September 22, 2014 by
Here’s another attempt to drum up some hype for Issey Miyake. The (niched) fashion blogsphere and tumblr are consistently filled to the brim with Rick Owens and Comme des Garçons, while male avant-garde fashion worshippers never fail to show their loyalty to Yohji Yamamoto in various fashion forums, strutting around in oversized bulbous pleated trousers and even larger overcoats reminiscent of the Forties . Meanwhile, Issey Miyake is left in the lurch, barely surfacing once in a while when the subjects of Japanese fashion history and fashion technology are broached.
While most of Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please garments are cut in a fuss-free pattern to fit and move with the body, once in a while this sub-label produces gravity-defying, architectural works. This dress, for example, moves beautifully in motion, especially as I was sauntering around Tokyo in the transitional summer/autumn weather. It bounces and flutters in the wind while retaining part of its structure, and combined with the shimmery surface they create the semblance of a mesmerising yet slightly monstrous liquid substance.
I did not realise how many diffusion lines Issey Miyake actually has until I was in Japan. Prior to my trip I knew about a few of them aside from the mainline and Pleats Please, such as:
- Fête: a more sculptural version of Pleats Please, which has now been merged into the mainline since 2009
- A-POC (A Piece of Cloth): No longer a line per se since mid-2000, it has now become a manufacturing method which is incorporated into the Pleats Please line, using computer technology to create clothing from a single piece of thread in a single process
- HaaT: classic Issey Miyake garments such as oversized coats focusing on textile treatment with artisanal qualities
- me Issey Miyake: shirts produced in colourful prints and patterns with pleated textures that differ from the Pleats Please line, again there is a focus on technology and innovation for this line
- Bao Bao: Bags in tiled pattern
Then I discovered the Homme Plissé line for men, well when I say men there’s nothing to stop the ladies from wearing them, as I’ve found out personally how well the coats fit me. It’s a combined effort by the Issey Miyake Men design team with the Reality Lab team (which I will come to later). Basically the line is reminiscent of Pleats Please for men made out of sturdy waterproof techno fabrics. Photos of Homme Plissé items in store can be found here and here. I wish I had taken some photos in the store, as well as a particularly fascinating pleated cocoon coat from the EDGE series that I tried, but I was just too shy about it. So here are a couple of photos of the exact coat I’ve tried in grey. The fabric itself is rather difficult to describe. It has the characteristics of rubber with the texture of suede, extremely lightweight and certainly feels waterproof. Best of all it’s able to retain its beautiful pleats and silhouette.
Another notable line which I came across was 132.5 Issey Miyake. The designs are conceived with a computer scientist with the use of mathematical algorithm, and what was remarkable about the clothing was that they can all be folded flat like origami. Personally I am not too much of a fan of this line but it was most strikingly clever, what with all the calculative design and production methods which reminded me of how Tool carefully incorporates awkward time signatures in their music.
In short, all the lines that focus on textile innovations and productions (Homme Plissé, 132.5 Issey Miyake, Bao Bao etc) are the brainchild of Miyake’s Reality Lab, which also happens to be the name of one of the stores in Tokyo. The list of brands I have mentioned are by no means exhaustive, as yours truly is unable to keep up with all of them.
The sheer level of modern technology that Issey Miyake consistently relies on in its creations is certainly almost unmatched by most other luxury labels. Admittedly it may also be one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to keep up with the line. It seems like most of the capital has been sunk into research and development, instead of generating buzz to keep the consumers constantly informed of its presence. Having too many diffusion lines also may not help their cause. Not only are they spreading themselves too thin, most people will not be able to keep up with the various offerings. And when consumers get confused with too many options, they usually end up not being able to make up their mind, hence hampering the purchasing process altogether.
With that said, I hope this short article has shed some light on the tremendously fascinating clothing that Issey Miyake has to offer. The best part is, out of the three most esteemed Japanese labels, Issey Miyake tends to be the most affordable one, especially for the equally beautiful diffusion lines. The Homme Plissé coat that I tried in Tokyo cost a little over five hundred ‘Murican dollars, AND it’s actually very practical as it is a waterproof garment. Compared to Yohji’s jackets which on average is always above four figures, many of Issey Miyake’s items can be considered chump change.
