Tag Archives: Comme des Garçons

Tokyo Over Paris: Why Japanese Fashion Should Choose

Tokyo Over Paris: Why Japanese Fashion Should Choose

Tokyo may be the style capital of Asia, but with South Korea and China snapping at its heels and Japan’s most iconic brands rooted in Europe, the city is being urged to haul its fashion week into the big leagues. Given that the fashionably messianic (and thoroughly Japanese) Rei Kawakubo is the focus of the Met Gala in 2017, it is perhaps time to look seriously once more at Tokyo and its somewhat lackluster Fashion Week.

Tokyo Fashion Week kicked off its spring/summer 2017 season showcase last week with six days of events intended to promote 50 brands, a mixture of the established and the new.

Yet Japanese labels that are household names in the West – led by Kenzo, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Kawakubo’s Comme des Garcons – eschew home shores for the bright lights, prestige and visibility of Paris.

Tokyo Fashion Week attracts only 50,000 visitors – just a quarter of the total number that attend New York’s two annual fashion weeks, and also lagging behind London, Paris and Milan.

Held after the fashion merry ground exhausts the “big four”, few make the extra trip to Tokyo, and not many in Japan believe they are missing out.

According to a poll from local website (in Japanese obviously) Fashionsnap.com, only 20 percent of the Japanese fashion industry, including designers, stylists and editors, consider Tokyo’s events to be of interest.

The calendar, the no-show by the biggest brands, reluctance to open their doors to the wider public and sluggishness to embrace see-now, buy-now were all listed as shortcomings by the 221 people surveyed.

Focus on Your Own

The award-winning, Milan-based Turkish designer Umit Benan, wants to change all that.

“Everyone needs to get together to make the Japanese fashion week much better,” the menswear designer told reporters after making his Tokyo debut, having announced he would ditch Paris fashion week.

He called Japan’s menswear the “most sophisticated you’ll see in the streets” and said Tokyo was packed with the world’s most creative buyers and designers, along with some of the most sophisticated consumers around.

“I think you really need to focus on your own fashion week, trying to create new waves in Japan fashion,” he said, joking that he loves Japan so much, he visited 40 times in the last five years.

He called Japanese fabric second only to Italy’s. But unlike in Italy, where high fashion is governed by precision, he said the Japanese were willing to take risks, such as mix nylon with cashmere.

“The Italians don’t have the balls to mix nylon into a 200 euro fabric,” he said. “In Japan they’re very flexible and very creative, spontaneous… when you touch it you’re like my God what is this?”

While Tokyo has long been a springboard for up-and-coming designers, neighboring Seoul, with its vibrant street style, and Shanghai, as the commercial capital of China, are attracting increased interest.

“To me, Tokyo is the Asian fashion center with long fashion-forward history,” said Hong Kong designer Vickie Au who brought her “Urban Chill” collection to Tokyo after showing in New York.

The street look, minimal style and clean lines of her House of V label, this season inspired by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry is well suited to Japanese taste.

Beauty of the Craft

While she has boutiques in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, and online, she is looking to break into the Japanese and US markets.

Au cited Yamamoto, the famed Japanese designer based in Paris, as an inspiration, praising him as a master of “modern and avant-garde tailoring”.

Christelle Kocher, creative director of up-and-coming French label Koche, also said she had learnt from Yamamoto and that it had been special to be the only French brand participating in Tokyo this season.

“Japanese culture is really refined and I think may be more than other places, they understand the beauty of the craft and the beauty of the time to make beautiful things,” she said.

US retailing giant Amazon is sponsoring Tokyo Fashion Week for the first time, and among the fashion set in Japan there are hopes that it can help rebrand the event into something brighter and larger.

The company is already the largest clothing retailer in the United States and fashion vice president for Amazon Japan, James Peters, signalled that he is determined to replicate that success in Japan.

While Tokyo still follows a six-month delay between catwalk and store, he said Amazon would be happy to help Japanese designers facilitate see-now, buy-now collections increasingly at the fore in New York.

“I think if that’s what the designers want to do, we’re ready to do it,” he told AFP at the week’s launch party.

Comme des Garçons

Met Gala 2017 Theme Revealed

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Friday that the theme for its 2017 Costume Institute exhibition and gala will be “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons,” reports Vogue.

