Christian Dior in Tokyo

I’ve only been in Tokyo for two days but I can tell you this with great conviction: it is far. Fourteen hours by air travel but culturally, many moons away.

The city is full of men who appear freshly suited, even at 8 p.m., and women who will bow at you every few seconds until you’ve either entered or exited through the nearest set of doors.

There is raw fish that calls itself breakfast.

But there are also neighborhoods, like Harajuku, where, as if on an even further corner of the earth, women in animated sweaters, printed socks and bright skirts with spikes emerging from their waist lines or conversely, men in thick rimmed eyeglasses and curious hats, wearing army jackets paired with black harem pants and dark blouses buttoned up to their collars use fashion as a mode of deep and breathtaking escape and expression.

Last night, Raf Simons showed his Pre-Fall collection for Christian Dior at Ryōgoku Kokugikan, a sumo wrestling arena that seats 1,400 and for the occasion, sat 1,400. It was hard to divorce the implications of the departed Fashion’s Night Out on the way into the arena, where scores of eager youths stood dressed entirely in either Dior or similarly articulate apparel, on their flatforms and with cameras attached to selfie sticks, presumably hoping to get photos of familiar faces enmeshed with their own.

It was the first ever Pre-Fall show for the house and marked an interesting turning point for Simons. The designer is largely lauded as a man of spectacular restraint, and his affinity for Tokyo, a city he cites as “a place that has been and is so constantly inspiring to me,” seems to reflect that. But traditional Japanese wear wasn’t the intention of the thematic trip and subsequent show. Instead, it delicately treaded the line that conflates uniformity — a sense of compliance, restraint and discipline — with animation. Stand out pieces like sequined turtlenecks worn under thick wool Bar dresses (some with structural boning, some with reversed seams) and coated swing jackets or large-plaid minis determined that.

So did a series of white, lightweight masculine trousers paired with similar sequins under Fair Isle knit tanks and the bravura of the collection — no doubt a set of Fair Isle dresses presented entirely in paillettes — held up against a set of braided pig tail buns and eyelids rendered in thick strokes of black eyeliner topped by thinner, futuristic silver metallic strokes.

Fake snow fell from the ceiling. In certain moments, there were as many as twelve models on the makeshift runway, providing visual stimulation as overwhelming as the neighboring Yokoami. But the real magic of the whole 64-look-thing was a matter of ebullient energy. The unflinching notion that behind these clothes was such a sparkling sense of excitement and adventure, you wonder why it took so long to get here.

All images via

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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