a lot of peoples’ perception of the meaning and the designs themselves,” Sara Nishi, a fashion major undergraduate at the Tokyo Designer Gakuin College, told Xinhua.
“His models included pregnant women and physically challenged people in wheelchairs, with innovation-based clothes to aid them, including pockets in the knees of pants for easy-access when seated in the chair, as well as a one-piece dress that zipped from top to bottom so it could be put on and taken off without the need for the occupant to leave the chair. The pieces were very trendy and super-contemporary, which sends an important message of hope and equality,” 20-year-old Nishi said.
“As an audience, we could relate to each of the models: their restrictions, imperfections, or just sheer blandness. This makes the brand more accessible, and coupled with the simple yet functional designs, Tsuruta’s offerings are more than just quirky,” Nishi said.