Fashion

Japanese fashion label Jun Okamoto comes to Singapore

SEE PHOTOS: We chat to Japanese fashion designer Jun Okamoto about his SS13 collection & visiting Singapore as part of Hello, Shibuya Tokyo pop-up shopping event
 

The Hello, Shibuya Tokyo Fashion & Culture Mix Show with Singapore pop-up shopping event from February 22 to March 10, 2013, at Plaza Singapura will feature over 20 Japanese fashion and lifestyle brands and looks set to cause a shopping frenzy among Singapore fashionistas.

One of the brands to be featured is the simple, yet sophisticated and somewhat literary work of designer Jun Okamoto. Starting out as an assistant at Alexandre Matthieu – a French label begun by Alexandre Morgado and Matthieu Bureau which originally focused on high-end ready-to-wear and moved into haute couture in 2009 – Okomoto-San began his eponymous label in 2002.

Jun Okamoto Spring Summer 2013 DECOR
Looks from Jun Okamoto Spring Summer 2013

Finding his inspiration in wandering around different cities and creating “stories”, Okomoto-San’s designs are whimsical, but wearable, with an intrinsic femininity even in his menswear, which he says is often actually bought by women.

There is a louche softness to the pieces from Jun Okamoto, a seeming casualness that belies the rigorous structure of the cut – more clearly seen in the suiting. Prints are also a gentle counterpoint to more solid block colours, while the layers add volume to the more simple pieces.

The story behind Jun Okamoto Spring Summer 2013, the collection that will be available in Singapore at the Hello, Shibuya Tokyo pop-up event, “Flowers balloons and a man who brings rain”, follows the story of a couple who “... never meet on days but it rains.”

Beginning with an almost childlike lightness, the collection moves through more muted shades, mimicking the overcast skies, before returning to bright shades as the couple walk through Shibuya sharing an umbrella, discovering spring flowers, the boy tying balloons to the flowers and singing “The boy with the thorn in his side ” by The Smiths; and drawing “subtropics fish”.

It is very clear that Okomoto-San is a designer who works from his own vivid imagination, corralling his ideas via the medium of literature; every collection comes with a story that adds to the wearer’s understanding of the clothes.

herworldPLUS had the chance to sit down and chat with Jun Okamoto on a cold day in January thanks to the team from Parco Japan, the organisers of the Hello, Shibuya Tokyo Fashion & Culture Mix Show with Singapore pop-up event.

WHAT IS THE CONCEPT BEHIND THE BRAND, JUN OKAMOTO?
When it comes to brand concept, I write the stories myself and there are expressions and details in the story which I reflect in the prints on the clothes.

Where do the stories come from? My day to day life, and words used when I communicate with my friends and other people. I lived in Paris for 12 years when I was a student, my experience of living in Paris; what I felt while I was in Paris has always been reflected in my designs, for example, conversations, encounters with other people, my student career and my work career have always reflected on my designs.

So by writing the words of my stories people can create a kind of attachment to the piece, they can have a more emotional attachment.

The main person in the story is a man – it could be a story about a girl from his perspective, a conversation between the two … there’s always a man, and his feelings about a girl he likes – whatever the story – and then [I design] the clothes for that girl.

In the Spring Summer 2013 collection [which is going to Singapore], the main role in that story is a man who brings rain wherever he goes, so whenever he goes out for a date with his girlfriend it always rains – so they have a conversation holding an umbrella; sharing one umbrella – but this is the memory of the relationship as they’ve already separated … so he tries some sort of ‘magic’ to try to get her back ... flowers, balloons, a tropical fish print on the umbrella … [these turn into] flower prints, a rain print [in the collection].

And no, no, [laughs] … the man in the story isn’t me.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE ‘STYLE’ OF JUN OKAMOTO?
Even though I don’t intentionally do it, people describe my clothes as feminine or girlie, but I like designing jackets, suiting, tailoring. This is from my experience in Paris. I also like to create a luxurious feeling – I like to reflect that in my pieces, while taking into account the tastes of Japanese women. It’s about striking a balance. My menswear line is quite unisex, and women often buy it too, the textures of the fabrics are very soft, and think female buyers also like this.

IS THERE SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOUR BRAND PARTICULARLY ‘JAPANESE’ OR DOES IT HAVE A MORE GLOBAL CONCEPT?
Most of our pieces are sewn using a straight line, a more European way of cutting and producing a garment – one of the things I learnt in Paris. For example you can spend a lot of effort on creating a military [style] jacket, but rather than that, I make my pieces more simply.

I think that’s the addition of a Japanese esthetic to the European way of doing things. Ironically, in Japan they say [my style is] more European, in Europe they say it’s Japanese … but I think it’s the mix that makes it a modern form of Japanese design.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE SINGAPORE SHOPPERS TO SEE YOUR BRAND?
I’d like the Singapore people to understand the stories behind the collection, and I want them to just try it on; because it looks a lot different [on the body] from when its just on the hanger.

I visited Singapore around Christmas time [2012] – there were lots of people and it was warm; Singapore is the only Asian country I’ve visited. I thought the people were more stylish than I expected [them to be] in Asia … and the city was very clean.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE INTEREST OF THE WESTERN FASHION INDUSTRY IN ASIAN DESIGNERS / ASIAN INFLUENCES? IE. SS13 COLLECTIONS FROM PRADA ETC
I mentioned that I lived in Paris; having grown up in Japan, I dreamed of Europe and admired the culture. Thinking about Europe from Japan is easier we’ve had a lot of exposure but for Europeans, thinking about Japan is harder. It’s harder for them to discover what’s ‘interesting’ about Asian culture.

When I think that the Europeans are now discovering more about the interesting things about Asia and Asian culture, I [realise] that they’ve just started to discover what’s been hidden in the Japanese and Asian cultures. But I think people are learning more – Murakami, tacky and nerdy culture – I do think it’s too biased towards these things but I think this is because it’s actually easier for them to understand since it sort of started with American pop culture.

The Jun Okamoto Spring Summer 2013 collection will be available at the Hello, Shibuya Tokyo Fashion & Culture Mix Show with Singapore pop-up shopping event that will run from February 22 to March 10, 2013, and will be held at the Main Atrium, Level 1, Plaza Singapura daily from 11am to 9.30pm and until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free. For more information about Jun Okamoto, go to www.junokamoto.com. For more information about Hello, Shibuya Tokyo, go www.helloshibuyatokyo.jp or follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/helloshibuyatokyo.

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