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Thursday, April 14, 2011

STYLE WISE

Bouncing back and reaching higher


By MISHA JANETTE and PAUL MCINNES

A blast of fashion literature

It's been a tough couple of years for Yohji Yamamoto. Arguably Japan's most prominent fashion designer, Yamamoto, who broke into the European fashion arena in the early 1980s, filed for bankruptcy in 2009 after years of aggressive expansion in the United States and Europe.

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Yohji Yamamoto's new biography "My Dear Bomb" brings together poems, essays, sketches, photos and even short fiction. WILL ROBB PHOTO

After shuttering several stores and a few months of recovering from battered pride, the great man found a new investor — private equity firm Integral Corp. — and he is back on track once more.

His thoughts on all this, and much more information about his amazing life, can be found in "My Dear Bomb," a new biography published by Iwanami Shoten in Japan and by Ludion in Europe and the U.S. Written by Yamamoto and frequent collaborator Ai Mitsuda, it promises to reveal much more than his 2002 book "Talking to Myself."

A creative mixture of poems, sketches, photos, short fiction, memories and philosophical essays, the book is being touted as a must-read for anyone with a passing interest in fashion and any aspiring designer who is looking for insight into the life of a top innovator.

Although fascinating and visually arresting, Yamamoto's musings, in parts, veer into pretentiousness and ambiguity, which is sadly something that is all too common in fashion biographies. (Paul McInnes)

"My Dear Bomb" by Yohji Yamamoto and Ai Mitsuda is available from ,940.

Harajuku stands strong

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After the March 11 earthquake jolted and jounced Sebastian Masuda's home in Harajuku, he knew the area was in for some long-haul damage control. He immediately began patrolling the area, posting photos and notes on his blog about the shops that were still open. "Everyone thought that Harajuku was completely shut down, but it wasn't, he said. "I wanted to make sure that everyone knew that we were OK."

If anyone has the authority to speak for Harajuku then it's Masuda. A 16-year resident, Masuda is the founder and creative director of 6%DOKIDOKI brand, a long proponent of Harajuku's kawaii (cute) fashion movement. In the days following the earthquake, he started the Mighty Harajuku project, which began merely as a means of encouragement for the area's fans. Mighty Harajuku pin badges were passed out for free at many stores, and the movement is now being supported by young people all over the city.

Meanwhile, fans from around the world are already posting photos of themselves holding up Mighty Harajuku signs and marching through the streets. And in the coming weeks, Masuda is taking the movement to conventions in Seattle, Vancouver and Los Angeles to solicit donations for charity and raise more support. The next plan is to entice visitors back to the area with a Harajuku-wide festival.

"This earthquake is the biggest hardship that Harajuku has had to face, and it will never be the same again. But I have absolute faith in its vitality and spirit. Before now, a festival would have been impossible, but perhaps now the 'Powers That Be' will give us their blessing." (Misha Janette)

For information see tokyofashion.com/mighty-harajuku-project.

Is there such a thing as unwearable clothing?

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To some, fashion can sometimes seem utterly outrageous to the point of being "unwearable." But that's not really true, as even the most outrageous clothing is still designed to be worn in some capacity — that is, until it isn't. This is what designer and artist Chisato Ishikawa has created — a line of clothing that is absurdly nonfunctional, even though at first glance, the pieces appear stylish and simplistic.

Take the jeans, for example; the legs are fused together to create a "U" shape. A shirt has two fronts and no back, and two skirts are twisted and attached inside-to-outside in an infinite, impenetrable loop. These and 12 other pieces were on display at Ishikawa's first solo exhibition, "Strange/clothing," held last week at the Fukagawa Bansho Gallery in Tokyo.

The Kansai-based artist trained at the Kobe Design School before she started her Escher-style wardrobe.

"I was still in school and working part time as someone who sorted through defected clothing at an apparel brand, when I came across a jacket that looked perfectly fine. But when I tried to put it on, my arm wouldn't go through the cuff hole. The lining had been sewn wrong," said Ishikawa. "I actually felt that the jacket had betrayed me somehow. This is where the idea came from."

Ishikawa is extremely low-key and doesn't even have a website, but she's been working on her collection since 2007 and has long-term plans to create many more pieces. So keep a skewed eye on this space. (M.J.)

Enter the creative Spiral

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From May 2-5, Aoyama's Spiral Hall will be filled with exhibition booths of more than 100 artists, designers, and creators for its annual Spiral Independent Creators Festival (SICF).

The festival aims to express the broad artistic freedom of "art and commerce" and includes works from a wide range of media and genres. Exhibitors are chosen from open-call applications, and previous winners of the exhibition's grand prize have often become successful artists. On show are paintings, films, photographs, music, other creative presentations and, of course, clothing and accessories.

We have our eyes on several accessory designers. Miki Asai, who creates whimsical brooches with picture book-like designs and small knitted pins of "critters," including caterpillars and birds.

Kudo Shuji's rings and pendants take jewelry in a completely different direction. His wearable silver works of art are sleek sculptural forms that look like polished asteroids. The budding designer also has a signature series of charms and rings that, like a sundial, cast shadows of figures who embrace and separate as the day goes by. (M.J.)

The exhibition is split into two groups of 50 creators, with each group showing for two days; a one-day pass is 0 and a four-day pass ,200. 5-6-23 Minami-aoyama, Minato-ku; (03) 3498-1171; www.sicf.jp.

Vogue Japan and Isetan Shinjuku pay tribute to those who stare into the window of fashion

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In its 8th year and 13th edition, "Vogue meets Isetan" is an ongoing collaboration between two fashion powerhouses — Vogue Nippon and the Isetan Shinjuku department store. The theme for its latest installment is "Fashion Interactive People," which celebrates bloggers and individuals with digital nous of the Tokyo fashion scene.

Twelve people have been chosen — including influential editor Tiffany Godoy, party organizers Tokyo Dandy and The Japan Times' own fashion darling Misha Janette — and each was given the daunting task of introducing themselves to the public by window-dressing an Isetan display space with selected Japanese brands. Participating labels include Somarta, John Lawrence Sullivan and Q-Pot. The window displays, which will not be illuminated at night (to conserve energy), will also feature the bloggers names, images of their work and profile information.

This project is also part of Vogue Japan's drive to bring attention to its new digital edition for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Unfortunately, other plans for the Isetan project, including an appearance by Vogue Japan's Editor At Large, Anna Dello Russo, have been shelved due to the consequences of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake.

The project is a novel way, however, to become more acquainted with Tokyo's key fashion players and gives deserved recognition for the chosen group as digital proponents of the Japanese fashion industry. (P.M.)

Vogue meets Isetan" can viewed at Isetan Shinjuku, 3-14-1 Shinjuku,
Shinjuku-ku, from April 6-19.


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