This week has been a bit spare with the posts because from my trip to LA, I’ve segued straight into Port Eliot Festival, which kicked off yesterday, after a one year hiatus (to give the beautiful grounds a rest apparently).  One full, hot and sweaty day done and instead of waiting until the end of the weekend to round-up the whole shebang, a pressing thought struck me at the conversation between Suzy Menkes and Sarah Mower today.

Menkes was there to talk about her treasured item of clothing as part of a series that Mower is conducting here called “If Clothes Could Speak” for Port Eliot’s Wardrobe Department programme.  Her piece of choice was an ultramarine blue Zandra Rhodes 70s dress, tasselled and printed with seashells like an ode to The Little Mermaid, modelled here by Menkes’ own granddaughter.  We were treated to a Zandra Rhodes greatest hits show with prime examples of her delicate and whimsical prints on diamond pointed chiffon dresses, modelled by the Warren sisters (a Wardrobe Department fixture) and borrowed from the Fashion and Textile Museum.

It’s always great of course to shine a light on vintage Zandra Rhodes, especially when you see her relevance popping up today.  Menkes even had her other granddaughter wear a Rhodes “inspired” current season Kate Moss for Topshop dress, to hammer home her point.

But that wasn’t my main take away from the talk.  Menkes talked about her time when she was working at the Evening Standard and had to file her reports on the telephone.  In this pre-mobile phone age, Menkes had to be canny to get her story in.  At a Dior show, she clocked another reporter near the exit, where outside there was one singular phonebook in the vicinity.  Menkes then engineered a move to divert the other journalist so that she could race out to the phone to file her story.

In another anecdote, Menkes recalls not having an invitation to the Chloe show, when Karl Lagerfeld was the designer there and “king of ready to wear” at the time.  So Menkes and her colleague decided to buy some cleaning garb and uniform from a shop and dress up as cleaners to get into the show at 5am, hours before the show.  The hid underneath the podium and snuck out just as the show was about to begin.

These two stories spoke volumes about Menkes’ work ethic and attitude.  It isn’t just her vast knowledge and experience of show-going and the collections that make her so highly respected.  It’s her tenacity, her willingness to graft and her unstoppable quest for “the story” that also makes her a great journalist.  She’s the only one on the frow that will take out her laptop in-between shows (I do it sometimes too but in truth, I’m only aping Menkes… and err…there really is too much time wasted waiting for shows to start).  She’s the first one backstage after every show to speak to a designer (how DOES she get there so fast…?)  She always files super fast and in volume, knocking up huge word counts for individual show reports.

She really is the real deal and frankly, as much as I stand for a newguard digital wave (which Menkes is in full support of in her new role as Vogue’s international editor), it’s hard to see how many people still and will operate the way Menkes does with her high level of tireless dedication to fashion reporting.  I wonder too  whether the showiness and surface of the fashion world (and the exacerbated speed of fashion coverage today) can often mask what is actually important – proper hard work.  Journos continue to hash out lazy cliches about generation y/z Instagramming/captioning their way to the top and in fashion, that accusation is ongoing.  That’s too simplistic a statement.  But at the same time, I can count on my one hand, the people my age or younger who go the sort of distance that Menkes had demonstrated.

With these thoughts in mind, I dashed over to author Andy Miller’s talk in the Bowling Green after Menkes had been crowned as “Queen of Fashion” with Stephen Jones and Jenny Dyson‘s collectively made crown.  Miller was talking about his ten point guide to reading books better, based on his humorous tome The Year of Reading Dangerously.  The general gist of the talk was to encourage people to really engage with their books, read them properly, finish them and don’t pretend you’ve read something just because culture vultures prescribe that you MUST have read a certain book.

