日本の最もダークでミステリアス、本格的なモード x ゴシックブランドの 「アリスアウアア」。東京でオープンした会員制 “巣” に訪れてきました
Alice Auaa is a dark Japanese brand that has its own vein of humor. Think Mickey Mouse-gone-Goth. But not Mickey with cutesy batwings or anything, but more like a real dead mouse inside a Mickey ears hat and a tiny straitjacket. It’s a brand that until recently was quietly putting along, buzzing just under the surface of the high-fashion crowd…but like a zombie, it’s thrusted its fists out from under the damp earth and it’s aching for attention.
I recently visited the Alice Auaa tokyo “salon”, which opened 6 months ago in Sendagaya (a neighborhood on the fringe of Harajuku). It is technically a shop, but since it requires customers to have an appointment first, it’s more like a salon. There’s no sign out front, but you’ll know you’re there from the decoration in the window that looks like a prop from a horror movie.
In fact, the entire store seems to have one foot in our world and one in hell. “I have tons more props in the Osaka shop, and I plan on making more for this one a bit at a time,” grinned designer Funakoshi, showing his vampire canine teeth (I’m assuming they were shaved down to make such a sharp point).
The Osaka shop is the Alice Auaa homebase, and all of the creation and business is done down there. When it opened in 1997, it was called the laboratory and was decorated with test tubes, beakers, mercury lamps and a fitting room that was once a shower used to wash dead bodies. Now the basement space is called “Garden for a Zealot” and is carefully crafted from handmade torture devices and antiques picked up from Europe. This is also a member’s only shop, and you must have a Zealot card or know someone with one to get in.
Designer Funakoshi picked up these items over the years, and he’s a regular to Europe. Before starting his Alice Auaa brand he was a buyer for the shop “Alice in Modern Time” in Kobe in 1993. He shopped in London for punk, fetish, new wave and gothic artifacts, while getting into the hardcore underground London scene. He worked with body piercers, gothic illustrators, tattooists, and attended SM events. Here he started hosting a nighttime club event called “Alice in Night Time”for some time.
By 1996 he had started his own design studio and brand Alice Auaa, and had fashion shows during Osaka Fashion Week (yes, back when the bubble economy still left some momentum and cash, there was an Osaka Fashion Week). He even had the ultra-famous actress Koyuki (The Last Samurai) as a model.
In 1999 the brand went on hiatus from showing flashy productions and instead retreated to presenting collections in its shop only to select customers.
…until it showed up at Tokyo Fashion Week 2 years ago. This year, the brand closed out the fashion week with a show that told the story of a drowned girl (Ophelia, maybe?) and focused on water. Before, it was about a girl who mutated into a giant spider and before that is was a twisted retelling of Alice in Wonderland.
Funakoshi can’t help falling back to gothic themes, but his clothes bridge a space between gothicism and high-fashion. Take away the frills and lace or pearl buttons and you have some amazingly well-cut and daring cuts in top-notch fabrics. I wore on of their pieces to meet Victoria Beckham in Paris and again during Tokyo Fashion Week and I didn’t feel like I needed to wear black nail polish or pale makeup to pull it off.
Some of the “gothic” brands in Japan are only surface deep, melding cheap fabric with gimmicks, and don’t seem to take on the heart of the movement (especially in the goth-loli brand scene). But Alice Auaa is serious about keeping it all twisted and entertaining through and through. He said, “Don’t call up my store and tell me you want to just browse. This is about a very intimate interaction between, me, the clothes, and you.”
As I was about to leave, I noticed the toilet with the tall tank and the rabbit man sitting on it. He was holding a paper bag with coins inside. “The customers put money in there, I don’t know why,” he laughed.
In Japan where giving coins is hardly the custom, it’s a sure sign of affection and a bit of warmth in this retail “coffin”.
Assistant editor: Lisa Ishiwata