In June, Lady Gaga performed at an MTV benefit concert in Tokyo, encouraging tourist to visit Japan. Last month, fifteen Vogue editors from around the world joined Watanabe in the biggest Fasion’s Night Out in Tokyo, in a gesture of solidarity.
But what will people who have been through a devastating trauma and enforced change in a way of like be looking for in clothes? “Some designers are using more colors to make the situation optimistic,” says Watanabe. “It’s a bit of a similar situation to after 9/11.”
Rei kawakubo designed Comme des Garçons‘ entire summer wardrobe in bridal ivory; Junya Watanabe used jewel-toned lace everywhere; even Yohji Yamamoto leavened his dark palette with romantic dresses in blues and purples.
There are deeper and maybe more lasting environmental and psychological shifts influencing the way Japanese choose clothes. A national push to save fuel is one. Excessive use of electricity is seen as socially irresponsible, partly because there are people who are still homeless, and partly as a community move to either refrain from or protest against the use of nuclear power.
In the summer, the populace voluntarily sweated through the heat without air conditioning; this winter, they’ve been lowering the thermostat. At either extreme, having the right clothes makes it bearable. So Uniqlo has brought in Undercover designer Juan Takahashi, who’s been working with NASA-grade technical fabrics for years, to answer some of those emerging needs with good-looking clothes.
It goes further, too. Part of the “Ganbare Nippon!” movement is raising a new awareness of provenance, which brings us back to Sacai and Chitose Abe’s special way of fusing pabric with knitwear, the technique that made her stand out since her very beginnings in 1999.
“One of the companies I work this season. I value trust and loyalty,” she says. “Those things don’t come with a price tag.”