Tokyo Fashion Week has literally been keeping me up from dawn to the next dawn. Last night wailing into the wee hours of the morning on a microphone in a karaoke bar may have scuppered any possibility of a regular pattern in blogging this week so apologies to readers (and to the people in the bar that had to hear me sing). If you’ve been taking a peek at my Instagram, real time action pics and vids are proof that Tokyo has once again been full to the brim with inspiration – at the shows, on the streets, in the showrooms, in the shops and in other places too that don’t begin with an “S”. Going to prolong the Tokyo moments and stagger out posts but first up, a show that got a normally conservative and reserved Japanese audience, gasping and cheering.
Yes, there was a real “Whoop!” in the room. Kunihiko Morinaga of Anrealage is hardly a new-NEW label having existed for just over a decade and whilst feted in his own native Japan, his work isn’t a known quantity internationally yet. It deserves to be. Morinaga intrigues and incites curiosity about his proportions and concept in a similar vein to the Japanese greats like Rei Kawakubo who have come before him. Throw in a measure of the surreal and highly accomplished technical prowess and you have yourself someone who is more than ready to take on the mantle of crashing the new wave of Japanese designers that are hitting Paris such as Chitose Abe of Sacai.
“Size” was Anrealage’s preoccupation this season. There’s a theme he’s dabbled with before in his WideShortSlimLong A/W 10 collection. This time though it was about enlarging and magnifying the humble stripe and check. At least that’s what we thought we were in for in the opening passage of the show which consisted of well-executed stripe n’ check comboes, contrasting shrunken and oversized. That would have been perfectly adequate all by itself. We noted the Porter bag collaboration. We oohed at key pieces like the white biker jacket or a sheer sailor’s blouse with a deliberately fat school uniform tie.
Then the room darkened and out came three models in shapeless black robes. They stood in the centre of the catwalk and slowly they rose up into the air on a platform. Something else moved too. Their dresses began to shrink subtly. The hemline would rise up the leg and in strategic places on the dress, and it was pulled taut through mechanised wires, controlled one suspects, by the model. “Sugoi!” exclaimed Rei Shito of Style from Tokyo who was sitting next to me. It’s easy to overuse this common Japanese word, meaning “Amazing!” or ‘Awesome” but this really was sugoi, in the truest sense of the word.
Hussein Chalayan S/S 07 collection, made in collaboration with Phillips in groundbreaking fashion, immediately sprang to mind. Morinaga would have been aware of that. It’s interesting that people on social media called Anrealage a rip-off and yet, should we not consider the idea of mechanised fashion spreading beyond the confines of one singular designer, if we are to think of it as a concept that has accessible and wearable legs. Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga and Phoebe Philo at Celine’s design language is apparently acceptable to rip-off (the number of instances every season seems to grow somehow…) but for some reason we can’t tolerate the idea that garments in movement can’t be created by anyone by Chalayan. That just seems to defeat the object of the proposition in the first place.
Chalayan may well have been the first to break that ground but seems to me that it’s high time that someone else came along to propose morphing fashion as a real and tangible garment. The Anrealage show continued in this vein with more gasp-inducing dresses – sometimes striped, sometimes plain – The would make their way down in free-flowing long-ish fashion and then as the models stood still, one by one, they would change before our very eyes, putting new meaning into the up-and-down hemline trends of yesteryear. Watch the videos and be a little transfixed by the slow and subtle changes. The mechanics didn’t feel robotic, angsty and tech-ridden. The garments elegantly glided from one state to another.
The ruching and gathers looked to appear out of nowhere as though magic animation dust had been sprinkled on to the dresses. That it looked so effortless was down to Morinaga’s mode of construction. I’m not here next week for Anrealage’s “exhibition” (an open press day to resee the collection) and so I can’t probe Morinaga about his tech-whizz methods. It’s not necessary to know how exactly these garments came to be but rather, remember that they have another function – to be worn. Fashion in motion just got another step up towards, who knows what.