Tags: Issey Miyake Category: Designer Talk, Musing, Wear
September 15, 2014 by
Wearing Comme des Garcons SHIRT FW2009; Claudia Ligari trousers; Rick Owens geobaskets
Comme des Garçons SHIRT is, you guessed it, a line for shirts made primarily for men, alongside various easily palatable accessories such as belts and sneakers. The main selling points of the shirts are the quirky prints and graphic elements that make typical oxford shirts less boring. One can argue it’s not much more than a money-making machine à la CdG’s Play line, but I can appreciate some of the creativity that goes into many of these shirts, so much so that I bought a couple of them. I can’t say that everything’s a gem, but there have been notable printed shirts released in the past. It helps that there have been eye-catching campaigns done in the past that cemented its brand image.
Tags: Claudia Ligari, Comme des Garçons, Rick Owens Category: Designer Talk, Wear
September 2, 2014 by
Biker jackets, specifically the double rider, has become a ubiquitous garment in fashion. It is exemplified by the asymmetrical placement of the main zipper, wide lapels with snap buttons and a pocket flap on one side. Another name it often goes by would be the Perfecto. The jacket was first released by Irving Schott of Schott NYC back in 1928, but its popularity was only cemented in the 50s after it was worn by the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean in their respective movies, both with rebellious undertones (Automobiles! Penis! POWWAAHHHHHH!!!).
Wearing Junya Watanabe FW2007 jacket, Comme des Garçons SS2004 skirt, Rick Owens turbo boots
Fast forward almost a century later, every other designer has made some rendition of the Perfecto, from Rick Owens, Margiela, Undercover, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, to all the high street stores you can ever think of. No complaints there since it’s my favourite type of garment. However in my opinion the best interpretations have always been done by Junya Watanabe. As a designer, Watanabe isn’t as widely recognised as Rei Kawakubo, but he is a meister in his own right. On the mens side, he is mostly known for his interpretations of Americana workwear, with plenty of checks and patchworks. For womens however, his works are far more varied. The central themes of his collections tend to revolve around masterful drapery, patchwork denim, reconstructions of military garments, reinterpreted tailored garments such as the trench, and the prevalence of various forms of motorcycle jackets. Conceptually he doesn’t push the envelope as far as Kawakubo, consequently making his runway clothes more wearable yet no less visually arresting.
Watanabe first started working for Comme des Garçons as a pattern maker in 1984, before being promoted to chief designer of the Tricot line three years later. He established his own line in 1993 assisted by another Comme des Garçons protegé Chitose Abe who now helms Sacai. There is not much online evidence of his works before the turn of the millenium, but I can safely say that he first started pushing his biker jackets aggressively from Fall/Winter 2007 onwards.
As a designer, Watanabe is far more interested in manipulating synthetics. With the exception of Fall/Winter 2011 in which he sent down plenty of outerwear in genuine leather, his jackets are mostly made of PVC or PVC-coated cotton. In the Fall/Winter 2007 collection, he showcased a few versions of ‘faux leather’, such as the one soft thin one I’m wearing in this post, or a tough one that closely resemble goatskin, which you can see here. Similar versions made their appearance again in the Spring/Summer 2014 show. Such was the significance of his biker jackets that they were reproduced in leather for the collaboration with Spanish leather maison Loewe. For his Spring/Summer 2012 and Fall/Winter 2014 collections, he juxtaposed feminine frou frou onto the traditionally masculine Perfecto, blurring the line between gendered clothing (cues gender and body politics).
It is his fixation with biker jackets that drew my attention to Junya Watanabe’s works. As an avid collector of this particular garment, one can’t help but to appreciate the intricacies and innovation that are needed to re-invent them. Large maisons like Balenciaga continue to churn out the same iteration every season, with little to no variations in design (change in zipper colour doesn’t count!), simply because it’s their best selling garment and can continue to ride on its popularity to survive. Wearing Watanabe’s complicated jackets do take some mental investment because they are so in your face. Mental in the sense that one has to have the ability to ignore the stares from strangers, the same kind that would be given to anyone who suddenly bursts into song and dance in the subway. Whatever your tolerance to outré clothing is, Watanabe’s works deserve more recognition than what he’s currently receiving.
