Don’t think I’m a broken record or anything, but I haven’t been able to stop talking about the Kitten Heel Tokyo Takeover. At least now I can report some sociological findings, too. I was speaking with Kay, another translator, today, and she explained the trend as a cultural response: The women she knows in this town just aren’t willing to sacrifice comfort for style. With their smaller, wider feet, her Japanese friends aren’t attracted to the kind of really high heels we see in New York at all, especially given that Tokyo’s geography involves quite a bit of bus, train, and foot traffic. Later in the day I spoke with Nobuyuki Ota, one of the board members of the Japan Fashion Week council and the president of Issey Miyake. He told me that one of the biggest challenges for young designers working in Tokyo today is trying to strike a balance between marketability at home and avant-garde credibility abroad. His designers know that, like sky-high heels, Balmain-esque miniskirts or LV-style cleavage won’t fly in this town, which is why so many shows look to their Japanese predecessors for inspiration, like Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Kenzo. Drawing on the history of homegrown talent, as the label Support System did with its fresh take on minimalism (above), worked well. On the other hand, In-Progress’ attempt to mix some Balmania sexiness with japonaiserie fell flat. For the record, my favorite show so far has been Dress & Co, a line that is sold at the eight-level Opening Ceremony outpost in Shibuya, and which managed to remain respectful to Japanese manners and check off a few trends, too.
Despite acknowledging the (mostly) interesting way that many of the designers take on the trends coming out of Paris and New York, I was delighted to catch a traditional kimono fashion show last night, which included more than 50 traditional Japanese robes (below). There were a few stabs at modernization here, too—hence the live performer singing and sashaying down the runway, a couple of men’s looks, and some new color schemes that didn’t seem entirely appropriate—but they reinforced what is so beautiful about the traditional dress. It was a lovely reminder of why Japanese style and culture has been revered for centuries.