The upcoming show will be the first to make a living designer the sole subject of the Met’s famous fashion exhibit since Yves Saint Laurent in 1983.

Due to open on May 4, 2017, the exhibit will feature around 120 Comme des Garçons womenswear designs by Kawakubo, dating back to the label’s first runway collection in 1981 and up to the most recent shows.

The show will also look at Kawakubo’s fascination with “in-betweenness” and focus in on contrasting themes, such as East/West, male/female and past/present.

“Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past forty years,” said the Costume Institute’s curator in charge, Andrew Bolton.

“By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time.”

Ahead of the exhibition opening, the Met’s Costume Institute Benefit will take place on May 1, the first Monday of the month.

Comme des Garçons

Aesthetic Debt: What High Fashion Owes Asia

Who says fashion exists in its own bubble? Designers and houses today are, more than ever, drawing inspiration and references from all over the world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in high fashion’s relationship with the East. The seductive Orient has long been a goldmine for decorative touches. Christian Dior’s love of the East led him to create a dress – in the beautiful New Look silhouette with its nipped waist and elaborate volume – covered in Japanese scribble lifted from an old print. The words? Something about bowel movements and a tummy ache. A funny yet telling example, if there were one, about the results of good intentions and unwitting execution.

Gladly, designers today have the luxury of research and the availability of a global world view (thank you, Google) that’s resulted in a more intelligent way of mining the East for inspiration – and it’s one that should be celebrated. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2015 key exhibition, China: Through the Looking Glass, was a significant showcase of the East’s influences on fashion. What it achieved was a plain demonstration that China has had an aesthetic influence on virtually every high fashion designer. The “looking glass” element to the exhibition, however, should be a strong reminder that China and indeed the rest of Asia aren’t far-away oriental mysteries. Its relevance and influence almost demand that designers picking references do so with intelligent sensitivity rather than with reductive pastiche.

Japan in Paris

Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela

Two of the most important Japanese designers – Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto – have been in the business for upwards of 40 years, with starts in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s intriguing to assess their aesthetics and impact on the industry. We must remember that the two were so influential and notable in Paris fashion because of the contrariness of what they were showing. When Western – that is, Euro-centric – fashion built dresses around the glamorous, sexualised female body, Kawakubo and Yamamoto stormed in and offered inventive forms, silhouettes, cuts, and an insistent use of the colour black. Indeed, the Yamamoto brand has been revered for its masterful craftsmanship, protective embrace of the body, and an intelligence that builds a sense of safety for the wearer – clothes as the proverbial armour.

Kawakubo, too, gained fame for being unrelentingly herself. Comme des Garçons has become a model brand (pictured top) with its numerous offshoot lines – Junya Watanabe, Noir Kei Ninomiya and Ganryu are all by Kawakubo’s protégés – and the opinion-leading Dover Street Market stores. The underpinning artistic strength remains the Comme des Garçons mainline designed by Kawakubo herself, which has been unfailingly unique, daring and avant-garde.

Kenzo today represents upbeat accessibility thanks to creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. The Opening Ceremony founders bring a commercial New York line of thought to the brand that keeps it in line with the founder’s original spirit. The man himself, Kenzo Takada, opened his boutique in Paris, named Jungle Jap, selling his bright and fun multicultural prints. One of the key pillars of Kenzo fashion is a sense of fun and youth. Soon, Kenzo will launch a collaborative collection with H&M, one in a series of special edition releases with the likes of brands like Lanvin, Maison Martin Margiela, Balmain, Isabel Marant and Karl Lagerfeld. Onward to the future, indeed.

Speaking of the future, one must never forget the Japanese brand that pushed technical and creative boundaries. Issey Miyake is important to fashion because of his loving embrace of technology and the brand’s explorations of the form and function of dress. Miyake’s earliest works were built around the Japanese kimono, deconstructing the traditional garment to get to the core of what makes foldable garments work. Toying with dimensionality, he developed a line of clothes that were softly sculptural. His famous heat-pressed pleating technique birthed the Pleats Please line, and the shaped yet draped silhouette has been unique since. In the FW16 collection, current creative director Yoshiyuki Miyamae pays respectful homage with garments constructed with pleating techniques that the brand calls “baked stretched” and “3D steam-stretched”. The brand remains, in its spirit, venturous in exploring the effect of technology on fabric and garment construction.

