I’m Big in Japan

As a reflection of the unparalleled and uncompromising work ethic behind it,
Japanese design continues to influence a variety of creative fields. Muji, which was founded upon the principles of ‘no-brand quality goods’ over thirty years ago has flourished globally, and is now instantly recognisable as a brand in its own right thanks to its minimal approach to Nippon-inspired home wares. The cool and industrious hallmarks of Japanese design have spanned from stationery to sushi on the British high street and beyond; Yo!Sushi’s innovative approach to dining still remains fresh despite its 1997 inception, whilst the late Steve Jobs faithfully wore Issey Miyake black turtlenecks until his death in 2011. Indeed, our long-distance love affair with the Far East is enduring but it is also, as it happens, understandable.

For a nation that isolated itself totally from the outside world from the seventeenth century until the dawn of the Meiji period in 1868, Japan is now reaping the rewards of its insular past. In a time when we have access to the whole of the world at the touch of a button, elements of Japanese culture still retain an element of mysticism that makes its exoticism irresistible. It therefore comes as little surprise that the impulsive fashion industry has seized upon its expansive history for inspiration this season. The resurgence of what Vogue are hailing Nouvelle Japonisme has not been lost in translation, however, after numerous designers, such as Prada, Marni and Stella McCartney, have showcased pieces with notable Oriental flair in London and Milan respectively:

Prada, Marni, Stella Collage

Karl Lagerfeld’s rather literal interpretation of the on-trend Japanese aesthetic in Chanel’s Spring/Summer 13 advertising campaign has received much acclaim, most notably as my latest screensaver!

Chanel 1

Aristo-supermodel, Stella Tenant, is firmly back in the fold, seemingly defying the laws of time and space at the age of 42, whilst presiding over two models poised and – most certainly – posed over traditional takamakura. These oblong neck supports were once used to keep the heads of young maiko and geisha off the floor in an effort to preserve their elaborate hairstyles. However, you would be mistaken to believe editing this trend for this Summer 2013 is going to be a pain in the neck too!

Chanel 2

The contrast between the straw tatami matting and the primary colours highlights the importance of a bold colour palette in nailing this look. Remember, red and white are notoriously difficult to wear and you don’t want to make the mistake of looking like a low-rent Madame Butterfly. Instead, take note of the belted silhouettes, billowing sleeves and tulip kimono cut; features that denote quality as opposed to mere decoration.

My Edit

Cinch this Isabel Marant jacket in at the waist to emphasise the 7/8 sleeves and to exaggerate its boxy fit. This Maison Martin Margiela obi belt should be your weapon of choice for altering the fit slightly as well as for adding a twist a la Japonais. To compliment the jacket’s abstract pattern, don a simple black tee for pared-down chic before writhing into this Joseph pencil skirt. Japanese culture celebrates the notion that less is more, which makes this leather skirt of modest length and – some might say – immodest material the perfect addition to any wardrobe.

To ensure you set pulses racing at the speed of a bullet train; apply this Shiseido lacquer lipstick and Guerlain fragrance. Another Japanese export, Shiseido has created this lip colour with the intensity of a lipstick and the shine of a gloss that makes it the best implement for perfecting a bold lip. Whereas Shiseido can be applied liberally – just don’t get it on your teeth like your Aunt Mabel – the Guerlain fragrance is a two-spray affair; Mitsouko may have notes of bergamot and jasmine but it has remained virtually unchanged since its creation in 1919. The joie de vivre of peacetime following the Russo-Japanese war – the first Great War of the 20th Century – inspired perfumer Jacques Guerlain to create Mitsouko. Mitsouko, the fictional wife of a Japanese admiral and the mistress of a British Naval Officer waits for either her husband or lover to return from the war. It’s a pretty intoxicating story and the perfume reflects this completely, so consider yourself warned.

For a finishing touch, pick up a bento box from Pret a Manger to literally feed your salmon nigiri habit and stride out in these ‘flatforms’ from Topshop. For fashion week or the brave amongst you, you can pick up tabi ankle socks from Muji that would look brilliant with the flatforms, if you opt for a shorter skirt or a pair of shorts, for instance.

Now you have been given my own version of the samurai code, Tokyo is yours for the taking.

Domo arigato, Toby x

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