Rakuten Tokyo (Part 1)
TOKIO’S RAKUTEN FASHION WEEK Autumn/Winter 2021/22 is a deliriously enticing hotchpotch of the Sculptural & Harmonious, the Traditional & Elegant … and the totally Wild, Woolly & Whacky.
Here’s a sneak peek of the best of the first few days of Rakuten.
The exciting thing about Tokio’s Rakuten is that it showcases a cross-section of some of the best that this uber design-conscious part of the world has on offer (and boy, has Japan blessed the world of fashion with superstar designers – one can’t help but think of the holy trinity of creative heavyweights that are Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake).
The beauty of Rakuten is that it seamlessly allows seasoned designers to rub shoulders with those who have recently graduated and everyone in between. As ever there’s a pleasing balance between the avant-garde & sculptural (think Junya Watanabe), the ‘traditional’ (‘Japanese’ shapes that one could loosely describe as enveloping and ‘modest’) and lastly designs that really push the boundaries of convention (exciting stuff!). And everything in between.
Perhaps the most fun place to start when rounding up the first few days of Rakuten would be the domain of street fashion, synonymous with the districts around the Akihabara station in Tokio and easily comparable in ‘hipness’ with what London’s Carnaby Street must’ve been like in the Sixties or the Kings Road in the Seventies. This is precisely what young designers in Japan do best! One standout brand is Ka Wa Key whose designers Ka Wa Key Chow and Jarno Leppanen hold Masters in Fashion and Art respectively. Designing a gender-fluid line of clothing with a sustainable ethos, Ka Wa Key’s dramatic asymmetrical shapes, diagonal lines and great mastery of colour are regularly featured at Fashion Weeks from Paris to New York.
Another streetwear label worth mentioning is Nisai, whose colourful deconstructed jackets and tie-dyed trousers remind one of another colourist legend in Japanese fashion, Kenzo Katada. Keisuki Yoshida’s distressed surface pieces with punkish tartan elements and surface printing could also have stepped straight from Akihabara! Designers Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi of Mint Designs, yet another couple of graduates from the stables of Central St Martin’s, have created a collection of avant-garde shapes with checks and outrageous platforms to juxtapose their almost clown-like tunics and collars. An interesting collection, too, which included a gorgeous leopard print coat, hot pants and fishnets came from Tokio’s Shintaro Nagamine’s el ConductorH.
Designer Hidenori Kumakiri of Beautiful People’ veered into Deconstructivist territory with
pieces like the ones above. Kumakiri did a stint as pattern maker at Comme des Garcons, which may explain the theatrical shapes and almost Charlie Chaplin-esque silhouettes of a collection that offered its fair share of capes and cloaks, corduroy, fake fur, tweed and even some chiffon. Another striking collection came from the stables of Kaiki Lio (brand Kaiki) who produced some almost egg-like shapes in a classic collection that offered a balance of neat silhouettes and layering. Shinya Kozuka, yet anotherCentral St Martins graduate produced someunderstated and voluminous shapes that shout functionality and ease.
There were oodles of elegance too! Pieces showcased ranged from traditional shapes to avant-garde, all beautifully constructed and utterly wearable. One of the most talented designers and someone who is immensely respected in Japan today is Hiroko Koshino, who, in 1978, was the first Japanese designer to participate in Italy’s sought-after Alta Moda in Rome and has scooped up numerous awards since. Her brilliant craftsmanship and quality fabrics are as impressive as the layered and sculptural look of her tweeds and knits. Similarly, Beautiful People played on the ‘traditional’ but even the tweeds and felted wools had a certain freshness and novel appeal. Support Surface’s designer Norio Surikabe, who previously designed for famous Italian design house Romeo Gigli before setting up in Japan, produced an extremely stylish collection of fluid shapes in easy-to-wear slacks, coats and wraps, made from traditional cloth and yarn. There was even the odd floral chiffon dress, which came as a breath of fresh air amidst all the tweeds and wintry woollens!
Designer Wataro Nakazonon of chic and super elegant brand Chono, who won the Tokyo New Designer Fashion Grand Prix in 2018, created a very ladylike and pretty collection around floral dresses, coats and cardigans. Floral prints also came from the stables of Support Surface.
All-in-all, the first few days of Rakuten produced a diverse, eclectic and quality offering –
I wouldn’t have expected any less from this respected fashion sector. As ever, the world watches Japan to see what we could expect next on our fashion palate.
After all, they have some reputation to uphold!