Cultural Influences

Valentino

Valentino

The highest echelons of fashion owe an aesthetic debt to Asia. The original greats from Paris such as Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Paul Poiret, Madeleine Vionnet and Coco Chanel took inspirations from various facets of chinoiserie and japonism. There’s an element of pastiche that can’t be disregarded, though one can chalk it down to the times. Yves Saint Laurent paid tribute, in the 1970s, to cheongsam and qipao silhouettes, topped with hats and jackets inspired by imperial Chinese dress. In Tom Ford’s final collection for the house in the fall of 2004, such looks were amplified to highlight sensuality and sexual boldness. The figure-hugging and high-slit clothes demonstrated Ford’s high-octane sex-sells mentality and his ability to subvert traditional dress forms to suit the times.

Coco Chanel was a famously enamored collector of lacquered coromandel screens from China, and decorated her home and offices in Rue Cambon with more than 30 of them. Karl Lagerfeld’s collections have built on the obsession, most notably with a 2009 Métiers d’Art show in Shanghai that played to his strength of combining the heritage of Chanel with the needs of modern women. The result: a modern Chinese attitude worn with the insouciant bouclé skirt suits of the house. Lagerfeld then took a journey to India in the Paris-Bombay Métiers d’Art 2012 show: traditional Indian dress styles such as salwar trousers (voluminous pants which taper sharply near the ankles) and kurti (long, tunic-length blouses) got paired with Chanel’s iconic pearls and tweeds. When it comes to making references, Lagerfeld is a master; there’s an ease to the mix that belies deep research and finesse in construction.

John Galliano furthered Dior’s love of the Orient when he was designing for the house with the famously splendid SS07 and SS09 haute couture shows. Spring of 2007 saw modern geishas in chartreuse-, lavender- and rose-hued Bar silhouettes cut in silk-taffeta with an origami-style twist. In 2009, the ubiquitous willow pattern on Chinese ceramics sneaked under the linings, on the insides, and around the outsides of the dresses – a delicacy to the clothes lent by invoking a key product of trade that China has shared with the West for centuries.

Today’s Take

Valentino

Valentino

Modern couturiers play a more nuanced game of reference-picking. Consider Valentino’s Spring 2016 haute couture showing. The silhouettes and thrust of the look was the otherworldly and ultra-feminine signature that Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have become acclaimed for. Kimono-style coats and robes with hand-painted carps and dragons draw from the mythological wellspring of the East. This followed the visual story in the brand’s Pre-Fall 2016 collection which featured hand-painted and intarsia-ed dragons and swallows, pyjamas with brocaded swans, and shift dresses with genteel 10th-century bird-and-flower paintings.

In Gucci’s FW16 collection, Alessandro Michele sent a dizzying number of 70 looks down his runway. The Michele method is to create for a variety of women – different characters daring to partake of and play in dress-up characterisation. Two Asian-informed looks strolled down the runway: the first, a minidress with an Italian sun motif and a Mao collar; the second, a floor-length qipao with pink fur trim on the sleeves and an embroidered phoenix pattern.

At Louis Vuitton and Kenzo, the brands looked towards a cartoon idealisation of women. Nicolas Ghesquière has one of the best knacks in the industry for tapping into youthful energy and giving it a sophisticated turn. Recall Spring 2016’s advertising campaign: the virtual avatar of Lightning (one of the lead characters in the Final Fantasy games) swings around a bag, strikes poses and looks airbrushed to perfection. It is worth noting that the Lightning character in the games is a combatant – the strongest playable character, even. This is reflected in the clothes, too: the urban-heroine sensibility is carried into FW16’s exaggerated silhouettes, emphasis on heavy boots, panelled bodysuits and armour-like leather bustiers. At Kenzo, the train of thought was Sailor Moon, beloved ’90s shōjo icon of female liberation and strength. It took the spirit of confidence and quintessential femininity, and translated it into an abundance of empire waistlines and deconstructed duffel coats with a smattering of reworked archival iris, dandelion and tiger prints (Kenzo is known for its print work).

