Maybe we should rename Paris as Tokyo on the Seine; or greater Shanghai, or even suburban Taipei? In a fully digital menswear season featuring 68 brands, videos by Asian designers stood out for their energy, ideas and no-holds-barred fashion audacity. Barely halfway through the six-day Paris menswear fashion week featuring Fall-Winter 2021 collections, a gang of a dozen Asian creators grabbed attention for their upfront style, novel ideas and excellent castings.
Few schools of designers appear to have profited from the lockdown to rethink their DNA as smartly as these creators. Take Kidill, a Japanese label whose video recalled the Transavangardia of ’80s Italy, even as it referenced UK goth punk and street graffiti. It could easily have been a mess, but Kidill’s designer Hiroaki Sueyasu is also a gifted tailor so his absurdist, angry black-and-white face prints ended up looking bold and brilliant. In a co-ed clip entitled Desire, Sueyasu also showed white denim jackets punked up with mini black-and-white photo appliqués; floral graffiti kimonos and poetic velvet suits for young literary lions – Jean-Paul Sartre in Shinjuku.
The soundtrack mingled slashing guitars and wailing in Japanese, sounding like a witch out of a Kurosawa epic. His cast marched screaming around a battered studio like characters from a Samuel Beckett tragi-comedy. Or consider Sankuanz, China’s hippest designer, who managed to stage a stealth video underneath and inside the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the night. Talk about Chinese chutzpah. And respect for Kolor by Junichi Abe, the Comme des Garçon alumnus who always commands lots of attention. His one-hour video took 45 minutes before it actually began. It turned out to be an actual co-ed show set in a dreamy wood, where the cast appeared in Abe’s latest version of amalgamated fashion, a composite collection where garments intermingled.
Like a brilliant double sweater – part cable, part cricket – where one neck hole became a shoulder; or a very chill Japanese figure in a series of bravura tweed parkas finished on one shoulder with half a hunting vest. For the gals, a fab coppery Aran tank, one side of which was absent, seen over a classy wool caban; to a majestic triple-lapel ensemble of three jackets – hacking jacket, Scottish tweed and football-star caban on an Asian beauty with an afro – part of an excellent Kolor cast. In a word, the most mature and commercial collection of an already acclaimed and truly influential designer. Mihara YasuhiroShinjuku chic from Mihara, who showed a great clip – wannabe yakuzas downing whiskey in a karaoke bar. Where the videos are of hipster youth – guys and girls – in composite clobber from the Japanese designer with the most range. Posh punk; bourgeois grunge and upper-middle-class skateboarders all got a look in. All of them the epitome of cool, as the bar exploded into an after-party. Exactly what makes Tokyo the world’s most foreign major capital.
Juun named his collection Persona, and its Grand Guignol chic in a Tokyo high school had voluminous authority. From the ballooning flight jackets for guys to the Catherine de’ Medici nylon widows dresses for the gals. Fashion packed with personality for those with the guts and gusto to wear it.
Revamped workwear from this young designer, who founded his brand in Tokyo in 2014, and shot his show video inside a woodworking shop and furniture factory. All very much hybrid style – anthracite surgeons’ smocks with patch pockets; elongated judo jackets; tie-dyed parkas with fly fishermen detailing; and a marvelously oversized duffle coat. Eat your heart out General Montgomery. Due to the lockdown, designers have legitimately been complaining about the lack of models in Paris. Turns out many of the best have been hanging out in Japan. Yoshio hired a gang of them.
The less said about this collection of oversized David Byrne of Talking Heads suits; tatty-glam golden cocktail dresses and bulbous red carpet looks by Angus Chiang the better. Still, the staging was gutsy – a mock movie premiere, with a toothy TV host gushingly introducing mock Chinese stars. Okay, not every Asian talent got it right.
One can also include a very honorable mention for Sulvam, with its fishtail smocks; cut-out sweaters; retro soul-singer leather clubbing jackets and chainmail-print pajamas – for guys and girls. In yet another cool display by designer Teppei Fujita, a former pattern maker for Yohji Yamamoto who opened his own label, Sulvam, in 2013. A Tokyo Fashion Award winner whose precise sense of deconstruction is always eye-catching.
Plaudits for the train journey video to a rocky seashore from Taakk, the subtlest of the new generation Japanese fashion designers. Soft yet quirky materials; marvelous green moiré velvet jackets; perfectly styled modernist M-65 jackets and orchid-blotch print sweatshirts. Plus the grandfathers of Asian fashion – Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto – were both in fine fettle.
Miyake’s newest Homme Plissé collection was called Never Change, Ever Change. And the familiar yet novel corduroy plissé vest and jackets; perfectly cut band-collar shirts; nipped-at-the-ankle pants and classy chesterfield coats all looked uber flattering. As did a ribbed purple duster that was to die for. Added to that the samurai on the kimonos in zig-zag prints and crushed microfiber futurist spy coats, and this was a brilliant statement of natty nesting style by the designer who dreamed up the notion decades before any pandemic.
Finally, the Neil Young de la Mode himself, Yamamoto-sama, who sang his own bluesy soundtrack – in Japanese. The 77-year-old master holding an actual behind-closed-doors show in Japan. Gun motifs of satin coats; padded polyurethane foam cloaks; saddle-stitch rayon safari jackets with metal trim. Lots of script over half the collection: from ‘Are You Bohemian,’ or ‘Born to be a Terrorist’ or ‘I am Proletariat.’While capturing the world’s dark moment – metal mesh masks and gloves; S ‘n’ M straight-jackets; mock dog muzzles. They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn.