Japanese fashion designers have always been known for a combination of conceptual art and wearability – some more than others – and at the other end of the spectrum, the country is also known for producing some of the most arresting streetwear brands and cult looks like the Harajuku girls, Gothic Lolita and Mori girls.
Not all of this fashion culture translates into wearability for the average, fashionable woman, although bits and pieces do crop up in international collections and high street stores – studded beanies for example.
Looks from Japanese fashion label Anrealage Spring Summer 2013 collection based on the theme of "bones". Images: Showbit
One fashion label, Anrealage, however, has somehow managed to combine intellectualism, wearability and streetwear into an emerging cult brand that has been tipped as “one to watch” by international fashionistas Tommy Ton and Susie Bubble.
Much of Anrealage’s success is down to its creator, Morinaga Kunihiko, 32, who launched the brand in 2003. It won the Avant Guarde prize in 2005 at New York’s Gen Art fashion show – which also launched designers like Zac Posen and Phillip Lim – and debuted at Tokyo Fashion Week in 2006 to much acclaim.
Described by The Japan Times as utilising “... laser cutting, visual illusion, patchwork, digital prints and other unusual techniques to assemble collections that put the 'wonder' back into wonderful,” Anrealage is a label you must check out at the Hello, Shibuya Tokyo pop-up shopping event.
Running until March 10, the Hello, Shibuya Tokyo event at Plaza Singapura is a showcase of over 20 Japanese fashion and accessory brands offering Singapore a taste of Japan’s cutting-edge culture.
In Singapore for a runway show as part of the Hello, Shibuya Tokyo opening night, designer Morinaga-San sat down with herworldPLUS to explain his vision of mixing art, the intellect, technology and fashion.
WHAT IS THE CONCEPT BEHIND ANREALAGE?
The concept is based on the idea of the ‘ real’ and the ‘un real’ … this means looking at, examining, the everyday for the things that can’t be seen. In my Spring Summer 2013 collection I featured the structure of bones; the bone is hidden but it's real – we can't see it.
Another example is my Low Res [low resolution] print; in our daily life we're always looking at the PC [computer] but the pixels can't be seen unless we magnify them and make them ‘real’ to the eye. That’s what I do, taking the ‘un-real’ life to the ‘real’ life; making the hidden able to be seen.
My inspiration for this concept comes from everything … I’m always thinking about real life, basic life, daily life. For example, we make the pages of a book the same way; is it possible to express this idea in cloth? We’re always looking at the alphabet … everything I look at can be inspiration, not fashion, but other things in daily life … ‘god dwells in the details’ is the best way to describe what I do.
YOU THINK LIKE AN ARTIST. HOW DID YOU GO FROM ART TO FASHION/RETAIL?
Well, everyone needs to wear clothes; they’re part of the daily life that I’m looking at. I made sense to me. I’m also very focused on the fabrication, to the point of treating the construction of the garments like making an art piece.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR TYPE OF SHOPPER WHO BUYS ANREALAGE?
Sometimes it’s a Comme des Garçons style of person … artistic, creative, intellectual … But my brand is not [designed] for a particular age group, it’s more for the idea-based shopper rather than a particular age or background I suppose.
IS THERE SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOUR BRAND PARTICULARLY ‘JAPANESE’ OR IS IT A MORE GLOBAL CONCEPT?
It’s more like a global brand … but at the same time I also emphasise working with Japanese fabrics and Japanese craftsmen. I use Japanese techniques and factories, visiting the factories as many times as I have to; until they [the factory management and workers] understand my thinking and how the design needs to be done.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE SINGAPORE SHOPPERS TO SEE YOUR BRAND? WHAT IS IT’S CENTRAL POINT?
I’d like to convey to Singapore shoppers the concept of my brand but also of my ‘world’ … I don’t want to just ‘sell’ to the market; it’s important that they get it, ‘get’ the brand concept … that’s the most important thing.
DOES THIS MEAN THAT RETAIL SUCCESS NOT SO IMPORTANT?
Yes, that’s true … I’m more of an artist so it’s more important that I get the concept across … if I have a great idea I still have to think about how to translate that into garments that will sell. Of course, I’m creating things out of fabric so I have to try to adjust the clothes to fit into the concept.
The clothes echo the overall concept of the brand … taking the un-real idea or concept – the art – and translating it into the ‘real’ or wearable clothes that can sell is an intellectual exercise in itself actually [laughs]. If it doesn’t sell, then I’m … [out of a job].
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE INTEREST OF THE WESTERN FASHION INDUSTY IN ASIAN DESIGNERS / ASIAN INFLUENCES? IE. SS13 COLLECTIONS – PRADA / GUCCI ETC
If the European designers have respect for the Asian culture they’re interpreting then it’s okay … As an Asian designer it’s important to sell in Asia – it’s easier in some ways because the cuts are the same – but of course it would be good to sell globally too. [Smiles]
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF SINGAPORE?
I feel that there are a lot of possibilities in the fashion market [in Singapore] … When there’s a lot of action and movement in a city, the fashion world must be moving forward, fashion must be important too.
The Anrealage Spring Summer 2013 collection will be available at the Hello, Shibuya Tokyo Fashion & Culture Mix Show with Singapore pop-up shopping event that will run until March 10, 2013, at the Main Atrium, Level 1, Plaza Singapura daily from 11am to 9.30pm and until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free. For more information about Anrealage, go to www.anrealage.com. For more information about Hello, Shibuya Tokyo, go www.helloshibuyatokyo.jp or follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/helloshibuyatokyo.