Sacai and Undercover designers pair up for debut show at Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo

Chitose Abe and Jun Takahashi put on debut joint spring-summer 2018 show in Tokyo, echoing Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo’s collaboration in 1991

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 12:33pm

For designers Chitose Abe of Sacai and Jun Takahashi of Undercover, the Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo was a homecoming of sorts.

Sacai: the new look of Japanese fashion

Two of Japan’s best fashion exports showed their spring/summer 2018 collections in a joint show for the first time in their own country, just weeks after showing them in Paris.

The last time an event caused such a stir was in 1991 when Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo put on a men’s show together in Tokyo.

Both Abe and Takahashi are Kawakubo protégés – the former having worked for Comme des Garcons in the 1990s under Kawakubo, the latter mentored by Kawakubo since his debut collection in 1994.

“I still remember the shock when I saw 6.1 The Men up close 26 years ago,” says Abe of the Yamamoto-Kawakubo 1991 collaboration.

For Takahashi, it was a chance to create history. “For the first time in 15 years, I finally decided to do my fashion show in the Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo programme even though I have been getting requests to do fashion shows in Tokyo for several years,” he says. “I offered to collaborate with Ms Abe from Sacai and she agreeably accepted.”

Eight ways to wear Japanese-inspired fashion

As if to make the point of the joint show even clearer, the dual theme is significant in the designers’ collections. Hybrid designs are Abe’s forte and this show featured plenty of this, such as a parka jacket that was deconstructed and reconstructed with parts borrowed from a puffer and a military jacket.

Dresses had a two-in-one versatility – they can be worn with the sleeves tied around the bust as seen on the catwalk, or worn the “right” way with sleeves on the shoulders and arms. Military, suiting, and utility outfits were contrasted with lace, silk, and floral dresses.

The show proves Abe’s ability to stitch a patchwork of different elements together.

Takahashi tackled the duality theme for the show by uniting with the artist Cindy Sherman to reproduce her self-portraits in the Undercover collection on pieces from T-shirts to cocktail dresses.

The whole show was an exercise in twinning – models walked the runway in pairs. Hand in hand and wearing coordinating outfits, they took each step in unison.

Rather than have the models step onto the catwalk for the final walk-through to close the show, Takahashi sent out pre-teen girls to walk in pairs. In a scene reminiscent of the film The Shining, the little girls wore identical blue baby-doll dresses.

Japanese fashion is now a source of inspiration for the rest of the world. In the years since Yamamoto and Kawakubo revolutionised fashion, a new generation of designers including Takahashi and Abe have expanded the foothold of Japanese influence on the world.

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For Amazon, it’s a coup to have the designers in their line-up. When the online retail giant acquired the naming rights to Fashion Week Tokyo last year, they put significant resources into gaining high-profile Japanese names to be part of their effort to expand their brand in Japan beyond books and daily commodities.