This isn't really my story to tell but seeing as it never fails to incite smiles, I'll take it upon myself to recap Phil Oh of Street Peeper's anecdote. I have to thank Phil for starting off what I think will be a regular habit of visiting Tokyo for its shopping joys and culinary delights and it is precisely because he has to visit Tokyo twice a year to get snaps for Street Peeper that this little encounter happened…
Phil took a picture of a dude (the blunt fact according to him is that Tokyo's men are erm… better dressed than the girls) and asked him where he got his jacket from and this happened…
Japanese dude: Peno-meno!
Phil: I'm sorry…what? Peno-what?
Japanese dude: PENOO….MENO…
Japanese dude: You know…rike the song…. "Some-sing rike a peno-meno…. some-sing rike a peno-meno!"
That's 'Something Like a Phenomenon' just in case reading my poor interpretation of Japanese-accented English is challenging. Apparenly Phil and the guy just stood there laughing for a while at hilarity of the situation. I can't help but recall this little exchange on the final day of Tokyo Fashion Week, when there was PLENTY of Phenomenon on display. One of the coolest stores we saw last time I was here in Tokyo, The Contemporary Fix and its owner Yuichi Yoshi, took it upon himself to curate the last day of Tokyo Fashion Week by lining up a ton of menswear heavyweight brands such as Facetasm, SASQUATCHfabrix, Discovered, Whiz Kids and Phenomenon in an event entitled Versus. A day packed full of shows and installations where public participation is encouraged (tickets to see the shows are sold to the public to raise money for the earthquake and tsunami recovery fun) made for a shit ton of snapping. Some womenswear edged in too (more about that later) but it was largely menswear heavy and whilst I generally leave it up to Steve to report on all interesting menswear proceedings, I can hardly ignore the final day of Tokyo Fashion Week as well as one of the overall week's strongest brands in the shape of Phenomenon.
The power of 'peno-meno' could be seen in the standing queue of kids snaking out of the hall and into the Midtown centre. You saw flashes of it everywhere on the guys and and in some instances, the girls too and in reality, the layers of Phenomenon clothing seemed to effortless weave in with each person's individual style even if we are talking about brave pieces such as a gorilla armed faux fur bolero or a calf-length sheer dress shirt.
Designer Takeshi Osumi has come a long way as a designer, from his rapper persona "Big-O" and his streetwear credentials of designing the brand Swagger. Phenomenon was conceived as a personal bridge from those streetwear beginnings into fashion and looking at the trajectory of the past few collections, Osumi seems to have carved out a defiant niche in menswear that is streetstyle-and-music-inspired, directional, daring, at-times unisex and pleasingly deets-heavy.
S/S 12 follows this trajectory and goes a step further into preppier and wearable territory which might sound like the Phenomenon edge has dulled but instead, the simpler layering and silhouettes only serves to highlight the craft of the clothes. Osumi looked to traditonal Japanese textiles and in particular the laborious process of creating oshima tsumugi silk (it involves 20 steps of dying as well as a glue made out of seaweed… ) as well as taking certain Japanese-isms like the mon crest of a yukata robe and applying it to a sports jacket. The Japanese origin of the pieces isn't immediately apparent and I suppose that was Osumi's intention to create a seamless balance between traditional craftsmanship and contemporary clothing.
In effect, this is probably Osumi's most accessible collection to date but it still had some of the Phenomenal statement pieces that the brand has come to be known for – sequinned sleeves and leggings, leather jumpsuits, candy-crusted beading that was derived from Japanese ceramics, lace-up socks and blazers in a juicy shade of turquoise, a jacket with degrade zipper sleeves – all will produce a headturning reaction.
Subtler pieces in the collection include lace-up sweaters, a colour blocked trenchcoat, shorts with a subtle layer of cotton netting underneath, a shirt with a faded Japanese illustration on it as well as the slightly nautical-inspired striped pieces.
For a men's show, it was properly heavy with bags – rucksacks, M-lutches, little leather pouches and a strange hybrid bag combining a canvas tote with a leather satchel.
I harp on about Phenomenon not only because it has had such a rapid growth in popularity and hype in such a short period of time but also because as a menswear brand, it is ripe for picking from the fair sex. A quick look at Phenomenon's ever-useful blog of products that drop week by week into stores and it's hard to believe that a menswear A/W 11-12 collection containing pink fleecy trousers, a lilac bomber jacket and a puffa jacket kilt is going to have an exclusively male audience. It looks like from S/S 12, there are already some clear contenders for getting my peno-meno on…