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Thursday, June 10, 2010

STYLE WISE

Fashion that's global, customized, arty and everything


By MISHA JANETTE and PAUL McINNES

Rebecca Taylor's new look

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"Is that a tiara or a scrunchie? It's so sparkly!" designer Rebecca Taylor asks an industry fan at a private party that was held to usher in a new direction for her namesake brand in Tokyo in late May. Taylor then adds, "I always quote Roald Dahl, who said, 'Always look for the sparkle in life.' " That motto has been embodied in the crystal-studded tights and glitter-sprinkled chiffon dresses of Taylor's collection, but the girlishness in her recent looks is more subdued than ever.

"I've got older, and my taste levels have changed. It's time for that to be reflected in my designs now," she says.

Her collection is a cocktail of the sweet and rough, like a Shirley Temple chased with Vodka (think summer dresses paired with military jackets).

Taylor is arguably the most famous and successful New Zealand designer, though she is based in New York, having established her brand there in 1996.

She has been making business trips to Japan for the past 10 years and says that the growth of the Internet has meant there is now less need for fashion design to be so region-specific. It is a sign that globalization is affecting all corners of retail.

"It's so much more global now, and the customer is so savvy. What works in New York will work in Japan now, too," she says. "There are very, very few Japan-specific items we produce."

Such as? "Scrunchies! Can you believe it? They're mad about them here!"

5-5-6 Minami-aoyama, Minato-ku; (03) 5468-8902; www.rebeccataylor.com

White day

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Yann Le Goec, buyer and director for the eclectic clothing shop Wut Berlin on Omotesando, thinks it's time to get individualistic. Or, more specifically, to do away with his arch-nemesis, fast fashion. "It seems that everyone is wearing the same thing because of it. The same shirts, the same dresses. That sameness is just awful," he complains. To encourage more individuality, Le Goec is bringing the traveling exhibition Project "White T-Shirt" to Tokyo.

The project, which began in Los Angeles last December and is now making its way around the world, invited 31 innovative designers, such as Bruno Pieters and c. neeon, to take an ordinary white T-shirt and make it their own. "A T-shirt isn't the most glamorous thing out there, but it's a fundamental piece of fashion and it's so easy to look at it in a new light," says Le Goec. The avant-garde results will be displayed in the Wut shop until June 25 and each piece is being auctioned off online with proceeds going to the Designers Against AIDS foundation. And because it's not a cause without a crowd, a party open to everyone will be held on June 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Wut Berlin, and then move on to the Trump Room in Shibuya, with tastemaker guests Mademoiselle Yulia and Napkin Holder leading the procession. The dress code is, of course, a white T-shirt that you've reworked yourself, so it's a chance to literally wear your individualism on your sleeve. (M.J.)

Wut Berlin, 5-1-15 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; (03) 3797-1505; www.projectwhitetshirt.com and www.wutberlin.com

Creating a new custom

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Web sites are putting the power of fashion design into the hands of the people by giving them the opportunity to customize items and make unique creations.

Former Prime Minister Yukiyo Hatoyama caused a brouhaha in May with his wacky color-blocked shirt (let's hope it wasn't the cause of his downfall!), an item that is sold by shirtsmyway.com . The Web site specializes in men's dress shirts, which buyers can custom design from the ground-up with numerous options of fabric, button-hole shapes, collars, sleeve lengths and monograms. Price is determined by the main fabrics chosen, but even a shirt I designed using several fabrics and design options came to only $75. Shirts are hand-sewn and shipping is free worldwide.

And for the women, customizable heels have come to Japan. Australian startup Shoes of Prey has recently launched its Japanese site shoesofprey.jp . There are options for pumps, booties, gladiator power-sandals and ballet flats. You can choose the type and height of heel, the toe shape and add decoration such as bows and trimmings. There are 97 options for fabric, including a range of colors in leather, Italian silk and fish skin. Prices generally fall between ¥20,000 and ¥30,000, no more than shoes of similar quality you would find on store shelves. The only thing that could make this even better would be an option for choosing a red sole, then you could make them look like customized Louboutins. (M.J.)

www.shirtsmyway.com and www.shoesofprey.jp

Nike kicks off the soccer theme

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When it comes to finding innovative ways to use the soccer theme in the runup to the World Cup this year, Nike sure seems to be on a kick (pun not intended). It started with the NSW concept shop in Harajuku, which is decorated like a soccer pitch; then came the flagship store's statue of soccer player Marcus Tulio Tanaka, created by a drill-wielding mechanical arm, which can now be seen via live Webcam etching messages of support received from Twitter onto the statue's surface.

On May 22, Nike officially opened another new concept space, the Nike Stadium in Naka-Meguro. Technically a gallery, the new space features a handful of innovative Japanese artists who have been given the job of interpreting a theme by melding technology with art. Soccer is, of course, on the menu, and the first exhibit sees a display honoring player Tadanori Lee and his "speed" with an interactive motion wall that creates whiplash-inducing graphics triggered by the movement of those who stand in front of it. Also on display are futuristic shoes that look as if they have been blown apart then frozen in time, floating in space. From June 18, the Tulio statue will get a Picasso-like postmodern makeover by artists including Rip Zinger, MIKITO and fantasista utamaro. (M.J.)

1-13-14 Kami-Meguro, Meguro-ku; (03) 6415-5715; the next exhibition is from June 18-July 4; open Fri.-Sun. only.

You're bound to find something at I Find Everything

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When Manatsu Murakami, founder of interdisciplinary Web gallery space ARTAM, and milliner Gris, put their heads together, the two friends came up with I Find Everything — a compact and cool destination for arty types looking for, well, a bit of everything.

Tucked away on a street not far from Ebisu Station in the heart of Tokyo, the eclectic boutique packs in both the gris and gris homme lines, pieces from British ceramic artist Polly George, eccentric jewelry from Greek designer Aliki Stroumpouli and carefully selected antiques from France and Britain as well as various art books and records.

The space, created by interior designer and architect MakotoYamaguchi, inhabits a quaint 40-year-old wooden building and is in the company of other antique, art and jewelry boutiques tmh. SLEEP and Librairie 6.

Curated by Murakami, the store reflects her personal preferences in art and design while maintaining a curious mixture of contemporary cool and Victoriana. There is a blank wall left in preparation for upcoming exhibitions and if you need a rest after the climb up the hill from the station, you are welcome to take a seat and flick through the art books and magazines. (Paul McInnes)

1-14-12 303 Ebisuminami, Shibuya-ku; (03) 6452-2211; www.ifindeverythingtokyo.com



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