From Miller’s talk and Menkes’ stories, I could draw parallels and glean some old fashioned advice – be the real McCoy, don’t think you can fake it and make it, worked hard and you’ll reap rewards, take the long route and not the shortcut… if I think of any more cliched nuggets, I’ll add them here.  It is only day one after all…

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0E5A4807Stephen Jones crowning Menkes as Queen of Fashion with a sweet crochet crown of mini Menkes

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0E5A4830Menkes’ two grand-daughters wearing Kate Moss for Topshop dress on the left and a Zandra Rhodes original on the right…

0E5A4832Andy Miller telling it as it is…

We had a loose rule on our second trip to Los Angeles to try and do things that we hadn’t done before on our first trip, which included not repeating food spots and accommodation. In fact we stayed at five different places on our six day trip just to mix things up a bit (there was a meticulous packing methodology). We have still come away feeling like we’re not quite sated and there’s still an arm-long to-do/see list, which means it’s more than likely that we’ll come back for more. LA, we really do heart you. A lot.

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- Trust my British self to moan about the weather on the first day of our holiday. But only because I did feel a bit peeved that for the first few days, it was actually hotter in London than it was in Los Angeles. We had booked ourselves into Shutters on the Beach to spend a lush first night in Santa Monica and woke up to this…

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- In fairness, it did brighten up so that it looked like the above about four hours later so my initial gripes were completely unfounded. Plus Santa Monica/Venice Beach is still awesome regardless of the colour of the sky.

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20140716_081434Breakfast of healthy/not so healthy at Shutters

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IMG_0074Wearing Vika Gazinsakay x & Other Stories dress, Bernstock Speirs visor, Kenzo bag, Tabitha Simmons x Toms shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses

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- As expected LA treated us good food-wise.  Following our rule about not repeating food spots twice we also tried to go for things that are basically hard to find in London.  Our eats included an awesome boat noodle soup at Pa Ord, interesting bacon-imbued and pork-fat-rendered flavour combinations at Animal, ceviche tostadas at El Sietes Mares, sorrel lemonade at Sky’s Gourmet Tacos and a nom nom undressed lobster roll at Blue Plate Oysterette.

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- I really wanted to check out Heritage Square Museum because I had seen pictures of their annual Vintage Fashion Show and Tea online.  Eight historic structures mostly constructed during the Victorian era were saved and reconstructed here by Montecito Heights.  There are more “real” examples of this kind of architecture elsewhere in the city but I loved the odd juxtaposition and assembly of houses right by a busy freeway.

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- Something ultra cheesy had to be on the agenda.  The Dearly Departed tours were all booked up so we headed to the Hollywood Museum in the old Maxfactor Building.  If you’re errr.. into pan-cake style make-up on dusty pink dressing tables and Daryl Hannah narrating a ye olde documentary on the history of Maxfactor, this is the place for you.  I’m a sucker for old Hollywood memorabilia though so I kind of loved it.

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- Unlike London, Los Angeles has a lot of distinctly themed areas dedicated to the many ethnicities that make up the city.  Olvera Street is the oldest part of downtown Los Angeles with Spanish settlers founding the city in 1781.  Today, it’s an ode to its past as a Spanish/Mexican outpost with a ton of tourist-y kitschy market stalls.  Always up for getting any sort of fix of Mexico of course, however cliched.  Nearby, is Chinatown, which isn’t really where LA’s Chinese community live (need to make it to San Gabriel Valley for the good Chinese eats…) but again is a kitschy reminder of the past when it was actually bustling and the centre of the Chinese community.  It feels more like a hammed up Hollywood set than a real functioning Chinatown but it definitely has its charm.  I love that Ooga Booga, an interesting and conceptual zine/book/gift store is nestled in the middle of plaza.

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IMG_0226 Wearing Suno hat, 3.1 Phillip Lim vest, Topshop skirt, Linda Farrow sunglasses and Salvatore Ferragamo slip-ons

- Steve and I kept on lusting after home and garden decorations as stores along Abbot Kinney and Lincoln Blvd were tempting us to overdo it with our luggage allowance (we only bought a few things but still had to plead with the airline to let us go over our limit).  On Abbot Kinney, The Piece Collective, A Plus R, Tortoise General Store and Chariots of Fire were full of lovely things.  General Store on Lincoln Blvd is also fantastic.

