Strong, unique talent elevates Fashion Week Tokyo

April 22, 2013

By KOTARO NAKAJIMA/ Staff Writer

The most recent Fashion Week Tokyo has turned skeptics into believers. Critics have complained that past incarnations of the event fell short when it came to conveying a strong message to the world. But the Autumn/ Winter 2013 event, which ran March 17 to 23, upped the ante by showcasing a wide range of unique talent that included labels and designers from overseas, including the rising star of Dutch fashion.

GOOD THINGS IN SMALL NUMBERS

Conny Groenewegen, the young up-and-comer from Holland, kicked off Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo on March 17 with her exquisitely detailed items. Her offerings included tops covered with cocoon-like bubbles and a black leather cape tooled with undulating streams. Groenewegen's pursuit is quality and rarity--she makes less than 10 copies of each item.

It is the opposite direction from megabrands, and one that may work for young Japanese designers, too.

Mercedes-Benz, the sponsor of the "fashion week" runway shows and events around the world, invited Groenewegen as part of a program to bring in overseas designers to participate in Japan Fashion Week. "We want to be proactive and take all steps possible to draw attention to Tokyo," said Kintaro Ueno, president of Mercedes-Benz Japan.

As hoped, the Dutch fashion designer attracted major media attention from abroad.

Ariunaa Surenjav, the designer behind the ARIUNAA SURI label, brought her collection from Mongolia to seek new opportunities here in Japan. Ariunaa showed pieces that incorporate elements from Mongolian traditional dress. A former sumo wrestler from Ulan Bator, Dolgorsürengiin Dagvadorj, better known as the yokozuna Asashoryu, was also at the show to lend support to the Mongolian designer.

Fashion Week Tokyo was brimming with international faces this season, including New York-based Vivienne Tam. Sara Arai, the Chinese designer who has shown at the fashion week in Paris for the past seasons, returned to Tokyo for her 2013-14 autumn/ winter collection. Johan Ku, from Britain, also presented his designs in Tokyo, and there was a joint show by Taiwanese designers.

STRONG SHOWING OF UNIQUE AND DISTINCTIVE COLLECTIONS

The key to success for Tokyo-based designers, meanwhile, has been to sharpen and distill their respective "unique characteristics."

Né-net is a popular label that focuses on animal motifs and cute outfits. Designer Kazuaki Takashima came up with a show themed unabashedly on all things animal. His clothes were canvases upon which cats and birds, giraffes and gorillas roam.

His creations inspired images of carefree young people, enjoying their freedom. The clothes looked as though they would be equally at home on the streets of Tokyo's trendy Harajuku district as they would in the great outdoors.

Designers Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi for "mintdesigns" presented a collection that gave the impression of seeing pieces" straight from the designing process," to borrow the words of Yagi. Different patterns were carefully fitted together like puzzle pieces, with prints that changed pattern somewhere in the middle.

"There is beauty in the state of chaos, too," Katsui explained.

If the experiment was challenging, the designers certainly made it look easy, bringing it off through detailed craftsmanship and solid tailoring.

Motonari Ono proved to be a wiz of romanticism using delicate flower motifs as his design base. His message was clear, and he succeeded in conveying what he set out to show.

OLD HANDS SHOW OFF CLOUT

Meanwhile, veterans of fashion proved how their "mature look" has evolved. Yuki Torii presented a modern take on tweed, an essentially heavy material, sprucing it up with color and setting it off with a metallic top under a suit jacket. Torii explained that her goal was to "make 'classic' new again."

And Jun Ashida flooded the runway with his luxurious coats. He charmed the audience with his colors--reds and subtle blues--matched with rich, quality material.

"I prepared for the show ready to kick butts--especially the young ones," Ashida said.

The master is clearly not leaving the fashion scene just yet.

* * *

The next issue (to appear tomorrow) will cover menswear brands that are enjoying a major surge in growth.

By KOTARO NAKAJIMA/ Staff Writer
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Conny Groenewegen (Photos by Hirokazu Ohara)

Conny Groenewegen (Photos by Hirokazu Ohara)

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  • Conny Groenewegen (Photos by Hirokazu Ohara)
  • Né-net (Photos by Hirokazu Ohara)
  • mintdesigns (Photos by Hirokazu Ohara)
  • motonari ono (Photos by Hirokazu Ohara)
  • Yuki Torii (Photos by Hirokazu Ohara)
  • Jun Ashida (Photos by Hirokazu Ohara)

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