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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006
Puma McQueen, Garcia Marquez Gauche, Paul Smith Jeans, High Tech at Porsche Design . . .
By MARTIN WEBB
While teaming up with famous fashion designers is standard practice for sportswear brands these days, Puma has pulled of a bit of a coup by getting Brit bad-boy designer Alexander McQueen to lend his name (and design flair) to a high-end line called, matter-of-factly, Puma McQueen.
Puma's manufacturing expertise has been brought to bear on some surprisingly complex designs. One model, called "My Left Foot Bound," has a vaguely skater-style look, with shoelaces woven lattice-like into a brown leather upper. But flip it over and a cast of the maverick designer's own foot -- the left one, of course -- is visible sealed in the translucent rubber sole. Equally unusual is NY Running Shoe-Laser, a model with a laser-cut leather lattice pattern stitched onto a white mesh upper and a funky protruding toe.
These shoes certainly don't come cheap -- My Left Foot Bound retails for 31,500 yen, while Anatomical Low, another similarly inspired model, will set you back 34,650 yen. McQueen's label is highly regarded, but five years after selling a majority stake in his business to the Gucci Group, his label is still yet to make a profit. Obviously, McQueen, and his increasingly impatient Italian backers, are staking a lot on these top-dollar sneakers.
For more information, see www.puma.com
While the name "Garcia Marquez" would prompt most foreign folk to think of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to thousands of Japanese women it is the name of their favorite fashion brand.
Starting out from a tiny basement store in a back street off Omotesando, the brand hit on a winning formula with its St. Germain tote bag, a distinctive plastic-coated cotton shopping bag with scalloping trim and cutesy prints, often of the brand's signature Boston terrier Hippie. Released in limited numbers, and at very affordable prices, the bags have won such a cult following that dozens of fans can often be found lining up outside the store hours before opening.
Having branched out from clothing and accessories for women to lines for men and kids, the brand -- officially called Garcia Marquez Gauche -- continues its meteoric rise with the opening of an Osaka branch. Perhaps the key to the success of "Garushia" is that both its designs and store interiors look as though they were knocked together by the girl next door. The label's popularity seems to represent a rejection of flawlessly packaged mass-marketed merchandise in favor of something far more homey and rough around the edges.
1-19-11 Higashi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka. Tel: (06) 6282-1990, www.garcia-style.com
Britain's foremost men's fashion guru Sir Paul Smith has made a very successful career from selling unpretentious clothes. His latest venture, though, adds a touch of rebellious punk spirit to his cheery image. Located in a prominent position on Harajuku's strutting-strip Cat Street, Paul Smith Jeans is a big concrete stand-alone store with bright green steel girders forming a frame out front.
In keeping with Sir Paul's upbeat aesthetic, the concept of the store is "Clothes That Make You Happy," and the word Happy is tastefully emblazoned on the front window. A line of English country gentleman-style wax jackets and flat caps, produced in collaboration with American outdoor maker Burton, are also in line with the brand's look, but the jeans are all distressed, and a line of biker jackets, made in conjunction with British motorcycle maker Triumph, say nasty not nice.
The second level hosts the high-end Red Ear jeans line and a selection of one-off customized pieces, including painted Converse All-Star sneakers and sweatshirts cleverly patched together from used clothes. Adding a further tinge of edginess is a display of photographs by Janette Beckman, who documented Britain's early punk scene. Maybe Sir Paul has a bit of a rebellious streak after all.
Suzuki Bldg. 5-17-5 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, tel. (03) 3409-1082. www.paulsmith.co.jp
Having existed as an eyewear line since the 1980s, Porsche Design has since evolved into a fully fledged luxury brand. The Stuttgart-based firm still specializes in eyewear, but has branched out into shoes, leather goods, luggage and accessories through a deal with Italian luxury-goods maker Ferragamo.
In a bold play for a slice of the Japanese market, the company opened a flagship store in Tokyo's Ginza, followed shortly by an sister store in Osaka. Designed by Italian Matteo Thun, whose list of clients includes Missoni, Swatch, Lavazza and Illy, the black, slate and chocolate color scheme and large matte surfaces evoke an atmosphere of clinically engineered precision.
The store is dominated by something called "Gate to the Future," which is essentially three huge plasma screens on three walls of the space and a big slate slab in the center, which is filled with a scanner and monitor. The products on display each have a "Scan Me" tag: Take one over to the slab, scan it, and an animated film extolling its virtues will appear on screen. The central monitor shows the front view while the side monitors show side views and the slab itself displays all its specifications and selling points.
This setup adds a whole new dimension to the concept of window shopping. After the store closes, passersby can browse products by using a touch-screen display on the storefront, which can set off the videos in the same way as the "Scan Me" tags.
B1-2F, 5-3-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; tel. (03) 5568-7232, www.porsche-design.com
Looking around the corner
Boho is a no-no for this coming spring and summer as cool, sharp, urban elegance takes center stage. Colorwise, nudes and beiges are far and away the most in-trend tone, while white, dove gray and dusty pink are also big hits. Here are three key looks:
* A simple, cropped, tailored jacket, preferably in gray, worn over a white blouse or tank top. Jeans are an easy way to complete this ensemble, but wise shoppers wil buy their jacket as part of a pants suit and get an extra outfit to boot.
* Roll up the sleeves of a loose-fitting white and wear with shorts if you love your legs or cropped pants if you don't.
* A tailored black jacket can be dressed up with a white blouse or down with a print T-shirt. Add a subtle touch of punk-rock chic with a studded belt, spikey bracelet or dangly earrings.
* Simple, scraped-back ponytail styles and natural-looking makeup in smokey pink, pearl and tan are the ideal way to finish off any look this spring.