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Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012

Performance artists The Lady Space greet guests at the opening of the 6th floor of Shibuya Parco Part 1
The new Shibuya girls: Performance artists The Lady Space greet guests at the opening of the 6th floor of Shibuya Parco Part 1. SAMUEL THOMAS PHOTO

STYLE WISE

Parco puts the spotlight on Shibuya's evolving youth culture


By MISHA JANETTE and SAMUEL THOMAS

Department store Parco is aiming to fill the vacuum created by the rapidly declining gyaru (gal) culture that used to define the Shibuya area of Tokyo. By taking aspects of the otaku (geek) culture of Akihabara and re-imagining them through art and fashion in the context of a popular shopping district, it is presenting a genuinely fresh face of Tokyo youth fashion.

Members of Denpa Gumi.inc wear school uniforms illustrated by Ai Madonna
Members of Denpa Gumi.inc wear school uniforms illustrated by Ai Madonna. SAMUEL THOMAS PHOTO

Parco's new operations began on Sept. 27 with the opening of the recently renewed 6th floor of the Parco Part 1 building. Dubbed "Shibuya Pop-Culture Market," the entire floor is now devoted to a mix of Japanese pop-culture and fashion that is becoming the representative aesthetic of the moment.

At the reception, the girls greeting guests were not the familiar faces from youth fashion magazines, but members of the Akihabara "idol" group Denpa Gumi.inc, whose heavily stylized anime-character, printed school uniforms set the tone for this new fashion culture.

Lined up side-by-side are shops likely to prove a commercial success, such as one completely devoted to the hugely popular pirate comic "One Piece," which on opening night had long queues of people ready to buy its some 10,000 items of merchandise and clothing, and Cospa, with its rather literal combination of cosplay (costume-play) and fashion.

A handful of shops also illustrate a genuine cultural evolution. Chief among those is "Shibuya Girls Pop," a concept shop that claims to represent the current face of Japanese kawaii (cute) culture through accessories and clothing, all in the Shibuya-born soft and pastel-tinged aesthetic that seems at deliberate odds to the dominantly male otaku culture.

This new Shibuya otaku-kawaii style, which currently defies an easy label, is also one of the key subjects of the second Shibuya Culture Festival, which once again is being helmed by Parco.

Those intrigued by the aesthetic will be able to see it for themselves at a series of events between Oct. 19-29. There'll be fashion styling by Jenny Fax, whose shōjo (girls) manga-themed collection was the toast of the last Tokyo Fashion Week, and other highlights, including the work of Ai Madonna, the illustrator responsible for the aforementioned Denpa Gumi.inc. uniforms; and Ari, owner of the Shibuya shop "The Virgin Mary," who is arguably responsible for launching what's become known as the Cult Party-kei fashion style.

All this will be accompanied by a bevy of idol groups, street-fashion icons and other creators at the forefront of this new direction in youth culture.

With attention from abroad set to converge on Shibuya as the new location for the upcoming Tokyo Fashion Week, it remains to be seen whether this youth-culture-led fashion will capture the imagination in the same manner as gyaru did in the past. But whatever the world makes of it, this unique fusion of otaku culture and credible fashion will be hard for many in Japan to resist. (Samuel Thomas)

Shibuya Pop-Culture Market Parco: www.parco-shibuya.com/web/shibuya-pop Shibuya Culture Festival: www.shibukaru.com.

109 launches Net Plus on 10.9

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Tokyu Malls Development, the group that operates the iconic Shibuya shopping center "Shibuya 109," rolls out a new addition to their portfolio of Internet commerce sites on Oct. 9. 109 Net Plus joins the current Shibuya 109 and 109 Men's shopping portals, and is specifically aimed at supporting young Japanese designers who are not yet represented in retail locations.

The site launches with 23 new brands and shops selling a broad mix of fashion, cosmetics and lifestyle goods. It has been estimated that the site will contribute ¥5 billion to 109 online's annual sales of ¥15 billion. One of the attractions to new brands is that the service includes complete e-commerce support, meaning that interested parties have no need to deal with web-development and operating costs.