Dior

Dior

On a more technical front, we look back to Raf Simons’ debut haute couture collection for Dior in the Fall 2012 season. The collection saw Simons impose abstract Sterling Ruby prints onto coats and dresses using an Indonesian technique seen through a French eye. The original technique ikat is an early form of warp printing. Warp printing involves dyeing the fabric on the yarn before it is woven, as opposed to traditional methods in which a print is stamped onto a finished yard of fabric. The resulting print is warbly and far from sharp, and – to quote Mr Simons – “has the quality of a brush stroke”. In the 18th century, this was the same quality that led to the French creation of Chiné a la Branche, a variation on the ikat print technique that produced small, watercolor-esque floral prints on silk taffeta fabrics that found favour and fashion on the backs of Marie Antoinette and her contemporaries.

Today, what Asia represents for luxury and high fashion is fertile ground for growth and exploration. The massive Chinese economy offers opportunities for growth with a huge consumer base longing for the prestige and sheen of luxury. What fashion designers have to remember, then, is to pay their audiences back with the beauty they’ve borrowed.

This article was first published in L’Officiel Singapore.

Making Noise, Not Clothes: Designer Jun Takahashi

Read anything about Jun Takahashi — the owner/designer/embodiment of UNDERCOVER — a term that comes up a lot is ‘outsider’. From iterations of gothic punk, to rehashing 25 years of his ‘greatest hits’ in men’s streetwear for Spring 2016 (with a significant injection of Star Wars), to fairy tale nymphs and Victorian maidens in crowns of thorns and horned hats, UNDERCOVER has established itself as the one to watch at Paris Fashion Week.

Always inflected with a captivating duality, Jun is most at home in a swirl of chaos and beauty – there is a pair of sneakers in the current Fall 2016 Men’s collection ‘Instant Calm’, with the words ‘Chaos’ and ‘Balance’ etched on the left and right sides respectively; the sneakers, much like UNDERCOVER itself, lives in the space between those two opposing stances. While his efforts of decades past presented a more hard-edged aesthetic, stemming from a punk/rebellious worldview, his couture has matured into an elegant, wildly imaginative output; all at once sinister and playful, sensual and surreal and always with a hint of humor.Jun-Takahashi-portrait

“Clothes have meaning. Otherwise, it’s just cocktail dresses and bags — and that’s not interesting,” says Jun in an interview with Business of Fashion late last year. It is a belief emblematized in the brand’s motto — ‘We Make Noise, Not Clothes’. “In my work I want to express not something merely pretty or cute, but to find something behind it. I think it’s very human.”

“I take that cute teddy bear and I give it a bit of a shock — that bit of violence. The combination is something that gives it real beauty. I am not denying beauty, but presenting it in a different light.”

UNDERCOVER began in 1990, as a humble graphic t-shirt line while Jun Takahashi was still a student at Bunka Fashion College. It was sold out of the now iconic NOWHERE store he set up with Nigo, the founder of the cult streetwear label A Bathing Ape (incidentally, NOWHERE was resurrected as a pop-up store inside London’s Dover Street Market for a couple of months in 2009).Jun-Takahashi-design-2

As a student in years past (whilst sticking it to anachronistic teachers: “I was questioning about learning ‘design’ from teachers who were much older than me. So I told myself that I would learn only techniques in the school, nothing else.”), his life changed when he saw his first Comme des Garçons show. “I was so impressed. It convinced me to think of fashion design as being completely free in creative expression. With her work [Rei] Kawakubo said [that] it doesn’t matter if it’s avant-garde or street: creativity is creativity.” With an iconoclastic/irreverent streak towards conventional norms and ideas, UNDERCOVER dismantled the divide between the street and the runway long before the current epoch of luxury streetwear. UNDERCOVER is acclaimed for both its graphic t-shirts, venerated by teenagers, as its conceptual runway pieces. Its radical approach, is in part, due to Jun taking a more unprecedented step of first creating a more couture-inclined womenswear line, and then boldly going up against and alongside the fashion establishment. This was a significant departure from the accepted progression for the Japanese streetwear labels, whose brand extensions was only supposed to extend to music and sportswear.

On the distinction in UNDERCOVER’s couture: the menswear is simply the clothes he wants to wear, while the women’s as a more conceptual, abstract proposition. Jun asserts, regardless of a garment’s price or complexity, he imbibes everything he creates with equal creativity, which appears to be conjured from the boundlessly expanding, imaginative, warped UNDERCOVER universe that is his mind.

