Chitose Abe's Sacai is the tortoise, not the hare. Abe has built her business slowly, methodically, earning the kind of under-the-radar status that can't be bought or pitched. To a new convert to her label, that can be frustrating. Abe rarely gives interviews, at least in these parts—she speaks little English—and doesn't stage a formal show, or even a model presentation, for her men's collection. A bare gallery space full of mannequins is all she offers. She once did the same for women's, it should be noted. She now does a full show, densely attended and styled by the in-demand Karl Templer. That example counsels patience. Good things come to those who wait.
It's hard to pin down what's so appealing about Abe's menswear. She's a mistress of the mix, throwing together different fabrics, colors, and textures with a gonzo, though practiced, hand: This season found her working with more hardy English fabrics than usual, like a beautiful series of tweeds, but in combination with nylon, puffer padding, and silk. And she's catholic where process is concerned: To color some knits, she hand-weaves, for a subtle striation; for others, she simply spray-dyes the parts. Piled-on looks of field jacket, silk foulard-print pants, and fuzzy, lamb's-fur sweater are hardly a beginner's game, but almost any individual piece—in particular, the tweedy tailoring—is easy to love.
The menswear has been slow to break into the U.S. market, but strides worldwide—the must-visit Tokyo Sacai shop, the prime shop-in-shop at the new Dover Street Market Ginza—will soon be matched by this American one: the arrival of the menswear to Barneys for Spring. One more lap in the race.