Tags: Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe, Rick Owens Category: Designer Talk, Wear
August 23, 2014 by
Wearing Issey Miyake coat, Yohji Yamamoto skirt, and Margiela tabi boots.
August 13, 2014 by
It has been almost thirty years since Rei Kawakubo shook the Parisian runway with her anti-fashion aesthetics. Alongside Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, she paved the way for younger Japanese visionaries such as Junya Watanabe and Jun Takahashi (of Undercover), and more recently, another rising star on the Parisian runway – Chitose Abe of Sacai.
Although Sacai only joined the fashion week parade about four to five years ago, Abe has been in the business before the turn of the millenium. She began working under Rei Kawakubo in her twenties as a pattern-cutter, then went on the assist Junya Watanabe since the inception of his own line – the extent to which was not quite revealed. Fast forward to 1999, Abe made the decision to leave the Comme des Garçons family and branched out on her own. Fifteen years later, Sacai has become one of the most sought-after shows in Paris.
I was drawn immediately to Sacai as soon as I spotted her recurring interpretations of motorcycle jackets. I have always been very fond of Junya Watanabe’s deconstructed versions, so it was most pleasant to come across someone else who is fixated on the same garment. For FW2012, there was a strong emphasis on outerwear. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, she stated that the collection was divided into four categories – The Trench, the Country Life, Sports and Biker.
Soon after I had seen the collection online, I had the opportunity to try on the very same motorcycle jacket I fell in love with in the show. I did expect a hefty price tag, considering that it was made of heavy substantial cowhide, complete with detachable wool-ruffled lining. It was apparent that the quality of craftsmanship matched that of CdG’s and Junya Watanabe’s. Inevitably I had to bring it into the changing room before I could check the price, saving the embarrassment of keeling over in shock in front of the sales assistant. True enough, it cost the equivalent of over three thousand American dollars. Welp. It was comparable to the high price point of CdG’s FW2013 collection, but a year before that, CdG’s and Junya Watanabe’s price points on the whole were only two thirds of Sacai’s. As of 2014, Sacai has now been stocked in more online stores than ever before, and it’s easy to compare the price differences between the various Japanese brands. (Of course none of them comes close to Yohji’s, but that’s another story). It’s no surprise really, since Sacai is after all a smaller brand, thus needing to charge more to make up for the smaller production volume.
Her first foray as an independent designer began with knitwear. “I began my own label with knitwear because I could do it all by myself but then became a signature,” explained Abe. Like many of her Japanese peers, she chooses not to hop from one trend to another. Instead she is constantly evolving and strengthening her creative vision with every new collection. Abe said that the most important lesson she’s learned when working under Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe was, “the importance and gratification of designing clothes that have not been done before”. Armed with that belief, she carved her signature look based on the idea of juxtaposition and dissection of traditional garments. For example, in her FW2014 collection, she added elements of a biker jacket onto a peacoat, as if they’ve been torn apart and fused together in orderly chaos. Her clothes are often divided into front and back sections which appear to be two different garments stitched together at the side seams. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see what the back of each garment looks like whenever the models do a U-turn on the runway. There are plenty of designers out there who love to mix the feminine and masculine, but Sacai’s version appealed to me tremendously due to her finesse in volume and silhouettes. If I may be so bold as to personify the Sacai girl, she would be the captain of the cheerleading team who rides a badass motorcycle.
Like her mentors, she too understood the importance of balancing business and creativity. It may explain why she focuses much less on theatrics and more on wearability. “I believe that fashion is not art and should be functional. I always make sure that my designs for the Sacai collection are wearable and the comfort for the person is extremely important to me,” when asked about her design process. Being a working mother probably plays a part in the push for wearability as well.
Sacai Jumper/Coat Hybrid, available on Colette for 575 Euro
As a label, Sacai is probably not one I have the financial capability to buy into just yet, mostly because the jackets I fall in love with usually cost four grands and upwards. But for those who do have the means, I hope you will consider supporting the brand, to a healthy extent of course. I strongly believe Chitose Abe deserves a slice of the fashion pie, preferably taken from lacklustre brands who are primarily relying on branding and advertising to sell.
Tags: Sacai Category: Designer Talk