It comes with heavy connotations as “foreigner” is a touchy and even taboo subject. And “ihoujin” literally means “not japanese”. Oy. But it is often found in the Bible and comes with a spiritual nuance, one that I liken more to meaning “a stranger, but someone I want to know more about.” And that is how I feel about the character dressed in mame for her 2017 collection.
One of the most important skills to have as a leader in a creative industry is the ability to create and cultivate a signature style. Whether a person is an author, music producer, graphic designer, painter or stylist, the people with a recognizable style gains them more attention and notoriety. It’s especially true of fashion, the most visual medium of all. From Steve Jobs’ black turtlenecks to Anna Wintour’s bob, these people had unwavering style and will go down in history with it.
But what about the rest of us? Finding one’s own distinct personal style is already incredibly hard. Not everyone has the eye to find the type of clothing that will speak for them so they don’t have to. Personal style can become a comfort in an uncomfortable world, a billboard for your creativity, an armor for your own insecurity, and sometimes it’s an unrelenting captor (stockholm syndrome, for real). I struggled with the fear of changing my personal style, and it was an ongoing battle within myself for the past year or so. I’d like to talk here about what personal style is, how to find it, and the trauma & breakthrough that comes with tearing off the skin of “personal style”.
This place was further out than I had predicted. Then, a couple of transfers underground and a stroll through a traditional old-school neighborhood on the East side of Tokyo later, I arrived at my destination; a Japanese Elementary School. It was a Saturday, but the kids that attended here have been gone for a long time now. Now, it sits proudly as a collective and incubation for budding designers and artisans in Tokyo as Tokyo’s “Designers Village”. The brands here are either still finding their footing, or simply choose to work in camaraderie, among a group of truly unique and one of a kind brands. A step inside is a slip through time, with the old “school rules” in perfect calligraphy scrawled across the length of the ceiling, and all of the old structure and interior intact. If you’ve seen any Japanese horror movies, then you would recognize it immediately.
Miyao presented his 2017 SS collection with the theme, “Here is the sky”. He plays with poufy silhouettes in the sleeves and has an affinity for the A-line dress, making his pieces on the comfy throw-and-go side. He is known for the wilted “wings” design as seen above, which comes off as being either angelic and innocent, but perhaps also something darker. It’s a paradox that comes through in many of his designs, and the DNA perhaps has always been there (he got his start at Comme des Garcons, afterall).
While flipping through the June issue of SOEN magazine, I came across a unique new brand.
Zaziquo?? In Japanese it was written as zajiko, which doesn’t mean anything per se, but it has quite the impact coming off the tongue. The brand was started in 2011 by designer Eriko Shimizu, and it evolved from being called “Zazi” to the now “Zaziquo”.
The name actually does have meaning, and it makes sense when you learn that Eriko’s raison d’etre is a traditional embroidery technique called “sashiko”. The technique came from the Tohoku Region in the North over 500 years ago, and Eriko is bringing it into the modern times with some punch and panache.
In Japan, “sashiko” is something that will invoke images of old ladies wearing their knitting hobbies, but Zaziquo’s work is clearly stylish and young, with many ideas for how the needlework can give something plain a punchy personality…
I know, I know. We should first talk about the elephant in the room.
…I`m wearing floral.
Alright, so having my real hair set free comes with a new set of challenges. I may be able to use less shampoo and have a less itchy scalp with this haircut, but this kind of hair comes with a mind of its own. That is especially true when it comes to picking out what kind of clothes to wear. A boyish cut is far more picky about what it likes to look good with, more than any other hairstyle I`ve ever had.
There’s a legendary ballet choreographer named Michael Clark. He was also a punk. In the 80s, the genre of “punk ballet” broke on the scene and he was the catalyst for it. He inspired the energetic clash of punk and ballet, ushering in a new world of classic dance-meets-punk music and fashion. Imagine David Bowie track playing while ballerinas pirouette in artistic, wild clothing.
One diehard fan of Michael Clark’s is Chika Kisada. She is the designer for two brands, both Chika Kisada and the highly popular Rekisami, and for the 2017AW season she showed her namesake line on the Tokyo Fashion Week runway for the first time.
The effect of presentation and movement is a common thread between fashion and dance, as explained by Kisada. As a classically trained ballerina herself, she knows well what it means to be in one, the other, and then both worlds at once. I can say that her first effort on the runway was a success, worthy of a standing ovation.
Ask any fashion industry professional or even just a fashion fan and everyone will tell you that fashion is really in a strange place right now; the seasons are all over the place, the designers are all over the place, trends and copycats are all over the place, and consumers are burnt out and frustrated. Young designers are in a state of perpetual stagnation. Prices for designer and luxury fashion keeps skyrocketing. Even people who have some money to spend can’t get the things they want.
As both a fashion professional and fashion obsessee myself, I find I am often disappointed or even annoyed at the industry’s inability to fix itself. But there are a few things that I have noticed and that I have been mulling over, and I suppose now is a better time than never to put it out into the universe. Perhaps the universe will throw a bone back.
I`ve been thinking about three points in particular:
The state of design
The state of consumers and prices
The state of distribution
Being in Japan, I can pretty much only speak for Tokyo, but it’s not all specific to this region. Especially this first point that I want to discuss: the state of design.