I didn't get to go to Japan Fashion Week back in March just after the fashion week rounds in NY/Lon/Milan/Paris but Tim Blanks from Style.com did. The verdict? Go check out the Tsutaya T-Site bookstore in Daikanyama. Alright, it's a little off the track of fashion and there were of course other things to glean from JFW, but I did take Tim's advice to go for a midnight jaunt to this wonderful three-building luxurious ode to the enjoyment of books nestled in chi-chi Daikanyama. Midnight, you ask? This bookstore is open until 2am everyday with a tasteful cocktail lounge upstairs for you to sip wine whilst perusing your book selection. If that sounds all polite and grown-up, that's because T-Site is just that. The fastidious respect to the artistic power of print is evident in the brilliant selection of design, cookery, interiors, photography and fashion titles. Somehow Japanese editions of books I've seen back at home just look better, thus making you pick it up, thus encouraging you to flick through it in either the coffee shop, the generous amount of seating or the aforementioned plush cocktail lounge upstairs and then finally making that purchase either with a cashier or a self-check-out till. The music and film sections were equally impressive. I couldn't snap them well but there was a curated selection of yer' typical fashion inspiration DVDs with these cute illustrations of the style showcased in films such as Pretty in Pink, √Ä Bout de Souffle and Funny Face, sitting next to them.
Naturally, the magazine section was heaving with people (reminded me of the days of congregating in the mag section in Borders Charing Cross Road/Oxford Circus) and as I couldn't take home heavy coffee table books, a few suitcase-friendly zines came home with me. I must be prone to zooming in between extremes in Tokyo. Earlier in the day, I had just experienced a whazz of colour, flash and jangle in another visit in the Kita Kore and yet at Tsutaya, I was drawn to the quiet clothes that whispered from the matte pages of a) a limited edition New York-printed journal 'Cloth Inventory' by Lines & Shapes, created for the New York Art Book Fair and b) a copy of ku:nel Wear, a clothes-focused supplement to the popular ku:nel bi-monthly Japanese lifestyle magazine that focuses on the simple and the good life.
The 'Cloth Inventory' is a thin zine but Lnea Corwin and Maria Alexandra Vettese do a wonderful job of photographing those "soft bits of cloth life all around us", which is a more poetic way of saying "the clothes that I wouldn still keep even if they got totally destroyed and started to disentegrate."
This is *I think* the first ku:nel Wear supplement, published by ku:nel magazine. Correct me if I'm wrong as I'm going by strange Google Translate. "Only high-quality adult rather than a simple fashionable" is the other bit of garbled text I've gathered from the summary and what I think it means is this is a mook (magazine and book hybrid) dedicated to quality clothes that don't rely on trends. At first glance, there's something rather The Gentlewoman-ish about the content and aesthetic – it focuses on pieces like the white shirt or a string of pearls, the combination of black and white, a simple stole and even in an editorial entitled "Color", whatever colour there is, it's used sparingly and in an isolated way. Unsurprisingly there's a lot of love for Margaret Howell, who has an unwavering and pleasingly solid fanbase in Japan. Despite my own ping-ponging tastes in Tokyo that range from the subversive vibes of labels like Jenny Fax and the DIY hi-jinx at Kita Kore to the irresistable cuteness of Tsumori Chisato and all things A-Net, there's something appealing about the spareness displayed in this publication as well as in hi-quality textile purist labels like 45rpm and Kapital. The supplement isn't about stark minimalism but instead, there's something intimate and homely about it all. And that's just me glancing through the imagery.
Navigating through the myriad of publications at Tsutaya (I think Japan has the highest output of native fashion magazines with more sub-genres than any other country I can think of…) is one way of getting my head around the tribes, the styles and the aesthetics that continue to draw me to Tokyo on a now bi-annual basis. Next time, I'll be hanging around Tsutaya until it closes. Reading at 2am in the morning at some place other than your own bed/chair has got to feel pretty weird/amazing.