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IMG_0105Inside Piece Collective

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IMG_0107Pots at A Plus R

- In particular, we got quite obsessed with cool ceramics and little plant pots.  Since we didn’t bring that many back, I’ve been tirelessly searching Etsy for alternatives.  South Willard had an intriguing exhibition on local pottery artists Michael and Magdalena Suarez Frimkess.  Alchemy Works in Arts District and Fifth Floor in Chinatown also had a few names for us to take note of.

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20140718_125141Bits and bobs inside Fifth Floor

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- There seems to be a lot of love for Craig Green in LA which is great to see!  People instantly recognised and ID-ed his tie-dye shorts from SS14, which I was wearing and there was a healthy amount of his stuff at the store 12345.  Go Craig!!!

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- We’re currently in the process of re-doing our garden and a cactus corner is a must because of all the cool cacti we saw out in LA.  It won’t look as cool in our flat grey light but will definitely be a reminder of our trips.

IMG_0183At Olvera Street

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- Every area in LA seemed to have one of these Apolis Local + Global market bags, which originated in LA-based socially motivated lifestyle brand Apolis’ arts district store and have slowly branched out to partner with stores all over the world.  I love the new Koreatown version sold in Poketo inside The Line hotel.  They’re made by a group of women in Bangladesh and as this harrowing BBC2 documentary on the Rana Plaza disaster attests, any initiative to ensure Bangladeshi women get to earn a fair living under safe conditions is definitely worthy of attention.

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- The ridiculous reason why I wanted to go to Las Vegas for a day was because I needed the air miles to top up my account.  The sensible reason was that I’d never been.  Perhaps less than 24 hours wasn’t really enough time to devote to the city of sin but I have to be honest… Las Vegas basically felt like Leicester Square and Macau x 100 rolled together with the added downside of searingly hot temperatures (walking around outside at night was like having a hot fan heater blowing in your face the whole time).  We don’t gamble and we didn’t really know how (yes, I know I’m betraying my Chinese roots here but my dad abhors gambling and likewise instilled that in me) and spent a while just watching people do it.  Then we went to strip club for the “fun” of it and found it to be an utterly depressing experience, watching girls in mismatched bras and panties sidling up to men for dances (I say dance loosely – they were just bouncing up and down to get dudes turned on).  But…

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IMG_0235View from our room at the Bellagio

IMG_0233Dale Chihuly ceiling in the lobby of the Bellagio

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…I really did love driving further up the strip towards downtown to see the shotgun wedding chapels at night even if we did have to pay an extortionate fare to a cab driver to get him to drive us up and down the strip.

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IMG_0250Wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses, vintage Vivienne Westwood swimsuit, Marni shorts, Christopher Kane sandals

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- On a food note, the Bacchanal buffet at Caesars Palace defeated me.  One starter plate, one main plate and a few of the desserts were all I had.  I brought shame to my expert buffet eating family.  Thumbs up to the truffle layered potatoes, the clams in chorizo sauce and the dipped strawberries.

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- Back in LA, we opted to spend our last night in a new-ish hotel called The Line in Koreatown.  It had a fab view of Hollywood Hills and the interiors designed by Knibb Design were pretty ace (especially loved the plastered white t-shirt ceilings) but not everything was open yet – looking forward to coming back to check out the Commissary cafe, which is housed in a greenhouse by the pool.  It was handy to be near all the Korean eats though and it was great to eat a really decent tasting funked-up congee for brekkie.  Didn’t get to sample Roy Choi’s food at the restaurant hotel Pot but like I said, this place is definitely one to revisit.

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- Downtown LA is still a pretty interesting area to comb through.  This time we checked out Bradbury Building aka where they filmed Blade Runner in.  It’s an incredible mishmash of architecture inside with Parisian-derived apartment iron fretwork coupled with Mexican tiles and Italian marble, with a central skylight allowing light to flood in.  Across the road, Million Dollar Theatre and Grand Central Market are also worth snooping around.  Especially in the latter, where we tried Salvadorean pupusas.  Plus there’s an eatery called Eggslut.  Yup, Eggslut.

