Julien David is a Frenchman living in Tokyo. Culture clash is close to the heart of his enterprise by default. So for his Spring collection, he found himself layering one more faraway land into the mix: Jamaica. A recent viewing of Kevin Macdonald's documentary, Marley, had him thinking of reggae stars, how they'd mix a little of whatever was at hand into their wardrobes. It suited his own unlikely mix of incredible Japanese fabrics, low-slung streetwear styling, and inexplicable bits of je ne sais quoi.
His was a Jamaica of the mind. The islands he printed on sweat suits and cotton shirts weren't meant to look real; pixelated and swimming with tiny sharks, they were defiantly unreal. That fit the cartoon quality his best pieces have. His varsity jackets were stretched to knee length and worn under jackets as tunic dresses, and his dropped-crotch suits were cut in swirling, taffy-colored paisley jacquards
custom-created for the collection.
It would be easy enough to dismiss these as fantasy, but David's seriousness of purpose and commitment to wonder packs a sneaky punch. The timid can bypass his passementerie jackets and sugary colors for the simpler shirt jacket in navy, of course. But his fans and faithful, like Colette's Sarah Andelman, seem to find themselves following him into the farther reaches. A spoken-word piece by the proto-reggae bard Linton Kwesi Johnson was droning over the speakers as attendees filed in to his show. "There's something very soft in the way he says things," David said, "but the impact is very strong." The comparison applies.