Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Versus Tokyo

Given the disorientating pace of the fashion machine that sees me typing this in my Berns hotel room in the midst of Stockholm Fashion Week, Pitti Uomo 81 feels like an absolute age ago. Despite the fast forwarding of a few weeks, I've still got so much to write and follow up on. First up, one of the real highlights of the tradeshow, Versus Tokyo.

The Lyceum on the Fortezza grounds housed around twenty Japanese brands and designers, selected by The Contemporary Fix's very own Yuichi Yoshii, that brought the very best of Japanese menswear design to Florence. Now, regular readers should recall that during my time in Tokyo last Spring, as I enthusiastically pinballed my away across the sprawling city and discovered a myriad of concept spaces both large and small, The Contemporary Fix left the biggest impression. 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 and The Heartbreakers, Facetasm and SASQUATCHfabrix to name but a few. Back in October, Yoshii's Versus Tokyo closed Tokyo Fashion Week with a series of shows, installations, sales of event-exclusive items and a plethora of surprises. For Pitti, he brought the same magic to an unfamiliar foreign  market in Florence. As I excitedly bounced from rail to rail and room to room I was almost bewildered by the depth of Japanese design creativity on show. So, it quite helpful for me now to refresh my aching mind with a look over my shots...

The polka dot camo gang.... Swagger continue to evolve their Japanese streetwear aesthetic by collaborating with The Contemporary Fix to create a capsule collection that does anything but fade in to the background.

Phenomenon is arguably the driving force behind the rise of Tokyo's fashion scene. 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 always 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. Here they present their reimagined MA-1 bomber jacket in a zipped rainbow.

Fellow local label Discovered was founded in 2001 by Tatsuya Kimura and Sanae Yoshida. The pair like little else than juxtaposing contradictory themes and here they offered a variety of texture rich knits with a layered silhouette.

Facetasm is a young Japanese fashion brand, but one that’s made a big impact since it was launched by designer Hiromichi Ochiai in 2007. Before launching his own label, Ochiai worked with Comme Des Garcons, Undercover, and other highly respected Japanese fashion brands. If you’re interested in up-and-coming Japanese streetwear brands, this is definitely one to watch. Each collection is a heady, eclectic mix of inspirations and influences. The item that really sums up the label's design aesthetic is the reimagined Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper adorning varsity jackets.

Wandering around the Versus Tokyo space it was impossible not to be drawn to atleast one of the rails. There's a real sense of family amongst the designers' and with The Contemporary Fix's Yuichi Yoshii guiding them, I'm sure that they will see great success in markets outside of their own.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Details... Neoprene-ing

Neoprene is such an intriguing fabric. Invented by DuPont scientists on April 17, 1930, Neoprene (thankyou wikipedia) is a family of synthetic rubbers that has a wide variety of applications, from wetsuits to orthopaedic braces. For AW12, Raimund Berthold follows in the footsteps of Christopher Bailey, Raf Simons and Italo Zucchelli in using this foamy wonder. Here, he models a sweatshirt and I was drawn to the silhouette of the cuff.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

On my bike...

In a month that hears so many resolutions declared with a mix of positive intention, sheer hope and wild abandon, I've stated that I need to exercise my ageing shell before the task becomes insurmountable. Rather than so many short-lived resolutions that are made at the beginning of the year only to be thrown out with the brown lifeless twig skeleton of the Christmas tree (thanks largely to the allure of a well filled sarnie of leftovers), I hope mine lasts. In addition to the physical, there's also a practical element to it. After so many frustrating commutes of unpredictable bus journeys, I've decided to take matters in to my own hands (and legs) and invested in two wheels. Having cycled back from the Tokyobike workshop on Friday evening two things became clear. Firstly, my fitness is even worse than estimated and secondly, I have to rethink my commuting outfit. The task is balancing style with functionality.

Now, with the likes of Rapha, Pedaled and the Timothy Everest designed John Boultbee line (to name but a few), there are a number of options out there. However, rather than merely splurge on my own capsule collection for cycling, I've opted to rethink items already hanging in my wardrobe. Thankfully, my search was greatly helped by the relatively recent addition of a few items from the Nike x Undercover Gyakusou AW11 collection. Merging the best in modern innovation, the third installment of this intriguing collaboration is rooted in a simple philosophy focused on fulfilling a crucial mission: to create the best running product that strikes the perfect balance between style and absolute functionality. Ignoring its concentrated focus on pavement pounding because lets face it, I think taking up jogging is quite literally a step too far for me, I decided to take advantage of its stylishly packaged fabric innovation for my endeavours on two wheels. Today I road tested two jackets whilst striving to find a balance between sportswear and tailoring...

Two jackets from the Nike x Undercover Gyakusou AW11 collection worn with... 
a white t shirt from Sunspel, my trusty Ganryu suit and Lanvin hi tops.

"From the first collection, I have a consistent concept on colour. I pick the ones that blend well with the nature and the city at the same time, which is an important concept for Gyakusou”, explained the designer. Takahashi designed the collection with thoughtful details that diminish distraction and enhance the meditative quality of running while fitting perfectly in the classically Japanese environment. These pieces have certainly inspired me to get mobile but when I'm stationary, it is hard not to admire the details...

