TOKYO – When many people think of Japanese fashion they more than likely imagine the “Harajuku” style of over-the-top, totally out there, anime characters. While this isn’t fashion exactly – it’s about various sub-cultural groups based on bands or a particular idea – a lot of it has come to define the
Japanese “look”.

alice auaa ss14 show at japan fashion week DECOR 1Dark and light, the gothic world of Alice Auaa Spring Summer 2014. Images: Wesley Kow

So, at first sight a brand like Alice Auaa could be simply dismissed as a cult, genre-specific label, one that is less “fashion” and more “pop culture” since, after all, its adherents and fans do tend to look like they just stepped out of the pages of a gothic manga comic.

However if one takes the time to really look at the pieces and the philosophy of its designer Yasutaka Funakoshi, you can see the sheer beauty in the craftsmanship used to produce these amazing confections of leather, lace, silk and metal.

On October 18, 2013, Alice Auaa closed Japan Fashion Week to a sell out crowd of hardcore fashionistas and fans of the brand.

alice auaa ss14 show at japan fashion week DECOR 2Alice Auaa Spring Summer 2014. Images: Wesley Kow

Unfortunately all the show notes were in Japanese, the only concession being the Spring Summer 2014 collection’s title – “Sleeps in water” – so it’s a little difficult to know exactly what the designer was thinking about when he created this collection. However, coupled with the opening soundtrack featuring the “I love him, I love him” section of Björk’s track Pagan Poetry, a story unfolded amazingly clearly via Funakoshi’s lyrical vision.

A woman finds herself in an unrequited, crazy love (perhaps she’s left at the altar); the collection follows her as she first joins a convent, then descends into madness before finally doing away with herself via, one imagines, a large body of water. Whereupon she finds a new kind of world, a new love, and triumphs as some sort of watery goddess.

alice auaa ss14 show at japan fashion week DECOR 3Alice Auaa Spring Summer 2014. Images: Wesley Kow

Yes, there were some classic gothic tropes – the corseted waists, ruffles upon ruffles and sheer layers of chiffon trailing after the statuesque models – but there were also new, rounded, balloon-like shapes that offered a less obvious nod to the traditional goth borrowing from 18th and 19th century English clothing.

Known mostly for its extravagant womenswear, there were a few menswear looks, all black, all suitable gothic in some way with draping and leather corset belts. The monochromatic palette of black and white was enlivened only by the addition of watery gold towards the end of the show; created from who-knows-what, the gold detailing was clearly meant to represent seaweed of some sort.

There were also, of course, some pieces that were created for sheer theatricality … one look saw the model unsteadily walk the runway with a massive fish head covering her own head; she needed to hold on to it with both hands. Another model bore an enormous metal frame that jutted out at least a meter either side of her hips and had to be balanced on her waist with substantial leather straps.

alice auaa ss14 show at japan fashion week DECOR ODDTheatre at Alice Auaa Spring Summer 2014. Images: Wesley Kow

Despite these odd props, there were some amazingly intricate pieces of craft on the runway; the amount of work that goes into creating just one of the finely-fitted, detailed bodices alone is mind-boggling, let alone the hundreds of tiny pintucks and ruffles that completely covered one baby doll style dress.

Alice Auaa is certainly not to everyone’s taste, in fact you’d have to be a very particular type of person to buy this brand; all that detailing work and exquisitely fine fabric doesn’t come cheap.

Which is why the brand saw fit to stack its front row not just with the various media and stylists everyone else invites, but its loyal customers. After all, if you are spending ¥199,500 (S$2,500) on a coat, ¥84,000 on a dress or three, ¥48,300 on a jacket or two, ¥24,150 on a chiffon tee or five and ¥51,450 on a pair of boots – and that’s just for one season – then you deserve to sit front row. Besides, dressed in your Alice Auaa finest you tend to be as interesting, if not more so, than the runway itself.


Funakoshi has described the brand as “not merely categorising duality” but rather, “conveying a mode of avant-garde and romanticism based on the endless motif of the time of life in everything (creation from destruction), and the elegance and eroticism that dwells in incommodiousness”. If you can unravel that concept then you’ll be some way on the road to understanding the attraction of Alice Auaa for its obsessed fans.

For the uninitiated it is easy to write off a label like Alice Auaa as “cult” or “pop culture”; for the true fashionista a designer like Funakoshi is to be cherished for doing his own thing; for creating an army of supporters and for presenting what had to be the most theatrical of all the Spring Summer 2014 shows at Japan Fashion Week.

The Alice Auaa Spring Summer 2014 collection show was the closing show of Japan Fashion Week on October 18, 2013. For more information about Alice Auaa, go to For more information about Japan Fashion Week, go to; follow it on Facebook at and on Twitter at @jfw_official