IMG_4482Inside the Bradbury Building

IMG_4484Million Dollar Theater

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- In a shop called Round2, the owner described downtown as “kind of like New York in the 80s… things are just getting started around here.”  Not sure if the analogy is entirely true but DLTA definitely has its own vibe, that’s very separate from shopping in Hollywood or out in Silver Lake/Echo Park.  Round2 felt like an LA version of Cyber Dog and I found great plastic fantasic pieces by local designer Michelle Uberreste (apparently an ex Project Runway contestant).  I also loved The Last bookstore, quite possibly the largest and most well-organised second hand bookstore I’ve been to.  I didn’t get to check out Please do Not Enter, a newish concept store downtown but again, leaving one for next time.

IMG_4496Michelle Uberreste vest at Round 2

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- Outside In ‘n’ Out near the airport (our only repeat eating experience because well… it’s In ‘n’ Out!), where a girl yelped my name and repeatedly screamed/hugged me and then ran away without saying anything.  I kind of loved her.  Please make yourself be known if you are reading!

I’m currently typing this up in a Starbucks by LAX airport and holiday blues have already set in.  Me thinks someone up there knew we were about to depart because today has been a non-starter of a day involving, traffic woes, fluffed-up shop/sights opening hours and GPS nightmares.  Perhaps it’s some kind of karmic payback after the utterly beautiful day we had yesterday (one day out in this part of the world and I’m already using the word “karmic”)  After our early evening trip-out into Joshua Tree, we knew we had to come back for more weird and wonderful sights.  We were hooked by the loud cricket noises, the hot desert air blowing in our faces and the drive along Twentynine Palms Highway.  I promise this isn’t all strictly tourist mumbo-jumbo.  There’s some fash-un to be found.  Well, I say some.  In fact, there’s actually a surprising amount of unique vintage wares to be found along this stretch of road.  First off though, some inspiration fodder that will feed the eye…

The number one thing on our bucket list was Salvation Mountain in Niland, past the eerie lake of Salton Sea.  It’s about an hour and a half’s drive from Palm Springs and well worth the trek if you have a car.  This is probably one of the most famous and spectacular examples of “outsider” art, created by Leonard Knight, who sadly passed away earlier this year.  Apparently he would have often been on-site to talk people through this psychedelic mound, made out of adobe clay and painted with uplifting murals and Bible verses.  It was Knight’s tribute to God but moreover, to love, to wonderment and to beauty.  Surrounding it are further caravans, tractors and cars painted in s similar fashion.  Collectively it’s an awe-inspiring sight, made even more profound by its far-out and relatively impoverished location.  The harsh late morning sun was beating down on us but those rays and the intense blue sky did cast Salvation Mountain in the most breathtaking light.  We couldn’t tear ourselves away even though the heat was physically hurting our heads.  And not to diminish the meaning of Knight’s masterpiece but obviously, aesthetically speaking, the colour scheme and I were sort of on the same wavelength…

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0E5A4270Not going to lie, Luke Brooks’ special “Tree Shirt” was a bit of a strategic outfit choice for Salvation Mountain.  Worn with Mother of Pearl skirt, Loewe sunglasses, Lucy Folk necklace and Prism espadrilles. 

0E5A4273Steve’s Craig Green shirt was also an appropriate bit of kit to soak up the Salvation Mountain vibes…

On the way back from Salvation Mountain, we stopped by a deserted stretch along the curious lake of Salton Sea.  It’s beautiful from afar but kind of depressing when you get closer as you see thousands of dead fish washed up on the stone-filled shores.  Moody Top of the Lake vibes aplenty here (please watch this series if you can!)

