Art you can wear: Japan's more creative designers

Art you can wear: Japan's more creative designers

Art and fashion may not be mutually exclusive, but some designers in Japan are using clothes to express more than just a few sartorial ideas

When it comes to naming truly artistic Japanese designers, most can only conjure up the name of Comme des Garcons. Well, it’s been a heck of a long time since CdG hit the scene, so here are four new-generation designers who are bringing art to the world of fashion.

Suzuki Takayuki with TENKISuzuki Takayuki with TENKI

Suzuki Takayuki has become well known since he sired his namesake brand eight years ago, but lesser known is his involvement with TENKI, an art trio where Suzuki cannonballs into the feral deep end of fashion through experimentation with fabric and presentation. “This allows me the freedom to purely express an idea, rather than being confined to what ‘fashion’ or ‘clothing’ is supposed to be,” Suzuki explains. In his most recent TENKI exhibit, he introduced dresses where spotlights were used to create shadows and shapes through layers of fabric, paint is used to depict a dirty insect, and fabric is manipulated into spirals to resemble a cotton wormhole. And while Suzuki sometimes transfers the softer touches among the abstraction into his main fashion line, TENKI is where the designer is truly in his element.

Availability: Information upon request.


Yuima NakazatoYuima Nakazato

Nakazato trained at the Royal Acedemy of Fine Art in Belgium, “in a small town, almost like a village. You have no choice but to use your imagination,” he says. The confinement seems to have done him well, as the designer has already been tapped by Lady Gaga, Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, and the eccentric UA for costumes, and won a series of accolades for his innovative use of materials (like a circle-shaped piece of leather that folds, snaps and zips up into a pair of futuristic utility boots). Since officially starting his own brand three seasons ago, he has enthusiastically experimented with metal, wood and plastic to create sculpture-like forms that are seamlessly incorporated into the clothing. Nakazato mainly presents in Europe but his studio is now in Tokyo. “There is something about Tokyo that Belgium just doesn't have.” What’s that? He chuckles: “Tokyu Hands.”

Availability: WUT Berlin 5-1-15, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: +81 (0)3 3797 1505;,

Junya SuzukiJunya Suzuki

Junya Suzuki creates 3D clothing for a 2D world. “I'm inspired by anime,” says the designer. But surely he must have a person or muse in mind when he creates? “No, I pretty much just think about characters,” he assures me. Which makes sense in context when one takes a gander at his oeuvre filled with pieces of monstrous volume, techno PVC and kitschy colors that got him on the list of “New designers to watch” by Dazed and Confused Japan magazine last year. “I often struggle with the internal conflict, like ‘Can`t I be a designer and an artist at the same time?’” Suzuki straddled the fence recently by working with artist Kazuki Umezawa who works in a super-flat manga style like Takashi Murakami on an installation at Nanzuka Underground. For the fashion folk who probably would rather believe that Suzuki is just doing a spunkier, more adventurous version of Thierry Mugler, his spacey navy blue corset with screaming blue girdling would be in order. It’s what any gutsy babe -- ‘toon or not --would kill to have.

Availability: CANDY 18-4 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: +81 (0)3 5456 9891

Hotel GluttonyHotel Gluttony by Rupert Kojima

A face mask that covers the mouth is adorned with spiky, toothy crystals. A cocktail glass strung onto a necklace chain appears to be spilling out diamonds and rubies. Then there’s his newest collection he’s working on titled Midnight Masquerade, which is inspired by spirits and ghosts. “I guess some people might think the pieces are a little freaky,” says accessories designer Rupert Kojima of his brand, Hotel Gluttony. His work consists of surreal jewelry and masks graced with twisted notions of decorum. “Each piece gets a hotel room number, and I dream up these otherworldly characters that inhabit the room.” One of the unabashed in-your-face masks landed the cover of Lady Gaga’s recent “The Fame Monster” album. Kojima’s world is certainly one best kept tethered to this creative outlet. “Yeah, if I ever met a living woman who was like one of my characters, I'd probably be terrified of her."

Availability: Made to order -- information upon request.

Misha Janette is a fashion reporter, stylist and translator who runs the fashion commentary site, Frivolite. She is a graduate of Tokyo's Bunka Fashion College.
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