>> It wasn't supposed to go viral but Topshop could hardly have expected to contain THIS stunner of a collaboration with Mary Katrantzou at their press day and sure enough it was all over Twitter today.  Everyone's seen the one pic floating about so I thought I'd add my own slightly clearer images here just to congratulate Topshop and Mary Katrantzou for going the whole nine yards and putting out a collaboration that is about as close to her mainline as one could possibly get.  In short, this is really the peak of high-low collaborations when both parties can push it as far as they possibly can.  This dress will cost ¬£350 and considering Katrantzou's demi-couture five figure prices for her more embellished pieces, I consider that sum paltry indeed.  For those that need a bit more umming and aaahing time, the collection, which will consist of fourteen pieces, won't be dropping until February next year so the saving can hopefully start now…

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In addition to checking out the new new gen of Tokyo fashion, it was impossible to forget the new gen – as in the generation post Comme/Yohji/Issey, designers who have more than likely come out of the design studios of the aforementioned big three with a belt of experience to go it alone.  Chitose Abe is a stellar example, having worked for eight years with Junya Watanabe at Comme des Garcons and then launching her label Sacai in 1999.  Sacai's first flagship store in Aoyama, Tokyo has been a longtime work in progress, with Abe searching for the perfect space to house her quiet but impactful collections.  Sacai's clothes uphold the sort of values, which I sometimes wish my entire wardrobe was based upon – useful, decorative without being frivolous and detail-and-texture heavy.  I put emphasis on the useful part.  These are clothes that have aren't meant to confuzzle you.  You're supposed to go to them and pull on with ease and the effect is still nonetheless interesting what with Abe's fine use of knitwear, seamless layering, decorative and functional details that juxtapose the sporty and the ornate.  

Aoyama may be stuffed with all the heavyweight labels but the vibe tends to be quite serene.  Sacai's store is suitably tucked away and once you escape inside this wonderful space designed by acclaimed architect Sou Fujimoto, you're rewarded with rooms of concrete, glass and glimpses of green, contrasting the natural and the artificial.  If it sounds cold, it isn't.  The clothes do much to warm the place up along with the garden outside (seeing green seems to be very important to many Japanese designers when it comes to their stores…) and the odd garden knome here and there as well as the random placements of ducks add a weird sense of humour to the store.  

Sacai isn't impossible to find in Europe now with Dover Street Market and colette as prime stockists but the store does house the full mainline collections in addition to the Sacai Luck line (comprising the underwear and casual pieces) as well as Sacai menswear line at prices that are still favourable even though the inflated Yen to GBP rate totally killed me this time round.  

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I spent an age drooling over structured cable knit sweater dresses, beaded hand warmers, frilly lingerie and drawstring tweed skirts before settling on a fairly basic Sacai Luck grey hoodie.  Well, basic for me because even this seemingly simple hoodie has a typically Sacai touch with its flared out shape and drawstring detailing.  When worn with a pair of fur fur crochet-decorated knitted trackie bottoms also procured in Tokyo, I have a new slubbing around outfit that fully re-affirms my love for grey jersey in 2011… 

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(Sacai Luck hoodie, fur fur tracksuit bottoms, Slobe Iena knitted hat – all bought from Tokyo, Miu Miu shoes)

In between writing SERIOUS words about shows and finding out about the ins and outs of the Tokyo Fashion industry by nodding earnestly at important fashion movers and shakers, I enjoyed the respite of going to a place like Q-Pot.  It's hard to liken this jewellery label to anything but I suppose Tatty Devine would be a fairly close match, except designer Tadaaki Wakamatsu places a much larger emphasis on food and Disney, with whom Q-Pot regularly collaborate.  The list of Q-Pot product lines is numerous but all you really need to know is when stepping into their Harajuku store is that you'll be inundated with doses of irresistable cuteness compacted into charms, rings, necklaces and earrings alongside the Casper soundtrack (anything James Horner does is instantly emotive no?).  Most of Q-Pot's jewellery is fun, non-precious and slightly addictive once you get hooked onto your first piece.  One cupcake ring surely needs to be followed up with a macaroon charm, a croissant necklace, some penne pasta earrings and so on…

