"All the models want the clothes," reported stylist Karl Templer, working with designer Chitose Abe for the first time, after today's show. It's little surprise. Abe makes clothes that somehow turn the conceptual into something that could actually hit a city street. And desire for her clothes isn't limited to the young, beautiful, and thin. To wit, she recently had to close the second floor of her newish Tokyo boutique because she just ran out of product to fill it.
Abe explained that this season focused on menswear. It's a motif carried over from Spring, but in heavier cold-weather fabrics it took on a more Victor Victoria vibe. A dark chesterfield, worn over a prim white button-down, turned to reveal flaring pleats inset with royal blue knit; motorcycle jackets spilled collars of ruffled shearling, which snaked around the waist to form a peplum. Abe doesn't often use prints, so it was nice to see a rich sartorial paisley scarf print, particularly great in a narrowish skirt collaged with a red satin and lace slip and layered with red chiffon.
The outerwear was strong, but dresses sang too. One standout merged the classic oxford blue shirt and camel skirt with a siren gown by picking out the silhouette of its sweetheart neckline and curvy waist in sequins. When it made the turn, you saw the rest of the lace and satin slip that peeked out from its hem via a high and wide slit meant to give the impression that the model forgot to zip her skirt. It sounds excruciatingly tricky on paper, but in reality, it works. That was part of the beauty of the collection.
It's nice to see Abe on ever-bigger stages, like her substantial shop-in-shop at the new Dover Street Market in Ginza, not to mention a well-attended runway show with a high-ticket stylist. But she's a quiet powerhouse who took years to grow and learn before entering the spotlight. Young designers should take note of a business model that stands the test of time.