​five japanese menswear designers you should be name checking this season

These are the new generation of Japanese designers you need to know.

by Jack Sunnucks
04 February 2016, 5:51pm

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 Garcons 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 volte-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 take another look at.

Takahiromiyashita 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.

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, has become beloved for its hybrid, mash up garments - mesh pleats spring from the back of sports jackets, or shearling bursts 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 autumn/winter 16 Abe took the foundations of a man's wardrobe and spliced them together, with duffel coats morphing into anoraks, puffa jackets sitting under biker jackets and coats sporting extra panels wrapping across the body like cummerbunds. Also noticeable is her love of print - she has a way of modernising fair isle knits or stripy pyjamas 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.

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, traditional hunting print 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.

Kolor is in fact the work of Chitose Abe's husband, Junichi Abe - the two met whilst working at Junya Watanabe during the brand's early years. Whilst 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 Crombie coats 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 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

chitose abe
jack sunnucks
white mountaineering
comme des garcons shirt
takahiro miyashita
the soloist