A number of close up detail shots.

"Technological innovation allows designers the freedom of new shapes and fall. There are so many new man-made fibres in sportswear. For designers, it opens doors." This sentence was uttered by the curator of the V&A's Fashion Vs Sport exhibition, Ligaya Salazar,  in the exhibition notes and it has stayed lodged in my brain ever since. The effect sporstwear has on fashion should not be underestimated. Lines like Nike x Undercover Gyakusou which combine the best in modern innovation, such as advanced lightweight, waterproof and breathable materials with traditional craftsmanship, help make the influence that more obvious. Now I'm on two wheels, I'm attempting to strike a covetable balance between style and functionality. Here's hoping this resolution lasts.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Inspired... Berthold AW12

In 2009 Raimund Berthold launched his eponymous line of creative yet functional menswear. "I remember feeling that menswear was either a bit samey or too crazy and overwhelming in London. What I do is not about completely reinventing menswear," the designer states. The Central Saint Martins graduate's philosophy is simple; to design interesting, well made and inspirational clothing for everyday wear. His collections are characterised by a utilitarian sense of colour and a silhouette that is free from defined shape in nylon, neoprene and synthetic fabrics cut against natural wool and cotton. Berthold is confident, sophisticated and refined. His are bold clothes crafted for men lead by inventive design and fit – not by fashion. "I think it’s important that people can see where the clothes have come from, from where they have evolved," he proclaims. This blogger could not agree more with this sentiment. So, with these words ringing in my ears I visited the designer at his studio to see just where his AW12 collection came from. Here, Raimund introduces his methods and allows us to take a close look at his mood board...

"I stick found and shot images on my silver foil, I've been doing this for years and I just love the appearance of it, I throw these marathon blankets over everything really and they always look perfect. They aren't mood boards as such, for me, this collection of images merely provide a reminder to myself of a small detail. I take many of the photographs myself, from things I notice on the street to an empty glass in my kitchen, I enjoy taking them out of context and experimenting with them. One of the main inspirations for AW12 was a vintage garment that I found, an ancient brute of an army overcoat. It was the detailing; the zips and the use of velcro in particular. Much of the collection evolved from this item, I designed from this garment and it took me to places where I might not have gone otherwise. I had never thought about using velcro before..." 

From a series of detail shots of a well worn overcoat from yesteryear to cropped modern day street style shots, Raimund's studio is dissected by this shimmering wall of curiosities...

A selection of Raimund's own photographs and scans of curiosities that played a part in shaping AW12. 

"My design process is quite organic. There are two aspects to it really. First, my research either entails discovering a catalyst that sparks the thought process (and for this collection that was the army overcoat) or in other instances, I approach it with a clear mind and spend a day in the library going through book after book, collating images that do something and inspire me to start sketching. In both cases I keep the design quite loose initially. It is more about a feeling, a silhouette, shape, a length or rough details because I work with a pattern cutter. Now, if you sign off garments when you work with a factory, you have to be very specific but it is a real luxury to work with a pattern cutter or if you work on them yourself because you can think about it as you do it. When you start working on a garment you can uncover clever additions or notice amendments that elevate it, then of course it can all change again during the first fitting. This ability to change is important. There is only finality when the last toile is made." Raimund Berthold

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Details: Seeing Stars

One of The Contemporary Fix team inside the Tokyo Fashion Week area at Pitti Uomo wearing Facetasm. Dazzled by a white shirt thanks to the addition of embroidered colourful stars.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

AW12 Illustrated (Part One)

The last few weeks have whizzed by and left an ever blurring vapour trail of memories of catwalk parades, presentations and tradeshows as designers and labels scattered across our fashion capitals unveiled their AW12 collections. As the 'fashun menswear machine' takes a much needed rest following its exploits in Florence, Milan and Paris, we thought it was the right time to pause the conveyor belt of look books and show reports and take stock.

Over the coming weeks we will take our time to explore and examine our favourite collections but first we'd like to offer a quick visual reminder. Now, going to the shows is a wonderful experience but looking over catwalk photos and reading somewhat tedious analysis afterwards can be a bit mind numbing. So, to help bring the day to life we enlisted the help of recent graduate Anne-Marie Jones (check out her blog if you can) to illustrate our favourite moments of the season so far. Highlights include Claire Malcolm's kaleidescopic celebration of grey flannel for Hardy Amies, Raf Simons' corporate army cloaked in leather for Jil Sander, Dries Van Noten's well tailored canvas showcasing his collaboration with Dutch graphic artists Gijs Frieling and Job Wouters, Kris Van Assche's uniform of sartorial sportswear for Dior Homme and Jonathan Saunder's eye poppingly printastic sophomore menswear collection. Here, the immediacy of Anne-Marie's artwork brings back a real sense of each show and captures just why each look was selected... 


All artwork by Anne-Marie Jones especially for us.

Earlier this week Cathy Horyn noted that "there is such an emphasis these days on high-end luxury that many collections lack energy and certainly risk-taking" which wonderfully summarises the prevalent mood but, as captured by Anne-Marie, there were still moments that excited. The wheels of menswear have hardly been reinvented this season but a number of designers have polished the spokes...


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