It’s been a long time since I put on a piece of fantasy.
After entering the era of the “Social Media” craze/haze/daze, things have changed not only for me but everyone who uses it and looks at it. What once was merely a tool for self-expression has become a business machine unto itself, and determining what is real and what’s genuine is as clear as sludge. There’s one thing for sure; that more than in corporations with rules upon rules on what someone can do, personal expression and freedom is what truly grabs attention.
Fashion also has become a product of its own demise, a fault of the “adults” who have their own reasons for doing what they can to keep whatever going because it’s comfortable that way But there are still some people, and especially the youth, who see fashion as more than a product, but as something with transformative power. And what’s interesting about young people’s collections is that they’re usually a direct response to what is going on in the world, but without the marketing jingo and heaps of trend forecasting books stacked behind them.
Perhaps it had just been too long since I wore something truly unique, but I surely felt that spirit in the clothing here, all courtesy of some creative and talented up-comers. These three pieces are from the finalists of the national Bunka Fashion Contest last month where I was judging. I just couldn’t let the storage rooms and boxes swallow them up without taking them out for a spin.
Bunka Fashion College (called Bunka Fukuso Gakuin in Japanese), was recently named by Business of Fashion as the number two best fashion school in the world.
That’s…incredible. It even beat the likes of Parsons, FIT, and well, everyone but Central St Martins.
As a graduate, BoF reached out to me to find out what makes the school so different from the others, and an article was written all about it. There were a few points that I offered that didn’t make it to the final cut, and I’d like to add them here.
We are looking at the 10 collections chosen to present at the 2015 graduate show of Japan’s most prestigious institute, Bunka Fashion Graduate University BFGU (the first institute to offer an MA course in fashion design in Japan AND Asia). This year the collections were even more diverse than ever before, not only in the ethnicity of the designers, but in their personal taste as well. I don’t know why I am gushing over these collections since I don’t usually gush, but I am thinking these are gorgeously done. Perhaps because I was just lamenting how “fashion” has been absent from Tokyo Fashion Week lately, but here I see lots of both wearable AND fashionable clothes. I would like to get in touch with every one of these designers and shake their hands. And then ask them to exchange coats or dresses with me…
(NOTE: and I know some of you on Twitter said it, I know that these aren’t revolutionary, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good [the techniques ARE very good, you just can’t see them in my blurry photos natch.] Collections change every few months and our memory spans hardly further back than that. So if the fashion market has been plain jane for two years then these young ones are going to design collections like this and they will look very avantgarde comparatively. I am not being cynical when I say I’m ok with this now- It’s fashion, it’s fun-I`ll take it!)
This is the second half, for the first half designers, please see part 1
I just love that in Tokyo we have Bunka Fashion College’s graduate MA fashion course now, called Bunka Fashion Graduate University, because it not only hones the skills of local hopefuls , but also because it brings in tons of international kids who are helping to broaden the industry’s horizon. Some of the advantages to commiting to studying here in Tokyo might be that the pool of graduates is much smaller and your work will stand out; you get to learn impeccable Japanese sewing and cutting; you get to use subsidized Japanese textiles (which are AMAZING); and you get to live in of the most inspiring places in the world. The downsides being that you must learn Japanese before you can get started, and also that it’s unfortunately so far removed from the greats like Parsons and Central St. Martins, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
My alma mater, Bunka Fashion College, hosts several contests for aspiring designers throughout the year. Since it is nearing graduation season in Japan (February, officially) it was time for the biggest of the campus, the Bunka College Fashion Contest. This contest invites not only students from the Shinjuku main campus to compete for cash money prizes and of course fame, but also the branches and sister-schools all throughout Japan send their best and brightest ingenues’ best work.
I was invited to be a judge on the “accessories” panel, which includes bags, shoes, jewelry and textiles. And I know there are a lot of aspiring Bunka students out there…. get a look at what level your A-game will need to be at to be considered a rising star. We had some great winners! So what are the young designers of tomorrow up to these days? Check it out:
This was my first time judging this fashion contest, and although it’s practically school-wide, I wasn’t aware of it prior. I suppose that’s because when your campus is a vertical skyscraper where each course occupies it’s own floor and doesn’t stray or know what’s going on in the outside world (..or I could have been daydreaming about fashion week when the subject came up), and your course (stylist) doesn’t compete in the contests then it kind of flies over your head. So I was so pleasantly surprised to see so much good work presented by students!
For the accessories portion, I was joined by Final Home inventeur Tsumura Keisuke-sensei (It’s functional pre and post apocalyptic workwear– fun stuff here!And more here!), the most famous hat brand in Japan, CA4LA, hat designer Akimoto (fun fact: CA4LA is pronounced “kashira” and it means “noggin”. It took me a really long time to stop calling it C.A.-FOR-L.A.), and Bunka Fashion College Preseident Kosugi-sensei. We trawled through hundreds of sketches before picking ones we wanted to see come to life the most. Then designers were only then tasked with actually making their product and then presenting it to us in a private show where we picked a winner and two runners-up.
The winner was this incredibly cool need-it-now, hardcore black enamel woven leather “horned” backpack by Sensen Han. She called it “witch” but we all know that wonderful woman known as Maleficent and her horns had something to do with it. The construction is gorgeous, no pieces flap around or fall off, and the inside lining is painted like the milky way in glow-in-the-dark paint. Gorgeous!
I admit I was worried about the textile designers because a piece of fabric is hard to make….well, flashy and inspiring on stage. But in the end the textiles really blew us away. Perhaps because it’s just a big rectangle, you actually end up looking at it like a painting. Runner up #1 Miro Katsuya’s interpretation of “Shinjuku” through digital photos, rainbow acid-washed ombres and random spots of machine embroidery was so fun to look at. Belongs on a museum wall. Or my living room.
Then we judges chose Kasumi Saito’s bronze face mask as a second runner up. You can see the beautiful etching work done on it, all by hand. I really wish this mask existed when I was styling the Koda Kumi music video last year… it would have come in real handy for some scenes.
Finally, the entree, the fashion designers. I was extremely partial to the tribal feather look by Ai Hasegawa and of course the winner, Ginno Rin. This rose-covered workhouse menswear look really stole the show, and both girls and boys all around me in the audience were audibly gasping “kawaii” at the sight of it. Now this look is an obvious shoo-in for the prize because it’s made WELL and it’s also very ON-TREND. Now this is something that has been an obvious fad these days when it comes to contests, but the ones that are designing on-trend pieces tend to get the best praise (as opposed to a “seen that before” finger wag in the past). It’s like our heads are so full of noise and nonsense we don’t want to deal with anything too outside of the box in fashion. But it’s true of the modern fashion business model; don’t reinvent the wheel, just make the wheel look *cooler* than it did last season. With that said, this winning design had me swooning too— rose-covered menswear? Sign me (my man) up!