Here is Sportswear International’s complete rundown of the key f/w 2008-09 collections shown at Japan Fashion Week (

Sunday, March 16:


In this special and highly theatrical presentation, United Arrows unveiled its new collection of men’s kimonos created by the Kondaya Genbee company, one of Japan’s oldest and most respected kimono makers. Beautifully crafted, some of these traditional robes (which are having a resurgence as young Japanese re-embrace aspects of traditional culture) were also modernized, updated and rocked out with silver screenprinting. The show was the perfect grand finale to a most interesting week.


The US designer paid a visit to Tokyo and presented a special rerun of the collection she showed in New York in February. The after-show reception she received was the real story though: Her adoring picture-taking and autograph-seeking fans swarmed around her with glee. With her ever-growing business and popularity in Japan, it’s clear that Stuart truly is a “design rock star” there.

Saturday, March 15:


Although it wasn’t a part of JFW, this commercial four-hour event showcased the latest trendy girls’ looks in a huge arena filled with thousands of young women who could order the items on the spot via their cellphones. Part celebrity-filled fashion show, part teeny-bopper pop concert, it was a striking example of just how seriously Japanese girls take their style.

Friday, March 14:


Probably the most Western-looking collections of the week, Izreel by designer Kazuhiro Takakura, served up menswear and a few women’s looks inspired by the now overplayed theme of British punk. Although the tartan shirts, jackets and bondage pants were certainly on trend pattern-wise and the clothes generally seemed commercially viable, items such as graphic tees emblazoned with the word “PUNK” and fuzzy long leopard-print sweaters came across as stale, and not particularly timely, takes on early Vivienne Westwood.


The brand for Japan’s so-called Gothloli (Gothic Lolitas) and many of its rock stars, H. Naoto by Naoto Hirooka offered a terrific mix of original designs that were all completely geared toward Goth girls. While the show was admittedly a series of variations on the same theme/niche (Hirooka clearly knows his customers), interesting individual pieces abounded, including a long black leather coat with a hardware metal coat hook jutting from its back, wild platform shoes with a giant claw detail across their tops and paint-splattered jeans and trench coats.


What started as clever presentation idea quickly turned into the insufferable at the tediously overlong 40-minute Theatre Projects show. Held on the pretend set of a magazine photoshoot (complete with a Anna Wintour look-alike in a face-covering black mask – what was that about?), each model walked out in an unremarkable ‘80s-inspired outfit, was fussed over for several minutes (!) by a faux hair and makeup team, and then – finally – struck far too many poses for the “photographer” before she exited. A blaring soundtrack of Cyndi Lauper’s greatest hits declared that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” So do fashion-show audiences, but alas there was no fun to be had at this ultimately just annoying snoozer.


Although pre-show buzz heralded her as a rising star of Japanese fashion, designer Tamae Hirokawa didn’t live up to the hype with her fall/winter women’s designs for Somarta. Although there seemed to be some occasional nice pieces – including a pleated sheer white long dress – in the overdone mix, they were hard to see beneath all the clanging oversized crystals, leaf-shaped metal strips, armorlike fronts and other embellishments that detracted from, rather than enhanced, the clothes.

Thursday, March 13:


Held underneath the sloping walls of Tokyo’s rugby stadium, this charming late-night show featured adorable casual girls’ designs by Yuko Murata that blended French bohemian (think fur-trimmed vests and tablecloth plaid skirts) and sports influences (as in vinyl bombers, striped knee-high socks and cheerleader skirts) seamlessly. The models rode in on colorful bicycles and then walked to the catchy French soundtrack from The Triplets of Belleville, making for a show that was especially young and fun but never cutesy.


Gentaro Noda’s new menswear collection wasn’t really groundbreaking in any way but its overall simplicity, cleanliness and consistent palette of black, gray and white made for an impressive debut and one of the strongest shows of the week. Spanning everything from a crisply cut two-button gray wool suit and slightly faded jeans to a black puffy pullover coat, this sophisticated collection had a perfect mix of traditional men’s pieces with more unusual offerings, including a pair of gray wool trousers with a bib-front crotch (worn with a pale blue tuxedo shirt) and gray two-button tailored blazer with a subtle U-shaped row of buttons along its front.


Naomi Yamamoto’s collection of mostly contemporary womens- and menswear seemed to reference the Wild West at times, with Indianlike fringe adorning a long white sweater worn with rust vinyl pants and a lovely, roomy blanketlike assymetrical V-neck dress in a large, colorful plaid. Less successful were some of her knitted pieces including a blue and beige coordinating playsuit and sweater coat.

Wednesday, March 12:


Keeping with an “Asian goth” tone that seemed to be the theme of the day, Sagimoro’s models all had long hair that was flecked with pieces of straw and brushed over their faces. Add music that could have been the soundtrack to a horror film, and the effect looked like a parade of farm-accident victims, albeit style-conscious ones. The clothes, including a white laser-cut bodysuit with a train and matching gloves and a pair of gray balloon suspender pants worn with a tuxedo jacket, didn’t seem to jibe with the dark mood, and came off as rather costumey.


This outdoor catwalk show was held next to the gigantic Takashimaya department store in Shinjuku and featured a bevy of women’s and men’s looks by designer Hiroko Ito that were often burdened down with excessive and rather stereotypical “Japanese avant-garde” layering, quilting and deconstruction. That said, there were some amazing knitwear pieces shown, including an oversized gray turtleneck with colorful stripes at the neck and (fringed) hem and candy-colored striped knit pants and legwarmers.


