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Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2005
Undercover's Zamiang, Billionaire Boys Club vs. The Ice Cream Store, Youth Dew . . .
By MARTIN WEBB
Undercover art adventure
Undercover designer Jun Takahashi reigns supreme over a realm of dark weirdness that has fascinated an army of fiercely loyal punk fashion rebels. This fanatical following allows him to take risks that others might shy away from: For the opening gambit of his latest Paris runway presentation topless models with their torsos painted white wandered around a creepy circle of candles, while others showed off T-shirts inscribed with the words "Klaus" and the "Amazing Tale of Zamiang." Klaus turned out to be the leader of a 1970s German progressive rock band of Takahashi's invention, but Zamiang was a reference to one of the eccentric designer's side projects. Besides creating deconstructed clothes, Takahashi also draws and designs, and Zamiang is one of his occasional aliases. (The Zamiang logo reads right to left with all its letters reversed.)
The name has now been lent to a gallery-cum-store in the space underneath Undercover's Aoyama boutique, which was previously occupied by the Bathing Ape Cafe. The interior features an illuminated Christ and Mary Magdalene with their eyes blanked out, framed photos of UFOs and a quarter portion of a stripy circus tent.
The inaugural exhibition, sponsored by Sony's PlayStation Portable, features The Changes, a "disco-space-jam kraut-rock band" comprised of Misha Hollenbach and Shauna Toohey of Melbourne-based fashion brand Pam, London-based artist Fergus "Fergadelic" Purcell and A Bathing Ape graphic designer Skatething.
This motley combination has come up with work that includes a giant fingerless-gloved fist, a huge montage of occult imagery and illustrations with names like "Rock Lords," "Satan Rules" and "Rivers of Babal," all of which sit well with Undercover's sinister punk aesthetic.
Almost everything in the gallery is for sale, with prices running from 6,000 yen to 1,000,000 yen (for the fist). The space has almost sold out of the sweatshirts, tees and sneakers made for the opening. The show ends Jan. 15, so hurry on down if this your thing.
Zamiang, B1 Block C, Unimat Bleu Cinq Point, 5-3-18 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo; tel: (03) 3407-1020.
Convergence of cool
When multiplatinum-selling artist and arguably the coolest man on the planet Pharrell Williams was looking for a partner for his venture into the apparel business, A Bathing Ape street fashion mogul Nigo seemed like a logical choice.
The two met several years ago during one of visits Pharrell's visits to Japan and quickly found common ground in their mutual love of street fashion and cult sci-fi classics. This shared interest is captured by the retro spaceman logo of Billionaire Boys Club, the brand the two have been developing for over a year alongside Williams' footwear brand Ice Cream.
Last month these stellar collaborations got their first bricks-and-mortar manifestation on Propeller Street, one of Harajuku's hippest strips. The two stores -- standing side by side, one for each brand -- each have their own distinctive look: At Billionaire Boys Club, a big red 1950s-style space rocket inside a glass case dominates the shiny royal blue interior decorated with starburst motifs; next door, at The Ice Cream Store, Williams' concept of a supermarket-style interior is interpreted with bright flourescent lighting and an open-top display freezer stacked with sneaker boxes.
High-quality sneakers, T-shirts, sweatshirts, parkas, shirts, jackets and jeans all at premium prices are on offer here in bold colors and designs. These threads are a status symbol, but Williams' insists that BBC isn't a bling thing. "Wealth is of the Heart and Mind, Not the Pocket," is the mantra for the brand, and it's inscribed on the counter so visitors don't forget it.
Billionaire Boys Club, The Ice Cream Store, 4-28-22 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; tel: (03) 5775-2633
Back with a bang
Since Tom Ford quit as creative director of Gucci and YSL in 2004, the fashion world has been eagerly anticipating his next move -- now the long wait is over.