Looking at Jun’s output for UNDERCOVER over the years, and its raison d’être-based approach in doing so, it isn’t surprising at all their interests are not strictly limited to haute couture. His shows have been frequently described as “punk performance theatre”, professing he “was more interested in designing graphics than clothing”; UNDERCOVER has always expanded its thinking outside of the confines of fashion and clothes-making, and that has enabled them to take on projects in their own idiosyncratic way, inside and outside of fashion.

His accessories are often totally sculptural, totally eschewing conventional forms of what leather goods should be, his shows are extensively visually baroque illustrating a lush, universe that his clothes and characters inhabit. He has done collaborations with Japanese toy maker Medicom to make sculptural objects from the GILAPPLE lamps to the ‘Hamburger’ lamps (an apple with a classically-styled headlamp embedded in it; and a collectible lamp fashioned after a hamburger character that sports large cartoon eyes and fanged teeth, respectively), to depressed versions of iconic Sanrio characters like My Melody and Hello Kitty holding GILAPPLES.Jun-Takahashi-design-4

As a painter himself, Jun finds inspiration in paintings and often enough they make their way onto the clothes itself. In ‘Instant Calm’ — the dark, grotesque, Renaissance Flemish-esque paintings of Belgian artist Michael Borremans inspired the collection — a black parka emulates the subject in Borremans’ ‘Black Mould’ (and in a meta-shift, the painting itself is emblazoned on the fabric). Notable examples: from his Women’s Ready-To-Wear Spring 2015 collection, his inspiration and sampling of Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ (1503) was front and centre, to, in the words of Nick Knight’s SHOWStudio website: “For Spring/Summer 2016 Jun Takahashi re-appropriated Nick Knight’s image ‘Paint Explosions, 2015’, creating a limited edition leather blouson jacket”, to his massively revered/sought after crossover collection with New York’s eminent Supreme, where the painting of Nicolas de Largillière’s ‘Étude de Mains (A Study of Hands)’ (1715) is featured in an all-over print on a hooded sweatshirt/shorts set. The painting currently hangs in the Louvre.

Late last year, UNDERCOVER held a massive retrospective exhibition to celebrate its 25th anniversary at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery that ended its run just before Christmas, without plans for an international tour. While other brands and labels would take the opportunity to revel in the pomp of not just surviving, but prevailing and still uncompromisingly flying the flag for its ideals — characteristic to the brand, it was a genuine, subtle and low-key affair and not capitalised as an opportunity to extoll its brand values or expansion. In the introduction from the show’s catalogue, Jun Takahashi mused that he set his label up “with little consideration how this may shape my future”. His humility and earnestness has been at the heart of the history of UNDERCOVER — this third show in Tokyo in 1995 was named ‘The Last Show’ as he asserted when he started, his goal was to continue for least three seasons. This exhibition is titled ‘Labyrinth’ as, in the words of Jun: “it feels like I am groping in the dark and wandering in a labyrinth with no end in sight”.

Coming off a super busy period; just off showing at Paris Fashion Week, a 25-year anniversary major retrospective ‘Labyrinth’, to the upcoming monograph UNDERCOVER released on Rizzoli in the past month (with the cover art painted by the man himself) — we sit down with Jun to find out what holds the UNDERCOVERISM universe together.Jun-Takahashi-design-3

When did your love of fashion start, and how did that lead to UNDERCOVER?

Since I was in elementary school, I think I was always selecting what I want to wear by myself and I wrote on my graduation essay “my dream is to become a designer”. After graduating from high school, I entered Bunka Fashion College. While in school, my friend and I designed t-shirts and started UNDERCOVER.

How did the name UNDERCOVER come about?

I wanted to make the brand image to be suspicious and secretive.

You have frequently mentioned that duality is something that holds an allure for you; “We’re human beings — perfection is not cool.” What is it about chaos, the diversity and multiplicity of opposing factors that captivates you; what does beauty mean to you?

Human beings have several faces regardless of being good or bad. When you accept all those, you can find it attractive. Diverse and multifarious chaos; that is beauty to me.

Much like the ethos of the brand “We Make Noise, Not Clothes.”, when did you realise fashion could channel charged ideas and feelings?

By the time I realised, I was already making things in a way you say (that I am charging feeling and attitude into clothes). It’s totally natural to me.Jun-Takahashi-design-5

Are memories, nostalgia important to you?