Designer Fumio Akiyama, a former creative director of Issey Miyake, was on hand at the stunning National Art Center of Tokyo, where he showed 20 well-designed and elegant, if somewhat matronly, dresses and coats in a subdued palette of most purple, gray and black. While some of the styles in his installation presentation may not have wowed at first glance, the designer’s willingness to talk about and show their details – including being made with exclusive fabrics and often with just one piece of material – helped illuminate their quality, precision and craftsmanship.


Titled “The Gargoyles,” the Everlasting Sprout fall womenswear collection by Keiichi Muramatsu and Noriko Seki has Gothic (in a Notre Dame Cathedral kind of way, as opposed to a vampirelike one) as its influence. The pair’s strong show featured a slew of beautifully intricate knitwear in a palette of gray, peach and pops of red. Among the collection’s numerous standouts were cable-knit asymmetric shorts, sweaters with texturally raised gargoyle faces and multicolored muted printed scarves and crochet-like tops that immediately brought to mind stained glass windows.

Tuesday, March 11:


Ato Matsumoto’s well-attended and exceptionally good show offered a winning collection that showcased women’s looks on the elevated catwalk and men’s on the surrounding lower one. While the former featured a more elaborate mix that ran the gamut from revealing sheer-panel dresses to a designer-meets-ski black and white large houndstooth shearling-trimmed coat, the latter was especially tighter with, for the most part, with a great “cool layered Japanese guy one the slopes” vibe, including a standout white knit poncho. (If Y-3 ever needs a creative successor, Matsumoto would fit the bill brilliantly.) The bright, multicolored patent leather hiking boots on the men and women – paired with striped-at-the-knee tights for girls – enhanced the designer’s mostly neutral palette.


Certainly not for shy boys, these tops and bottoms by designer Shinichiro Shimojo would go to waste if they were worn strictly as underwear, since these so-called undershirts and shorty boxers feature such details as metallic foil screenprints of crucifixes and a pistol that hangs off of an extended fabric hip panel, tuxedo-shirt frills, asymmetric gold zippers, internal LED piping that really does light up and fur-trimmed lace-up crotches and chests. While one left the show wondering who would wear these admittedly very original, albeit campy/crazy, creations (and when and where?), special kudos went to Shimojo for his pullover four-armed top that had a pair of both short and long sleeves. Worn short-sleeve style, the “extra” long sleeves wrapped around the model like a scarf or belt and scored serious aesthetic points for versatility.


Beware the black bunny! With the dry ice gushing forth like a geyser from the floor with each new entrance and the supersized, if not scary, black rabbit statue to one’s left watching it all, the Né-Net show was clearly meant to be rather bizarre. And it was, in a really good way. Rabbits showed up again and again in designer Kazuaki Takashima’s offerings for fall, including neckties that looked like slain rabbits thanks to their upside-down ears at the tie’s tip or sleeveless, zip-up-the-face hoodies with rabbit ears in the hood. Yet, amongst all the oddness, there were numerous wearable – and obviously very well-made pieces.


Held in the wood-paneled conference room at the Jui Press Hall, the rather long support surface show had an abundance of lovely women’s looks from the Ambivalence collection that, as the show notes said, were “elusive but gradually fit into and swing into the mind of the dresser.” Against the sound of a live, soothing guitar, designer Norio Surikabe sent out an always solid-colored, superclean collection that was so much about silhouette, folds and construction that the hook-and-circular grommet hardware on a peacoat seemed liked a well-placed “embellishment.”


Combining sporty and futuristic touches to staid businesslike silhouettes and fabrics such as gray pinstripes, Sakabe and partner Shueh Jen Fang showed an impressive womenswear collection that was clean, well-edited and filled with effective bright anime-inspired color pops. The end-of-show cropped outwear jackets, with wide sleeves, athletic side stripes and plaid linings were some of the best pieces in a collection that boasted many fantastic ones, from start to finish.

Monday, March 10:


Who knew that a paper shredder could be such an inspirational design tool? For their Trash, Slash and Flash collection, the design duo behind mintdesigns, Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi, sent out their female and male models in spiky wiglike hats and accessories created with long shards of paper. This original styling touch only added to the originality and fun of the clothes, which seamlessly merged whimsy with wearability. Voluminous gray, yellow and white horizontal striped knit jackets and tops were paired with blue chambray shirts and dark denim-linen bottoms while zig-zag tops and restrained screenprinted florals on large salmon and tan checks added to the fun. Among the many standouts in this colorful line were the apron-front skirts and cutout lace details that showed the silhouette of a little girl.


Ono, who launched his eponymous collection in 2006 after studying and working in Antwerp and London, offered a women’s collection that combined Victorian influences (think lace high collars and a black riding jacket) with bondage/erotic influences (side lace-ups on pants and thigh-high black lace boots). Heavy on frills and lace, and ripe with contrasts – a white satin dress looked flapper-like in front but had a plunging, nearly nonexistent back, for instance – the collection was an odd and not entirely happy marriage of divergent ideas.

Photo: A look from Mikio Sakabe, copyright Fashion Strategy Forum. Courtesy of Japan Fashion Week.