Thanks to Mercedes Benz and AFI for awarding us “Designer of the Year”, our prize was a trip to any Mercedes Benz Fashion Week of our choice around the world.
We chose Tokyo for its influence on international fashion and design and to say trip of a lifetime would be an understatement.
This city is truly mind altering, with its slick modernity and old world traditions. The Japanese are well mannered and polite to the extreme, they are inclusive and tolerant, particular and specific. You bow and thank and welcome.
We stayed in the Ginza neighbourhood of high-rise granite office blocks and first world shopping. Our Conrad Hilton hotel lobby complete with Cherry blossom that bloomed before our eyes. We were given the executive floor treatment. An exclusive dining room and bedroom overlooking Tokyo bay with drapes that opened and closed with a button.
The city is vast, like a hive of people with definite intentions, each area is defined by demographics – the teen area of gadgets and video arcades, of Harajuku dressed to impress and inspire trends around the world, of shopping centres connected by elevated alleys. The sophisticated Ometesando street where fashionista’ shop the worlds fashion in palaces of contemporary architectecture with names we read about in books. Hertzog de Meuron and Koolhaus whose ultra contemporary temples sit comfortably next to ancient shrines. We walked the narrow roads getting lost in Daikanyama, the new avant garde arty area only to find incredible creativity mixed with vintage Americana and the ultimate of Zen design from Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake and Kansai Yamamoto.
The amazing experience is to see Japanese fashion in context, clothes that seemed out of place with western fashion, make sense now. The way they approach trend is without boundaries and for a designer this is truly liberating. We loved the fusion of sport and fashion, we loved the unconventional use of fabric with silhouette and we loved that their aesthetic is intellectual rather than sexual – which for us is far more attractive.
We kneeled in a teahouse ceremony in a blossom garden with skyscrapers as a backdrop to Kimono’d 20 somethings, all seemed so right and perfect. A 300 year old pine tree supported by bamboo poles, respected for its being and then moved on to dinner in Shinjuku in Golden Gai alley, teaming with vice and underworld and neon lighting, where old Izakaya (japanese local pubs) offer tonkatsu and Tempura and ramen made of horsemeat and heart, it felt like Ridley Scotts “Bladerunner” was not fiction at all.
Tokyo was a paradigm shift for us. We learned so much from all aspects of our trip. From the very Particular, mannered personality of the people – they do things very specifically and with reason. Don’t walk and eat on the streets, rather stand, finish your coffee etc. and then move on, only cross at a zebra crossing and only when the light is green- everything has a place and a place for everything. We got to understand the beauty of being expressive, it is about you and what you like more than what others think of you. We saw how important the past was on the present.
If we had to choose one event that stood out it would be tough. I think being able to walk through time from the the contemporary palaces of Prada along Ometesando street through the Harajuku of Takeshita Dori to the Temple of Yoyogi park was amazing, or our fashion installation for Tokyo fashion week at the South African Embassy.
We have included in our latest collection KLuKCGDTbiginJAPAN all the major trends. We have juxtaposed the sharp tailoring and precision of “Military” without using the cliched camouflage, with the free spirited ease of the 70’s trend. Pussy bows and sheer are huge, as is faux fur and denim.
It also follows our journey through Tokyo with an Asian trend that will carry through until next season too. Kimono shapes and wide sashes are as important as the white shirt and the wide leg culotte.
Special Thanks to all those that made this happen, Mercedes Benz, African Fashion International, Levi’s, Sunglass Hut and Welikemorefire – Jeandre Venter and Grant Payne
all photographs by MOREFIRE