Sometimes it is necessary to look back over the past. When the amount of experiences from the past increases, it helps with creation.

Could you tell us more about your artistic process?

It depends. Often I expand my ideas from what I was feeling at the time, or I get inspired from music, movies, or art. Other times, I want to do something different from the last collection. Or I want to carry on the same theme from the previous season, but expand the ideas even further. Fundamentally, I try to be honest with what I am feeling all the time.

What is your daily routine like?

My working hours are perfectly scheduled. In that way, there is no wasted time and it makes things easier for me. Also our staff can work based around that schedule too. I think scheduling is a very important thing to do.

Your collections have incorporated the work of Hieronymus Bosch and Michael Borremans before. Does art — painting in particular — hold a fascination for you?

It is extremely fascinating. I do paint myself, too. I believe painting goes well with clothing designs.

Who are some of the artists you’ve looked up to/are interested in right now?

There are so many…Jun-Takahashi-design-7

Your runway shows always feels dramatic and immersive, almost like theatre and performance art — are narratives and stories something you think about in your work, when designing a collection and then presenting it?

I am not interested in shows at which models are just walking. I always consider a show as entertainment and I sincerely hope that people feel emotional through my shows.

Your collections seem to have evolved with you over the years, the outwardly punk-aggressive aesthetic scaled back to a steely, dark elegance currently. How do you see yourself now, compared to when you first started out?

You are right. If you ask me whether I have matured as a person, I don’t think much so, but I am certain what I make has evolved. The words such as ‘punk’ and ‘aggressive’ don’t appear on the surface anymore, but they are rooted in all my designs.

Could you tell us more about your need to create and your stance on money — you see it as a means to allow yourself more freedom and the opportunity to drive your vision further?

I guess I was born with this characteristic. I show my value of existence to society by creating something. I appreciate that there are many people who feel sympathy with what I make and it gives me a sense of satisfaction.Jun-Takahashi-design-8

You design literally everything — from the clothes, the advertising campaigns, right down to small collaterals even, not dissimilar to what Hedi Slimane is doing at Saint Laurent. He says recently of his approach: “Every single detail seems important. It is about consistency… It is quite overwhelming to design all those elements, but if the house wants to keep a distinct voice there is no other choice.” Is it something you think about as well, keeping the vision of UNDERCOVER distinct and consistent?

I totally agree with Hedi.

What’s the end goal?

In terms of work, I don’t know yet. But at a personal level, I want my family to live peacefully.

Do you think living Tokyo influenced the way you approached your practice in general? What draws you to the city on a personal level?

A mix of various things. That is the originality of Tokyo and that is what attracts people.Jun-Takahashi-design-9

You’ve talked before about the music of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Led Zeppelin and the effect it had on you. Why do you think music continues to have such an important influence on your life and your designs?

I don’t think those bands alone (Sex Pistols, The Clash, Led Zeppelin) influenced me that much. I always get influenced by many more various genres of music.

What do you feel about Punk as a cultural force today? In the past teenagers, embraced punk rock, in order to escape and respond to their surroundings. Do you feel it is relevant to keep the attitude alive now, more so than before, as we experience a flattening of perspectives with people striving for generic, sterile perfectionism in current contemporary visual culture?

I always want to keep in mind that I continue to challenge stereotypes. Nowadays especially, I do feel the tendency that everybody has to be the same and I am completely against that. Everyone should insist on their individuality and have a right to do so.Jun-Takahashi-design

I wonder if you’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider.

From the standpoint of the general public, I believe I am an outsider, but I am an outsider with common sense.

What’s next for you?

In creation, I just keep pushing myself.

This article was first published in Art Republik.

5 Top Menswear Trends Paris Fashion Week

All good things must come to an end. While Paris Men’s Fashion Week came to a close over the weekend, the hype is far from over. We round up the five top trends from the runways of Paris to relive the excitement.

Gorilla Sleeves 
Rick Owens

Rick Owens

Go big or go home. Forget bell sleeves, the real masters take it a notch further – quite literally. Think super long sleeves that dangle to the knees, as Rick Owens and Korean label Juun.J have exemplified, with the latter extending its influence by adding trailing cords. While brought to global attention by Demna Gvasalia’s own brand Vetements, Gvasalia however has resisted the reiteration of his own trope for Balenciaga. An intelligent move to distinguish the two brands, perhaps, but this does not prevent many others from adopting his creative genius. And of course, one look at the trend may call to question its practicality. These sleeves are most obviously not a continuation of the ongoing debate between function and style, but who says fashion can’t just be all about art?

