five japanese menswear designers you should be name-checking this season
Despite fashion's continued frenzy for the new, when asked to choose from their favourite shows in Paris, inevitably many editors will choose Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons or Junya Watanabe — the venerable Japanese industry stalwarts. And why not? Despite their instantly recognisable design signatures, these brands continue to innovate at a furious rate, often presenting a complete aesthetic about-face each season.
There are however a plethora of Japanese brands which have emerged on the runways of Paris in the last few seasons, all of which merit a second look, and perhaps inclusion on best-of lists. It would be presumptuous to speak of a Japanese aesthetic, but perhaps it could be said that these designers share a thirst for innovation and a fearlessness when it comes to fusing the past with the future. Here are four and one more labels to worthy of another look.
Takahiro Miyashita: The Soloist
Prior to its folding in 2009, Number (N)ine was the ne plus ultra of Japanese men's cool, splicing a vaguely Edwardian sensibility with modern streetwear. Now its designer, Takahiro Miyashita, is back with another venture, The Soloist, which once again plays with his historical, musical, and sartorial obsessions. Sergeant Pepper jackets are made to look noir-ish and vaguely decayed, layered over knits covered in children's drawings. Knits that are obviously hole-y in the Kurt Cobain way — Miyashita isn't hugely subtle with his obsessions. If it all sounds a bit too whimsical, its not — perfectly slender jeans and impeccably tailored jackets are given the same standing as flights of fancy, creating a thoroughly modern aesthetic.
Chitose Abe: Sacai
Designer Chitose Abe's label Sacai, which, despite being in business since the 90s, has only really come to attention in the West in the last five years. The line is beloved for its hybrid, mash-up garments — like mesh pleats that spring from the back of sport jackets, or hints of shearling bursting from the seams of a leather jacket. It's only in recent seasons, however, that her menswear has had a presence in Paris. But, in that time, it's made a quiet impact. For fall/winter 2016, Abe took the foundations of a man's wardrobe and spliced them together. She shows duffel coats morphing into anoraks, puffer jackets with biker jackets laid on top, and coats that sporting extra panels that wrap across the body like cummerbunds. Also noteworthy is Abe's love of print — she has a way of modernizing Fair Isle knits or striped pajamas without summoning the ridiculous. Abe's right hand man, Daisuke Gemma, said the collection was about "Life and Love," which manifested itself in soft velvet linings that cuddled the body. Sacai is for a thinking, feeling man.
Yosuke Aizaw: White Mountaineering
White Mountaineering is perhaps best known for its sneaker range with Adidas, but there's a lot more going on, as seen in their debut runway show this season. Designer Yosuke Aizawa has a less conceptual touch than his peers, and his creations are possibly the most indebted to current street wear on this list. His innovation comes from his joyful, oversized prints — a stretched, vibrant red buffalo check on a matching coat and trousers, ikat hoodies, and traditional hunting prints on shirts. Aizawa's other obsession is high-performing sportswear, which he showed with Adidas the week before in Pitti. White Mountaineering celebrated its tenth anniversary this year — high time to get to know the label.
Junichi Abe: Kolor
Kolor is in fact the work of Chitose Abe's husband, Junichi Abe. The pair met while working at Junya Watanabe during the brand's early years. While the two share a love of multi-purpose garments, Junichi's work skews more elegant and disheveled than his wife's. This season his shapes were classic — suits and tailored overcoats abounded — but the materials weren't. Velvet has been distressed to look like it had been dragged from the attic, animal prints were collaged together, and leopard print subtly crawled across blue plaids. With their slicked-down hair, the models looked like they'd just come in from the rain to a particularly chic evening's entertainment. Between their patent shoes and trousers, out peeked leopard-print socks — another of the subtle hints Junichi left to the connection between the modern and natural worlds.
Comme des Garcons SHIRT
Yes, I know, I was telling you how there's life outside Comme des Garcons. It would be remiss however not to mention the Shirt line, shown first thing in the morning, mainly to buyers. Shirt is a little more price friendly and wearable than the Homme Plus line, which is the one everyone talks about and the main laboratory of Rei Kawakubo's thought process. SHIRT, as well as being about great shirts, is the umbrella under which a lot of the great Comme collaborations operate, such as the Disney and Star Wars collections that have brightened stores in recent years. This season, Kawakubo collaborated with illustrator Masaho Anotani, whose bright scrawlings worked their way across an array of garments. Elsewear, holes were hacked into the clothes, different halves of a garment joined by appliqué bands, belts or buckles — all Comme signatures.
Text Jack Sunnucks