Hello, Kitty! Goodbye Japan Fashion Week!

Instead of fashion royalty like Anna Wintour or big-ticket celebs like Posh, Beth Ditto or Kate Moss, the memorable front-row faces at Japan Fashion Week were an oversize plushy Hello Kitty and anonymous locals in SARS masks. It’s cherry blossom season in Tokyo (the masks were actually for allergy sufferers), and thankfully there was plenty of budding talent on the runways too. While none of the global fashion forces who hail from Japan were anywhere to be seen—Comme des Garçon, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe all show their collections in Paris—their influence was felt throughout the week, as several key players in the next wave have studied their craft under the Japanese masters.

Many of the new guard had some impressive collections, with singular points of view, marred by a tendency to overdo it. Too many ruffles, pleats, shreds — though sometimes that was the point. From what we saw this week, Japanese designers are ready for battle. Warrior motifs popped up in strong collections from Somarta, Aguri Sagimori, and Matohu. Some held a quiet, commanding power — particularly Matohu’s dark beauties and Aguri Sagimori’s stunning futuristic warriors. Others blasted us with over-the-top theatricality; Né-net’s colorful collections strutted down the runway on models wearing Japanese wrestling masks and boxing gloves; Written Afterwards’ show was one riotous big bang after the next as models sheathed in outlandish cardboard creations left a trail of puffy cotton balls, scraps of aluminum foil, and other detritus on the runway in their aftermath. The pop art pieces on that collection were not meant to be wearable, but they served an important reminder of how inspired design can be no matter what elements are available to you.

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