Boys Will Be Girls

No longer a fresh concept, and this season reiterates androgyny’s relevance on today’s runway. This week sees a blurring of gender binaries, with women decked in menswear, and men similarly adorned in miniskirts and trailing ribbons, à la Maison Margiela and Walter Van Beirendonck.

Djellabas 
Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake

Perhaps an echo of the ongoing Ramadan, it is undeniable that some looks were injected with an Islamic air. Lemaire, for example, featured four djellabas alone, although designer Christophe Lemaire denied the conscious creation of a specific Muslim-influenced style; “I was picking up influences from people I live around in Paris.” Issey Miyake similarly got in on the act with sublime kameez tunics and blanket shawls.

Boiler Suits 

Menswear has often been associated with workwear, but this season, it’s the boiler suits that reign. One need only look to Andrew Crews, who has deconstructed the one-piece overall and reassembled it into a whole wardrobe, from biker suits to dungarees. Other designers similarly ride on this trend with their own twists, where Junya Watanabe matched boiler suits with pork pie hats, and Lemaire adopts influences from the battledress of peshmerga Kurdish fighters.

TartanLouis-Vuitton-Paris-Fashion-Week-menswear-2016

Tartan has almost been immortalised as a classic, and this season rehashes them on the runways, albeit in sparing proportions. Brands like Louis Vuitton to Japanese labels Kolor and Facetasm jump on the checkered bandwagon, while OAMC gives live to the print where Trainspotting meets the Edinburgh tattoo with check Crombie-style coats and trousers.

Insight: Why So Few Female High Fashion Designers

Recent times have moved feminism beyond the bra-burning fringes to a full-on topic of social commentary and activism. Remember Chanel’s Spring 2015 runway show? The big march of thin models in high heels, waving protest signs that said ‘LADIES FIRST’, ‘HISTORY IS HER STORY’ amongst other silly syncopatic phrases, clad in Karl Lagerfeld’s personal take on Coco Chanel’s legacy. That season’s show sent a tremor through the industry: here was Lagerfeld saying ‘let’s get political’ while essentially treating the issue as a fad by sending a meaningless faux protest down the runway of one of the world’s most influential brands, albeit with nice clothing. The facts are plain: in the established gender dichotomy, women have been exploited by men to social, political, and economic ends. In fashion, we can say this with much less pedantry: male designers are telling women what is beautiful and therefore what to wear.

Phoebe Philo’s designs for Céline, Claire Waight Keller’s for Chloé and Julie de Libran’s for Sonia Rykiel have earned consistent praise for their ‘wearability’. That’s not a dirty word suggesting pedestrian clothes – what it means is that their designs are for women who live, work, play, and travel in, using it as the proverbial armour against the world. The shared beauty here is that these creations are pieces of clothing made by women for women, that understand that the expectations and standards of feminine beauty are often unnecessary and restrictive. The ladies thus offer us a liberated beauty.

While men may understand cut and fabric, there is the unavoidable political whisper of the male gaze. Thierry Mugler, Gianni Versace and Hervé Leger’s skin-tight dresses, for example, highlight the powerful feminine sexuality yet can’t be rid of the societal expectations of it to please the masculine. The psychological freedom from clothing designed by women, then, is that its celebrations of femininity and sexuality come from common ground that says ‘we know what we want to wear.’

Luckily, we have stalwarts of women in fashion to look up to. Miuccia Prada has been helming her brand since 1978 and shows no signs of stopping. Consuelo Castiglioni built up Marni to celebrate maximalism and considered excess. Diane von Furstenberg took sexy back and wrapped a dress around women to flatter the body. Rei Kawakubo made Commes des Garçons her cerebral and experimental laboratory where beauty has never had a fixed definition beyond variety.

Gladly, societal attitudes are in motion and change, and women are taking a louder and more visible fight for equality. A slow march, but movement nonetheless. The end goal of fashion remains the same, of course. We want it to make us dream of beauty we never thought possible; to keep looking towards the new, the creative, the exciting. Wouldn’t it just be nicer if more women were telling us how?

