You might have seen from my Instagram that Seoul has been treating me well. Too well. Stuffed full of kimchi (more varieties here than I ever imagined), fuelled by people's enthusiasm for fashion here and giddy with rando encounters with K-Pop stars, I've been more than a bit distracted. As Tokyo Fashion Week came to a close last week, I still have much to write about on the week that is probably best summarised in this round-up I did for Business of Fashion. As I tried to intelligently analyse the ups and downs of a week that is riddled with bureaucratic issues, official vs. off-schedule competition and scattered scheduling, I realise that I may have come off sounding a tad harsh. My overall point is that Tokyo's fashion scene is indeed a rabbit warren that can't be fully appreciated unless you go there but how many people get that opportunity? It's a city brimming with creativity but most of it is unfortunately destined never to go "international".
By the end of the article though, I also realised that I might be writing out of selfish desire. Maybe Tokyo's fashion designers want to remain an enigma, eschewing mainstream fashion spotlight and preferring to be buried in amongst cultish followers. I think Jenny Fax had most of her audience scratching their heads a little bit when she presented her S/S 14 collection in a skate park as part of Shibuya Fashion Festival. Those familiar with Jenny Fang's previous collections will know that she loves to riff a reference point. She mines it though so that it's barely recognisable in the end result be it Twin Peaks, Clueless or unicorns. Her collections resonate with a generation that slavishly looks at the nineties with rose-tinted glasses, selectively picking out aspects that fit a world where Leonardo di Caprio was boyish and Shampoo were awesome. I can't say I'm a hardcore devotee but the whole aesthetic as a generational zeitgeist is fascinating.
In any case, Fang takes those references to a different place anyway. For S/S 14, that nineties retrogazing becomes even more specific. She was thinking of movies like Chinese Ghost Story and other dodgy Hong Kong horror trips where vampires and zombies are dressed up as Qing Dynasty lords and there's always a frightening female ghost in a sexy red robe out to avenge her doomed lover. Those references are so vivid for me as a child of parents who rented out TVB drama tapes and watched a whole host of pirate VCD's from Hong Kong that so many of the costume drama references such as the ribbons attached to the hands and the butterfly wings enveloping some of the looks and the faces of Chinese starlets printed on t-shirts, were immediately familiar. As a result, her collection went to a darker place, away from her usual cutesy Kawaii thing – bleached and ripped denim, cobwebby knits, French maid PVC and the grimy look of the models – they're the wronged female protagonists who fall upon misfortune in Hong Kong dramas. Fang still manages to throw a few curveballs in though as she blends these somewhat sultrier elements, derived from Chinese horror with her own longstanding language of Cabbage Patch kids, Japanese school uniforms and girly bloomers. It was probably the most intriguing Jenny Fax collection yet. Overarching weirdness can be annoying but here it's entirely warranted.
Certain stores get it. Opening Ceremony have already bought into it and when you see the clothes hanging next season in stores like Macaronic in Harajuku or La Foret's Wall shop, these show images will make a whole lot more sense. Fang is more canny than her American-Taiwanese-Japanese riff offs and stylised shows let on. There's a reality to be found in her work that represents an exciting new wave in Tokyo fashion scene, whether it goes international or not.