As the audience entered the venue for this evening's N.Hoolywood show, they found a space as still and silent as a library. It was a fitting prologue to the collection, given both the studiousness with which designer Daisuke Obana approached his inspiration this season, and the inspiration itself. Ernest Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea were the subjects of Obana's fetishistic imagination this time out, and, as per usual, his literalization of the source material made for a weird yet winning fusion of past and present.
Obana is a tricky designer to evaluate: He's so closely attuned to his references and so spot-on in his rendering of bygone silhouettes that it can be difficult to find the voice of N.Hoolywood in his collections. Tonight, as sea chanteys serenaded the runway, you were tempted at times to believe that he had actually resurrected a fisherman from some faded thirties photograph: Isn't that just the off-kilter denim cut you've spotted in some book? But the signatures that are Obana's own do emerge. He has a liking for short trouser styles and a way of making them convincing. He also possesses a deft touch with materials, as with this collection's diagonally pinstriped wool jacquard; the fabric was enormously suggestive of conductor's stripe, enough that it supported the collection's workwear vibe, but it had a textural richness that felt fresh. Obana's strongest signature, meanwhile, and the quality of his work that both elevates the clothes beyond costume and gives away their modernity, is his neatness.
Aside from a few likably slack denim silhouettes, pretty much all the clothes shown tonight had a precise line and often constricting fit, such as his paired compressed wool vests and jackets, and his natty grid-check coats. All of Obana's characters are dandies, at the end of the day. No fisherman—and certainly not Ernest Hemingway—was ever so polished.