I didn't get to go to the A/W 12-3 edition of Tokyo Fashion Week but I did get to relive my experience from last October by way of the S/S 12 collections that are in store right now. I'm not normally a "I see on catwalk, I buy pronto" kinda gal. Well, normally that strategy requires a fair bit of dosh unless you get a cheeky discount, do a cheeky personal order or wait it out until the sales. That said, Tokyo is now my bi-annual indulgence – a place where I eat and shop and live up to the reputation, that all people who originate from Hong Kong do those two acvities very well indeed. Therefore, blowing out on a few items that linked back to my Tokyo Fashion Week S/S 12 experience was a treat to myself. Oh, and I can just reassure myself with the old chestnut about physically supporting the things that I write about. There's justification for everything.
First up, a bit of Peno-meno aka Phenomenon. The Contemporary Fix in Aoyama, once again ensnared Steve, Phil, Tommy and I in there with their fine mix of Tokyo's best menswear selection, super kind shop assistants and tomato flavoured gelato downstairs. We spent far too long trying EVERY single thing on. With regards to this Phenomenon S/S 12 dragon printed red shirt that could be fit for a Japanese yakuza gang member, Phil and I tussled over whether it was worth BOTH of us getting the same shirt, when we could easily borrow it between us. We then decided that trans-Atlantic borrowing, with me in London and him in New York, wasn't going to work, which is why you see us here fooling around in Tsukji market (we queued two hours for Sushi Dai – it was bloody worth it) looking like Phenomenon's biggest loser fans.
Of course designer Takeshi Osumi of Phenomenon was looking towards Japanese garment regalia for references in his S/S 12 collection and this shirt is probably the most visually recognisable as "Japanese" in the scheme of the collection. That said, the dragons and some of the patternation took me back to the A/W 12-3 Qing dynasty permutations from collections such as Jason Wu and Dries Van Noten. Both have got me rethinking my attitude towards Far East Asian-inflected collections. The positive upshot of all of this is that, five years ago, I would never have touched this Phenomenon shirt with a bargepole but now suddenly, I'm all gung-ho about dragons and imperial yellow and red all over my body. Another personal taboo knocked down. All I need to do now is get over wearing the colour poo brown and navel-revealing garments and then I'm all set.
Phenomenon's useful product drop blog throws up a few choice items from the S/S 12 collection, that are dragon-free, if you fear of looking like you're taking part in some sort of themed costume float.
In other Phenomenon news, menswear nuts out there will probably already know that Osumi aka Big 'O' of Phenomenon has teamed up with The Contemporary Fix owner Yuichi Yoshi to launch their own brand Mr. Gentleman. There's nothing annoyingly dapper or twee about this label though. Their impressive A/W 12-3 lookbook has just been released and rest assured, we'll be back hanging out at The Contempory Fix in October, eating more seasonal gelato and trying on all the new Mr. Gentleman bits.
Next up is a long-awaited Jenny Fax wardrobe addition. Jenny Feng and her label Jenny Fax have been beguiling me for a while now and her show last October was one of my visual highlights of 2011. I raced over to Harajuku multi-brand store Macaronic as soon as I found out Jenny Fax was stocked there and lo and behold, one of my favourite pieces from the collection – a pleated pinafore dress with knitted straps picked out by flashes of neon and red – was hanging on the rails. Handily, the neon in the Jenny Fax dress happens to pick up on the neon in my now battered Nike neon Oldhams.
With this S/S 12 collection, Fax explored the demented hierarchy within a girl's school to arresting effect and specifically she fused American high school culture with the cliched aesthetics of Japanese school girls to come up with something that isn't just a straightforward pastiche of all things kawaii.
(Worn with Tao by Comme des Garcons shirt, Nike trainers. Note: All aforementioned Comme pieces were all bought in the ever-awesome Rag Tag stores dotted all over Tokyo. Designer consignment shopping for Comme plays a huge part in our trips to Tokyo)
Her latest A/W 12-3 collection is a continuation of her previous one, influenced once again by Jenny's upbringing, a combination of being Taiwanese born, American high-school-educated and currently Japanese-based. She looks to 90s girlhood imagery – Shampoo, Spice Girls, Laura Palmer, Clueless and Drew Barrymore and her daisy days – and combines it all with high school clicques. She put on not one but two presentation, one that was Japanese otaku and car-wash themed, with school girls in all shapes and sizes running all over the place and her other main presentation where the real clothing action took place, with disctinctly darker vibes. Four girls were arranged into Heathers/The Craft type formation with retro screens flashing with Jenny's inspiration imagery. The collection itself features more of those uniform-inspired garments mixed with a kinky edge – the satin is somehow too shiny, the plastic too plasticky and the pastels too candy like - the sad expressions on the girl's faces tell another tale behind all that prettiness. The vintage wedding photo printed on a sweatshirt is particularly eerie. It makes you want to stare but then look away in a flash. Fortunately for Jenny, once the clothes are out of her own designated context, they gain another life on their own, precisely why I'll be back to Tokyo to stalk these pieces when they're merely on hangers on a rail.