Sukumo is a natural indigo dye. The production process is six centuries old, it takes a year, and there are only five recognized manufacturers in Japan. All of which makes it the perfect ingredient for Miharayasuhiro, the designer who thinks nothing of commissioning camo in kimono silk from Japan's oldest artisanal weavers. For his latest collection, Mihara cut "denim" blazers from leather dyed with sukumo. They'll be ass-paralyzingly expensive, but that's not the point. The point is the sheer, hell-bent-for-leather (literally in this case) delight in the creativity and capability of the human hand.

Mihara called his collection Phoenix. Of all his peers, he has been most sensitive to the fallout from 2012's earthquake and tsunami. He saw his latest offering as a kind of prayer to the spirit of the phoenix so it would help his country rise from the ashes. Such a spiritual subtext is nothing new for Mihara. The man is deep—and politically motivated—which has in the past loaned his collections a genuinely emotional element that is rare in fashion. But this time round, there just wasn't that much emotion to elevate the clothes themselves. The show was as cool as its bubbly, trance-y soundtrack or its color palette, dominated by blue, the shade of Spring 2014. Too bad, because there was such promise in the opening passage. The models arrived Apollo-like, hair tousled with gold. Mihara has been surfing for 30 years, since he was 11, and he said the gold was meant to represent the sand he always gets in his hair. Nice touch. The sukumo jackets were beautifully complemented by phoenix-wing embroidery, and Mihara had made a new camo out of a Liberty-print-like floral. "Flowers and army—contrary," he said later.

He loves contrary. Maybe there wasn't enough of it here, which was odd because the artistic collaborator this time was the manga artist Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Hi no Tori, a series based on the phoenix. Some manga energy would have been nice. There were, however, some very pretty phoenix-feather prints, which Mihara carried over into shoes. Expect them to initiate some serious online searches next season.