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After refuelling back at our Palm Springs base, we made our second trip up to Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree to try and eke out another layer beneath the obvious Joshua Tree National Park.  Our primary reference was this High Deserts Test Sites map, provided by a non-profit organisation which supports and curates site-based art around this area.  One of the founders is artist Andrea Zittel, whose home and work space A-Z-West was also on my hit list but sadly it wasn’t available to see.  If we had more time, I would have driven around hunting down all of the sites on the map but in the end wee settled for one  and it was definitely special enough.  The journey was an experience in itself.  You drive past the vaguely theme park-esque Pioneertown and on to a winding dirt track road, which leads you to a curiously named path called God’s Way Love.   Up this rocky path in the high desert nestled in amongst wind-blasted rock formations is Boulder Gardens, the eco-sanctuary and retreat founded and kept by Garth Bowles.  This sanctuary is Bowles’ “act of giving” – you’re free to stay here with a voluntary donation.  People are also allowed to go up there and take a look and so we roamed around, looking in all the nooks and crannies of this breath-taking retreat, lovingly adorned with crystal-scattered spiritual niches.  It’s got all you need really when you’re this high up and far out (in spirit and in altitude) – a sauna, a cool pool, a meditation garden, a tranquil pond, chicken coops built into caves and a picture perfect teepee.  The desert planting all around Boulder Gardens was inspiration enough for Steve and I.  Trying to take a little piece of Garth’s retreat back to N15 with us will be a tough tough task.

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Back down on Twentynine Palms Highway out of all the numerous vintage spots dotted along this road, The End in Yucca Valley was a must-see for me, not least because the lovely Jazzi McG gave it a thumbs up.  I didn’t realise the connection until I got there but it turns out owner Kime Buzzelli is a former fellow Typepad blogger (as in blogger generation 1.0), whose blog The Moldy Doily was on my blog feed back in the day.  Kime was working in TV styling and also owned the concept boutique Show Pony in Los Angeles but decided a few years ago to up sticks and move out to Yucca Valley permanently to open up The End.  Here she’s free to concentrate on her beautiful illustration work – seen dotted around the store – and live what seems to be something of the good life.  You’ll spot the distinct murals painted on the outside by Elena Stonaker from a mile off (Stonaker’s wearable pieces are quite something too…).  Inside, it’s a treasure trove of desert-appropriate wafting around prettiness and hippie finds in the true and good definition of the h word.  I picked up a leather bag dripping with paint, created by a couple who live out in Palm Springs.  If I had time, I’d really look into this seemingly sprawling coven of “folk-based” artists and craftsmen from around these parts as everything from ceramics to jewellery to clothing seem to have this … yes, I’ll say it… RAD… aesthetic that I’m drawn to.  I also loved that in the middle of the high desert seemingly in the middle of nowhere, weirdly I managed to make a stray blogger connection.

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10384676_581410168635805_3979975435337962556_nWearing Marques Almeida top, Balenciaga shorts, Birkenstocks, Thomas Tait sunglasses and the bag I bought from The End

A ten minute drive away from The End, right outside the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, was another spot on my to-see list.  Why, it’s the World Famous Crochet Museum, created by artist Shari Elf, which sits in the Art Queen Gallery.  Nobody was at home but we just let ourselves in, unlocked the door to this green pod of awesomeness and marvelled at the shelves of crochet cuties.  Right next door, there’s also Trailer Court Shops, a mini-warren of vintage and oddities sellers.  By the time we looked to have a poke around, they had already closed.  I like that I’ve left quite a few stones unturned.  It gives me an excuse to come back and I definitely will.  That’s a promise.

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On the way to Palm Springs at Cabazon, you can’t miss Ms. Rex and Ms. Dinny aka The World’s Biggest Dinosaurs aka the best roadside stop off ever where we filled up the car, sampled all manners of meat jerky and got a cheesy snap in the process as well.  I promise my wearing the Julien David “Dinosaur” vest was mere coincidence.

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IMG_0281Wearing Julien David vest, vintage slip dress, Kitty Joseph socks, Salvatore Ferragamo slip-ons

One final note on our accommodation out in this part of the world, in between exploring Joshua Tree and Salvation Mountain, we opted to stay the night at the Ace in Palm Springs.  From what people told me, I was a little bit skeptical about this “hipster” bolthole of choice and no.1 hangout during Coachella, but I found the Ace to be pretty chill.  As in, not the frat boy/hen do madfest I was expecting it to be on the weekends.  There were shibori dyeing and collage making classes going on in the clubhouse and the pool was nicely filled out as opposed to super rammed.  And when all is said and done, I am officially an ageing “hipster” for want of a better word… so ermmmm…

… PEACE OUT…

… until I get back to London.  I will then strike-through that sentence and start moaning about the weather, TFL and BT Broadband.