This story was first published in L’Officiel Singapore.

pharrell williams comme des garcons

Comme des Garçons x Pharrell Williams

pharrell williams comme des garcons

Pharrell Williams has teamed up with Comme des Garçons to create a new fragrance for men and women called “Girl”.

“This is the first time we have created a fragrance for a musician and I can think of no greater talent and no greater gentleman to have done this with,” explained Adrian Joffe of Comme des Garçons. “Pharrell knew exactly what he wanted the perfume to smell like right from the beginning,” he added.

Pharrell was excited about the collaboration: “As one of my favorite designers once said, ‘Comme des Garcons is your favorite designers’ favorite designer… the top of the top, the best of the best.'”

Stay tuned, more information will be released this spring before the exclusive fragrance hits stores in September 2014.

Comme des Garçons launches Andy Warhol collection

Comme des Garcons Andy Warhol

Comme des Garçons creative director Rei Kawakubo has designed a new capsule collection in homage to the American pop artist Andy Warhol.

The collection of T-shirts, footwear and accessories for men and women uses prints and imagery orginally created by one of the 20th century’s most iconic visual artists.

It includes a rucksack (€378), while T-shirts range from €126-141, and the print sneakers are €189.

“I think Warhol and Comme des Garçons both work in the total area of creation, without borders and limits, and with a similar disdain for establishment rules,” Comme des Garçons CEO Adrian Joffe told the Telegraph.

The 15-piece collection went on sale this week at the Comme des Garçons in Paris on rue du Fbg St Honoré and at the Dover Street Market concept store in London.

Comme des Garçons regularly collaborates with other brands and artists including Coca-Cola, Converse and Hermès.

Comme des Garcons BLACK

Comme des Garçons reveals BLACK fragrance

Comme des Garcons BLACK

French-Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons is releasing a new scent for the BLACK diffusion line. BLACK eau de toilette is described as “an emergency, guerrillalike, spiced-up new scent.”

The BLACK Commes des Garçons brand was born in 2009 at the nadir of the global financial crisis, as an attempt to inspire a little ironic cheer and counter some of what the brand calls the “general negativity engendered by the recession.”

The scent opens with Madagascan black pepper and Somali incense, while the heart is composed of leather, liquorice, birch tar, and pepperwood.All of this plays out over a base of cedarwood and vetiver

Comme des Garçons has created a matte black and white graphic design, screen-printed directly onto the glass bottle.

Available exclusively at the brand’s BLACK stores in New York, Paris and Berlin between April 2 and 15, the fragrance will be launched internationally on April 16 at all Comme des Garçons boutiques.

nike colette mont blanc

Nike x colette: The Away Project

nike colette mont blanc

Just a couple of weeks ago Nike presented its new French Away Team Kit, paying homage to the iconic white/navy striped pattern

Colette is celebrating the Away Kit by bringing on collaborators from all sorts of areas, presenting their product also with the “mariniere” striped pattern.

For The Away Project, Chanel, Colorware, Comme des Garçons, Hermès, Ladurée, Longchamp, MontBlanc, Swatch, Trousselier, Yves Saint Laurent, and their iconic products, striped in blue too!
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Comme Des Garcons for H&M

The famously avant-garde Japanese label, spearheaded by design powerhouse Rei Kawakubo, will provide a range of both men’s and womenswear, as well as childrenswear, accessories and a new unisex fragrance for the retailer.
In honour of its Japanese roots, the collaborative line will launch exclusively at H&M in Tokyo in November before being rolled out worldwide a few days later.

“I have always been interested in the balance between creation and business,” said Comme des Garçons’ founder and head designer Rei Kawakubo. “It is a dilemma, although for me creation has always been the first priority. It is a fascinating challenge to work with H&M since it is a chance to take the dilemma to its extreme, and try to solve it,” added the 65-year-old.

Margareta van den Bosch, creative advisor for H&M, said: “Rei Kawakubo has been at the top of our wish list for a long time and we are thrilled that she has chosen to collaborate with us.”

Kawakubo is the latest in a long line of celebrities and fashion designers who have collaborated with H&M. Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf, Madonna and Roberto Cavalli have all teamed up with H&M in recent years.

Brought to you by nitrolicious, here’s the collection preview from Hong Kong’s Ketchup magazine! It looks very promising ! I was on a recession shopping ban but this definitely merits breaking it !