When I finally decided to make the trip to Tokyo, a place I have been day dreaming about visiting for the last ten years or so, there was one aspect of the city that I was most excited about exploring for myself. Of course, I was eager to eat my weight in all of its delicacies and was intrigued by its cat cafes, lavatory systems from the future and the limitless possibilities of its vending machines. However, I was eager to explore its retail landscape above anything else. There are certain things that the Japanese do better than anyone else. Retail (despite a recent slump in sales) is one of them. During my time in Tokyo, I enthusiastically pinballed my away across the sprawling city and discovered a myriad of concept spaces both large and small. One of the real highlights was The Contemporary Fix.
In 2008 Yuichi Yoshii, the charismatic buyer behind the Celux multi-label boutique and cult store Loveless, added yet another fine string to his bow. He opted to gut his popular Aoyama restaurant Pariya and created a concept space that celebrates the labels that it stocks. Eschewing the elaborate decoration that characterises Loveless, Yoshii kept his new haven minimal, yet still full of wonder and designer discovery. The two floored space takes a gallery approach, installing limited-time exhibitions that spotlight individual brands. The ground level is an inviting cafe and bar that rewards and rejuvenates customers with a welcome respite from consumerism whilst the second is dedicated to offering a selection of the finest Japanese labels. During my visit I was afforded the opportunity to examine a vast offering from Phenomenon, Visvim, Bedwin & The Heartbreakers, Facetasm and SASQUATCHfabrix to name but a few. Now, I could rattle on and on but I'll save you my waffle and will instead cut to the pictorial chase.
First up, Phenomenon. Established in 2004 by Takeshi Osumi (or BIG-O to his friends) as the more hi end branch and upscale brother of Swagger, Phenomenon has since been something of a cult streetwear brand that purports to fuse elements of American hip hop with that of the most enviable Japanese men's street style. The label has continually showcased a wide spectrum of intricate patterns, cuts, and overall quite out there and wild themes. The Contemporary Fix has the widest selection imaginable...
The highly respected Masafumi Watanabe is the Bedwin and the Heartbreakers creative director and mastermind. The Bedwin motto is "Paramount Quality" and this drive for the very best is evident in each garment. The attention to detail and garment construction is second to none.
SASQUATCHfabrix is an another avant-garde label coming out of Tokyo that has peaked its head out of the underground to widespread acclaim. The label expresses aggression and fearlessness in their approach. The brand are influenced heavily by 90’s Tokyo streetwear, and the clothing of that period. importance on the enjoyment and fun of wearing a garment.
Two pairs of playful, well crafted laceups by Steam and Thread caught my eye. The combination of the smile inducing prints and the welted sole really captured my imagination. I tried to convince Streetpeeper Phil to plump for a pair but sadly to no avail.
Today, where almost anything and everything can be purchased on the Internet, the onus on physical stores is to offer and provide added value. This includes things like the background music playing in the shop, flowers that please the eye, decorative books, even the mood created by the staff. It is the entire process and cumulative effect of countless little touches that leads to the purchase of the desired items and ensures a return visit. The Contemporary Fix entertains the customer with a complete and enchanting narrative whilst facilitating the discovering of a new designer or three.
Now, I did not leave the store empty handed. I left with a knit by yet another new discovery by the aptly named Tokyo label, Discovered. The local label was founded in 2001 by Tatsuya Kimura and Sanae Yoshida. The pair like little else than juxtaposing contradictory themes. For SS11, in a collection entitled 'Four You', the design duo cross check various youth culture movements. Union Jacks, dots, paisley, and leopard print all feature to dazzling effect. The knit I chose has more than a hint of the Christmas jumper about it but as you know, I'm still trying to experiment with prints and I see no harm in wearing it on a balmy day in May.
Discovered jumper worn with gingham shirt by b Store and trousers (another new purchase) from Ganryu.
A couple of close ups of the eye catching design.
Next time I'm in Tokyo, I will stop by The Contemporary Fix once again, if not to buy or discover but to simply sample another flavour of its tasty gelato. In the meantime, I will continue to champion well considered retail spaces.