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IMG_4379Wearing Auria swimsuit, Karen Walker sunglasses

P.S. Unlike Instagram, hopefully this is a safe haven from the fat-hating comments I get (exclusively from peeps from China/Hong Kong it would seem… ) but just in case some people can’t resist, I may as well rebut now and say yes, I’m in a swimsuit, and no, it ain’t a perfect sight because I like food.  And drink.  And lots of it at that.

>> My brain is currently emptied of smart, sassy things to say about fashion and nor have I been finding funky fresh shops to blog up here on my very short one week trip to Los Angeles/Las Vegas/Palm Springs.  Therefore, the blog is looking a bit barren, my Instagram feed will clue you in as to why.  I did want to check in though with one entirely gratuitous post in ode to Joshua Tree, one of the most magnificent places I have seen on Earth.  There is no snazzy outfit to accompany it.  There is no beautifully composed picture with hair artfully blowing in the wind.  There isn’t even an insightful travel perspective to bring to this post, other than… please go if you ever get the chance.  All I’ve got for you are wide-armed cheesy smiles, moments of pure magic when you feel like you’re on the edge of the world and the shifting light of a sunset cast across acres of 100 million years-old mysterious rock formations and of course the thousands of spindly spiky headed Joshua trees, which become seductively sinister at night.  Why?

Well… just because.  When I interviewed Luella Bartley recently, she made a comment about there being no time these days just to do things for the sake of doing them – for fun, for larks, for pure joy.  Everything had to have a mechanical reason behind it.  I’m entitled to have a cheesy and cliched mini-epiphany inside this much-visited and famed national park because it felt brilliant for me at that very moment and ultimately, that will feed whatever I do when I get back to the real world.  Reason enough?

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“What can young Japanese designers do to help their careers and make it internationally?”  Loaded question but it’s one that frequently pops up whenever I’m in Tokyo, meeting designers in showrooms and discovering abundance.  It was again put to me at this year’s edition of ITS – International Talent Support – the annual competition for recent graduates all around the world, held in Trieste with prizes of up to EUR25,000 up for grabs.  I was once again part of the jury and a journalist from the magazine SO-EN was probing about the current state of Japanese fashion and without meaning to sound like I was some fashion knew-it-all oracle, the only thing I could muster up was “There’s heaps of talent.  It’s just hard to communicate that to the world.”   I meant it.  There’s no doubt that the creativity and talent is there in abundance.  I see it every time I’m in Japan and come home laden with lookbooks, clothes and general fashion-high because I’ve absorbed so much.  It’s the matter of getting it out there into the wider world – the language barrier, the tendency not to publicise themselves out on social media and snazzy websites and the general unwillingness or fear of making that international step-up.

There might yet be another monumental Japanese wave though akin to Rei Kawkubo and Yohji Yamamoto storming Paris in the 80s but for now it’s about paving the way in small steps for a new gen of Japanese designers to make it to the forefront.  Competitions like ITS are a good start and this year, there was no less than seven Japanese finalists across the fashion, jewellery, accessories and the newly created art categories (as in fashion designers who create art as opposed to bona fide artists).  It was also great that four of them scooped up prizes in the final show ceremony, which is definitely encouragement for similar graduates from Japan to enter similar competitions.  It was also interesting that the thought process of their work was so often incredibly personal and free from overarching and remote concept, which can often be the case with many student projects.  It gave them an idiosyncratic edge that is hard not to be charmed by.  Some were familiar to me, some were not but I thought I’d run through my favourites from this mini ITS 2014 Japanese wave.