It is a surprising move from the retail group whose reluctance to push its key brands online for fear of devaluing its physical stores has already allowed them to fall behind online market leaders Zozotown and Rakuten.

This effort to expand its online presence with new brands is, tellingly, a compromise under the banner of the respected Shibuya 109 brand. It is a move that could be seen as a means of testing products and brands for market. If the product proves popular, it then "graduates" to the hallowed ground within the 109 building.

This is certainly a step in the right direction to develop Shibuya 109's lacking online presence, and one that should yield support for Japan's young designers in due course (S.T.)

Shinjuku is ready to fight for its fashion credentials

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Not wishing to be forgotten as its neighboring areas Harajuku and Shibuya rise to international acclaim, the Shinjuku City Tourism Association recently held a free outdoors "Shinjuku Style Collection" fashion show, on Oct. 6.

Showcasing the area's fashion credentials, four of the ward's resident clothing retail giants — Isetan, Lumine, OIOI and the newly opened Uniqlo-Bic Camera collaboration Bicqlo — headlined the show, proving that what Shinjuku may lack in bombastic fashion glamour, it more than makes up for with style aimed at the well-dressed mainstream.

Each of the participating department stores also held fashion shows within their own shops. Of particular note was Bicqlo, for which the creative director of Thierry Mugler, Nicola Formichetti, who is also known for his work with Lady Gaga, styled the Bicqlo looks with his usual flair.

The show was part of a concerted effort to rebrand the Shinjuku area with a fashion identity of its own, and it follows a number of successful programs at Isetan Shinjuku, which recently announced that the next event will be a limited-edition range of designer kimonos that will be available later this year. Brands such as Undercover, G.V.G.V and Mastermind Japan have already been tipped to be high-profile collaborators.

Even as Tokyo Fashion Week puts Shibuya in the limelight, it is worth remembering that some designers will be holding their shows in Shinjuku, most significantly ETW Vonnegut (on Oct. 17), proving the area is well worth keeping your eye on. (S.T.)

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week may be invite-only, but there's plenty of other events to enjoy

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Somarta finale Autumn 2012-13 at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. YUME TAKAKURA

New York, London, Milan and Paris have all had their turns at presenting the newest collections for the 2013 spring-summer season, and now it's ?nally Tokyo's swing with Tokyo Fashion Week coming up Oct. 13-20.

While most of the 41 fashion shows held at Shibuya's Hikarie Building are invite-only, there are a number of related events happening throughout the city that anyone who wants to get into the right mode for fashion can attend.

Start off with Marunouchi Runway on Oct. 13, where a parade of traditional dance and costume will also feature in a highly modern catwalk show of dressy contemporary out?ts. Also focusing on tradition will be the Nihonbashi Runway at Mitsui Hall on Oct. 15-16, which will feature a ?oor show of exquisite modern kimono styles. The event actually runs until the 23rd and includes classes on how to wear kimono, contests and lectures.

For an up-to-this-century event, try the talk show by U.S. designers Cynthia Rowley and Lauren Bush on Oct. 16 at Hikarie, where standing tickets will be open to all. Rowley will be in Japan to celebrate her brand's 10th year here by attending various shows and events during fashion week and speaking about the state of the fashion industry.

Finally, rounding up the week will be the Shibuya Fashion Festival on Oct. 20 — the local, street-wise answer to Vogue's Fashion's Night Out. The day-long event is being held mainly in Shibuya, with 250 shops joining in to provide entertainment, refreshments, novelty goods and several fashion shows in the streets of Shibuya and Harajuku. Be sure to stop by the Hachiko Dog square to see the famous statue dressed up in designer clothing. Even he gets in the mood for fashion. (Misha Janette)

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week: www.jfw.jp Shibuya Fashion Festival: www.shibuyafashionfestival.com


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