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SINGAPORE – Emerging Japanese fashion designer Jun Okamoto is showing his eponymous menswear and womenswear label outside Japan for the first time in Singapore as part of the Future Fashion Now x Parco Japan showcase initiative of Audi Fashion Festival; and he still seems surprised about it.

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 – Okamoto launched his brand in Tokyo in 2002.

Jun Okamoto at Audi Fashion Festival 2013 DECOR AUTUMN WINTER 1

His show comprising a mix of pieces from Spring Summer 2013 and Autumn Winter 2013 was featured in the Future Fashion Now (FFN) segment of Audi Fashion Festival 2013, on May 18. FFN is a pre-order shopping website that features emerging fashion brands; customers can pre-order pieces from upcoming collections and have them pre-delivered before they arrive in stores.

herworldPLUS had a chance to ask Jun Okamoto about his reaction to being invited to show in Singapore, as well as what his feelings were about this island nation.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SHOWING OVERSEAS FOR THE FIRST TIME; AND THAT THE COUNTRY YOU’RE DOING IT IN IS SINGAPORE?
I’m very happy about it; I used to live in Paris but after I went back to Japan and then started the brand in Tokyo, I didn’t really think about about travelling or working overseas for a while, but then I gradually had a desire to do a show outside Japan. I thought it would be in Paris; when I was asked to come to Singapore it was very unexpected. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like.

What would the people be like? What would they think of my collections? It was easy to imagine what the reaction would be like, but in Singapore it was … well, really unimaginable. I’m very excited about [the experience]. It’s more fun because everything is so new.

YOUR IMAGINATION IS CENTRAL TO HOW YOU GO ABOUT CREATING YOUR COLLECTIONS, BUT YOU REALLY DIDN’T HAVE ANY IDEAS ABOUT WHAT SINGAPORE WOULD BE LIKE?
I really hadn’t even thought about what Singapore would be like, let alone what it would be like to produce a runway show there. For example … what kind of models would be available? Would the staff be able to speak Japanese … I was thinking about all these practical kinds of things; not thinking about the ‘feeling’ of being there.

SO, HOW DO YOU ‘FEEL’ ABOUT SINGAPORE? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CITY?
In Singapore technology and nature seems to be ‘kindly’ mixed together, there are buildings and trees right next to each other; I find that very interesting. And Singapore people also seem to be a mix between technology and nature. I’m getting excited about finding out how they think and wondering what they will think about my work.

FOR THE FFN SHOW OKAMOTO HAS COLLABORATED WITH SINGAPORE MUSICIANS ASPIDISTRAFLY. WE ASKED HIM WHY HE DECIDED TO DO THIS …
I think it’s very important to take into account the local people’s ideas and thoughts in some way; to work on a collaboration of some sort because otherwise, what I’m doing here is pointless. After all, I’m here to show my work but also to introduce people to my brand. I’d like them to feel a connection to my clothes.

I don’t want to change my overall style, but it’s also important to take the Singapore nuances into account. By working with Singapore musicians a new thing has been added to my show; it shows that I’m connecting in some way to the place I’m in now.

THE COMPLETELY STRANGE IDEA OF SHOWING OUTSIDE TOKYO ALSO LED OKAMOTO TO MAKE OTHER CHANGES …
Because I really couldn’t imagine what Singapore would be like – I had no reference points for the country – it also allowed me to do other new things like mixing pieces from my Spring Summer 2013 and the Autumn Winter 2013 collections together; I made a new story.

WILL YOUR EXPERIENCES IN SINGAPORE INFLUENCE YOUR FUTURE COLLECTIONS?
I think that maybe Singapore will influence my next collection. On the first day I arrived [early morning] it was raining, it was dark and I couldn’t feel anything. Then, after casting [the models for his show], I went outside and the sun was shining on water and huge silver, technical buildings and the sky was so clear and blue. So early in the morning, my brain was still asleep; I was really sure where I was, but after just a few hours everything changed and I experienced something surprising – it woke my brain up. [Laughs]

One “big” experience is apparently enough for Okamoto to hold onto as a source of many, many ideas for his label; until his trip to Singapore, the period he spent living and working in Paris has informed much of his imagination. It will be very interesting to see how Singapore will be translated into his future collections.

As for what else he will do while in Singapore, Okamoto smiled and replied that he just wanted to “walk around” – his usual practice when thinking about his next creative endeavour. “I want to have a beer and find somewhere comfortable … to just think about things,” he said.

JUN OKAMOTO SS13 & AW13 SHOW AT AUDI FASHION FESTIVAL
The combination of Jun Okamoto’s two most recent shows – the first based on the concept of “Flowers, balloons and a man who brings rain” and the second on  “A Sweet Breakfast for Her who Dislikes Coffee” – may seem disparate but the core concept of awkward romance between a man and a woman helps the two to blend together relatively well.

Jun Okamoto at Audi Fashion Festival 2013 DECOR SPRING SUMMERJun Okamoto at Audi Fashion Festival 2013 DECOR SPRING SUMMER 2
Jun Okamoto Spring Summer 2013 at Audi Fashion Festival 2013. Images: Wesley Kow

Having the new soundtrack by Aspidistrafly also helped to hold the two ideas together – there was no separation via sound of the two collections, except with some cleverly balanced tempo changes.

Okamoto’s signature light layers, draping and own-design prints also held the story together; the move from pale spring shades to summer brights then morphed into the muted shades of autumn and the dark greys, blues and silvers of winter, again helping the two collections become a more cohesive single range.

Jun Okamoto at Audi Fashion Festival 2013 DECOR AUTUMNJun Okamoto at Audi Fashion Festival 2013 DECOR WINTER
Jun Okamoto Autumn Winter 2013 at Audi Fashion Festival 2013. Images: Wesley Kow

Appreciative murmurs from the front row greeted Okamoto’s closing piece of SS13 in particular, the fully pleated dress hung from delicate shoulder straps in a shade of aqua; it looked substantial but in reality floated around the model’s body.

Likewise, the more tailored pieces from the AW13 collection also garnered comments, particularly the sage green overprinted felt skirt suit and fitted, pencil skirt with a long-line bomber jacket covered a silver foil print of coffee cups, sweets and baked goods.

The Jun Okamoto show at FFN was given a rousing round of applause, and backstage a delighted, and relieved, designer was all smiles as he headed off to do a round of interviews.

JUN OKAMOTO AT AUDI FASHION FESTIVAL 2013 FINALE:

Jun Okamoto SS13 & AW13 show was part of Future Fashion Now at Audi Fashion Festival 2013, on May 18. The Audi Fashion Festival 2013 is held at The Pit Building from May 15 to May 19, 2013. For more information, go to audifashionfestival.com, or follow Audi Fashion Festival on Twitter at @audifashionfest  and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AudiFashionFestivalSingapore. For more information about Future Fashion Now, go to www.futurefashionnow.com.

READ MORE: Jun Okamoto Autumn Winter 2012 collection review

For more information about Jun Okamoto, go to www.junokamoto.com and to shop Jun Okamoto online, go to www.parco-city.com/shop/jun-okamoto. You can follow Jun Okamoto on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jun.okamoto.526 and on Twitter at @junokamoto_.