With typically shrewd acumen, rather than go head-to-head with his former masters with a line of pret-a-porter, the Texan sexpot, renowned for his raunchy, steamy style, has thrown his 10-gallon hat into the ring with venerable cosmetics dynasty Estee Lauder and will launch a fragrance and line of cosmetics in 2006. In the meantime, he has agreed to update a couple of long-forgotten products from the house's archives, starting with Youth Dew.
"When you have a wonderful classic like this, you want to keep it pure and true to its heritage," says Ford of the scent that helped Estee Lauder build her vast cosmetics empire.
As the man who transformed Gucci from a fusty old house into the height of fashion, Ford seems like the perfect choice to revamp this relic. Ford says that Youth Dew was his grandmother's favorite fragrance but admits that the first thing he did was cut the concentration of the incredibly potent potion by 50 percent.
Besides renaming it as the Youth Dew Amber Nude Limited Edition Fragrance Collection, other alterations include slimming down the ridges of its signature gold fluted packaging and adding a new amber cabochon closure to transform it into a sleek and highly desirable package. The scent is complemented by a lines of cosmetics focused on nude colors in packaging inspired by the original gold fluted Youth Dew packaging.
The original advertising campaign for Youth Dew involved a nude body -- shocking for 1953 -- and Ford has used the idea of nudity as the central pillar in his revamp of the collection. "It's a play on the original concept of the fragrance and the advertising, which was nude, but it's more discreet, graceful, elegant and quite classic," says Ford. "In a sense, she is not undressed, even though she is nude: It's a commentary on what fragrance is."
Youth Dew Amber Nude Limited Edition Fragrance Collection is available only at the Estee Lauder corners at Isetan Shinjuku, tel. (03) 3352-7320 and Hankyu Umeda, tel. (06) 6312- 1894.
Kanban Biru (Billboard Building) is what the locals are calling accessory store Acrylic, a new landmark on the steep road that leads from Hiroo to Roppongi past Arisugawa Park. The facade is a two-story high curved white surface with the silhouette of a bamboo thicket cut into it, revealing a layer of glass underneath.
If this audacious architectural statement seems atypical of the somber gray structures favored by Japanese proprietors, it is hardly surprising that the anomaly comes courtesy of foreign design unit Klein Dytham Architecture.
The distinctive exterior is also a reflection of the striking creations on display inside. Acrylic is the brainchild of Tokyo-born graphic artist Masako Ban, who discovered her passion for accessory design during a sojourn in London in 2001 and established the brand two years later. She uses laser-cutting techniques to render her forms from blocks of acrylic, which are then sand-blasted, embellished and dyed to achieve the finished product.
Her work has the honor of being carried in the store adjoining New York's MoMA -- an illustrious endorsement that is also an indica tion of the kind of person who would appreciate these angular monochrome chunks of acrylic: art aficionados rather than fashion fanatics.
Ban uses the store as a design studio as well as retail space and is often on hand to discuss her work with interested parties, but those thinking of doing seasonal shopping here should note that the store shuts at 6 p.m. and will be closed Dec. 27-Jan 5.
Acrylic, 2-2-10 Motoazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo; tel: (03) 3447-0734; www.acrylic.jp
Pump and grind
"I am what I am," reads the new Reebok ad campaign featuring the likes of Jay-Z, Lucy Liu, Christina Ricci, Allen Iversen and . . . some Japanese guy in a suit and tie? OK, so he might not be a megastar just yet, but New York-based graphic artist Kenzo Minami is hot stuff in the world of fashion. His fractal, collage-like graphics have been featured in magazines like i-D, W, Flaunt and WAD and have won him commissions from the likes of Nike, Adidas and avant-garde designer Raf Simons.
It's his work for Reebok, however, that has propelled him to billboard poster fame and a new line of limited edition customized Pump Fury (only 60 pairs released in Japan) is the latest object of desire for sneaker freaks.
Originally from Kobe, Minami graduated from Parsons School of Design and went on to work in TV before he found his footing as a commercial artist. Besides these sneakers, Minami has recently been working on his own line of T-shirts, which can be seen at www.kenzominami.com
For inquiries about Pump Fury, call Cube at (03) 5775-7925.