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Q-Pot's flagship store doesn't normally allow pics but I happened to be with the lovely Mai of Mai Sassy Girl, who happened to get married in special custom-made Q-Pot wedding rings and tiara (they offer a wedding service for those that want something a little less conventional than the usual high rollin' labels…) and so I was lucky enough to get snap happy.  Lovely Alice here decked out in chocoloate-bar Q-Pot glasses and choco dress was on hand to help guide us through it all…

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… not that Q-Pot's jewellery needs much in-depth explanation.  If it's edible and happens to be pretty to look at, basically designer Wakamatsu will turn it into jewellery form.  In many ways some of the jewellery can be traced to the "art" of plastic display food, which the Japanese have perfected. 

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My favourite piece in the current collection has to be the hamburger bun charm set necklace where you can customise what goes in your burger by buying components such as the lettuce, tomato, cheese and onion and little feet if you wish.  Opening Ceremony seem to be the sole international stockist of this range…

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I got my Q-Pot addiction started with this cupcake ring…

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…and a stackable burger ring set, which I wouldn't even consider wearing without all the complete components…

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There were many high notes at Tokyo Fashion Week but the superhigh note didn't come until the double whammy show of Anrealage and Mintdesigns.  You'd think in a joint show, there might be one designer that shows up the other but both were equally strong warranting one post here for Anrealage and another for Mintdesigns on another day. Designer Kunihiko Morinaga is the man behind Anrealage (a combination of the words 'real, unreal and age').  He started out in 2005 and has since been putting out collections that combine the best of a surreal aesthetic appeal along with wearability.  A scroll through his archive and you'll find concepts that can be likened to old Viktor & Rolf shows or of course, the mothership of most Tokyo fashion week designers, Rei Kawakubo.  It's not surprising to see why Kawakubo is so influential on newer generation of Japanese fashion designers but it is interesting to note, that nobody ever really apes her directly but rather she's a background note, a force to respect but not to reinterpret.

With this particular S/S 12 collection entitled 'Shell', Morinaga attempts to push silhouette out by using plastic moulds heat fused with fabric which is most strikingly seen in the upper half bodies that are pushed out of their white dresses.  The effect should be ridiculous given that a woman is walking around with what is essentially the top half of a dress form jutting out from their chests.  Yet the skillful application of these plastic moulds together with the stiffening of pleats in this opening passage of dresses are utterly convincing, so much so that in my mind, there are no doubts as to the wearability of these pieces.  It could be the use of pure white or the fact that the shape of the basic dresses themselves are quite simple.  Nonetheless, Morinaga's interpretation of classical statues with the help of crude plastic packaging moulding yields fantastic results, especially when he then applies the technique to smaller details.  A pair of sunglasses in a pocket, a pearl necklace, a rucksack cargo pockets squarely bulging out, a collar, belt and button holes that are raised on a checked trench coat make for more accessible pieces in the collection if statuesque silhouettes aren't your thing.  Looking at past collections and seeing the pieces in real life, it's really quite a feat that Morinaga can create such an impactful visual statement on the catwalk whilst being able to sell those exacting pieces from the runway in stores, unlike the watered-down 'sales' collections that you see from other high-end designers.  He magically convinced me that carrying around a plastic mould that would make me look quasi-pregnant id somehow desirable?  How?!

It's clear that there was much obsessive technique trialling before this collection could happen.  Apparently the plastics company that Anrealage worked with were dead excited about working on clothing.  Japanese designers and their ability to create textiles from scratch is already a known fact but Morinaga's decidedly daring approach towards materials has certainly paid off and I hear there are whispers that that Anrealage could be the next Japanese name to make the crossover to Paris.  I'd welcome that addition for sure…

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Anrealage's store in Harajuku at the moment is similarly surreal reflection of their A/W 11-12 collection 'Low', a study of the low res pixel which sees prints and cut-outs on knits, jackets, scarves and as rubix-cube type heels, yet further proof that Morinaga's idea of fashion conceptuatlisation neednt be loftily unwerable. 

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Misha Janette of Tokyo Fashion Diaries, who was my veritable guide to all things Tokyo-fashion-industry related, showcases Anrealage's A/W 11-12 collection to the max with this 8-bit head to toe ensemble. 

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