Zetsumei, the exhibition of young Japanese designers and their wacked-out installations in Parco Tokyo last year was a real eye-opener for me.  Amongst one of the newbies, two made it to ITS this year, following the guidance of their tutors Mikio Sakabe and Yoshikazu Yamagata, co-founders of the Coconogacco school in Tokyo and themselves unconventional designers.  Noriko Nakazatu was one them and she had her work entered under the jewellery and art categories.  A quick look at her Tumblr and she’s an a jack-of-all-trades, dabbling with image-making, installation, jewellery and fashion with an incredibly complex level of referencing.  Kitsch would be a simplistic way of looking at it.  Sci-fi, psychedelia and strange facets of Japanese culture all feed into her particular eye for the perverse and odd.  Nakazatu’s jewellery won her the Swarovski Jewellery Price of EUR10,000 probably because she charmed the jury with her totally sensical more-is-more approach.  There’s definitely more to her than piecing resin, crystals and toys together though.  I’d love to see her create more all-encompassing installations that blend different fields together.

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Yasuto Kimura’s portfolio was the thinnest of the lot.  It consisted of an exacting newspaper format to talk up his collection about an alternative uniform for the Japanese salarymen.  It’s such an iconic image, seeing Japanese commuters falling asleep on the metro or hanging out in packs at ramen bars.  Kimura is I think the first to tackle this specific aspect of Japanese culture and he does it with a series of distorted, multi-functional and versatile grey suited tailoring.  No boring grey suits here as Kimura declared that he’d love to be the “Thom Browne of Japan” when we asked him about his work in the jury session.  Ambitious but great to see.  The most prominent Japanese menswear has often skewed towards streetwear and casualwear in recent years and so it’s nice to see a tailoring focused menswear designer try and come and do something that feels unique to his experience.  The best thing is that Kimura himself is that Japanese salaryman.  He works as a designer for a corporate apparel company and so is well equipped to give a whole new spin on salarymen attire.  Kimura was selected to create a film with SHOWstudio, which will definitely be interesting to see, judging by his lookbook images.

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Maiko Takeda‘s work is now instantly recognisable thanks to what is known as the “Bjork Effect”.  When I posted a pic on Instagram, somebody said “Very Bjork-esque!”  Errr… well, Bjork did in fact wear  Takeda’s Atmospheric Reentry collection of cut-acetate headpieces, straight after Takeda had shown her work at last year’s RCA graduate show.  Takeda’s phenomenal work is the collection that keeps on giving though as she was belatedly selected for ITS this year and also has had it shot for Dazed Digital.  Takeda currently has a job at Issey Miyake working as their accessories designer experiences like ITS might stir up a hankering to do her own thing, given the extra encouragement of the Vogue Talents Award.

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“Made with naive love” is often something that I think of whenever I encounter Japanese designers who operate within their own world, removed from global trends and outsider influences.  Takafumi Arai definitely falls underthis category.  His Instagram account is brimming with enthusiasm and joy for his handmade shoes, stitched, patched and composed together with an incredible eye for detail.  They’re shoes that showcase craftsmanship in a very overt way so that you can’t help but fall for them, even if they’re not necessarily your favoured aesthetic.  Top stitching, cross-stitching, flecks of rainbow tufted threads and autumnal shades of leathers and suede come together in a sort of homespun craftwork fantasy.  Arai was a revelation for me and it seems he impressed others too as YKK decided to award a special prize of EUR1,000 as a vote of encouragement to this young shoemaker.

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Finally, I can’t not mention the charming project of Ryota Murakami and his mother Chiaki.  I also encounter his work at Zetsumei in Parco last year.  Some mothers draw and craft with their children.  Chiaki sketches out what she deems to be her kind of “fashion” and brings them to live through crochet and knit.  Together Ryota and Chiaki created a knitwear installation that was entered under the art category of ITS.  To go with this rainbow brite mass of fun, is a children’s book to illustrate the tale about the way a mother and son co-create and inspire each other.  It would be sickly sweet if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s so heartfelt and genuine, especially when you meet Chiaki herself.  It brought a huge beaming smile to the proceedings.

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