Kolor’s Juniche Abe takes the less-than-ordinary and makes them everyday. And vice-versa. The result are clothes that stay above the humdrum
Shibuya, Tokyo. Any day.
If you have been to what is repeatedly dubbed as the second busiest mass rapid transit station in the world (after Shinjuku, about 4km away), you’d probably know that moving through the crowd leaves you no space to people watch. If you don’t notice the commuters, chances are, you won’t notice their clothes. This is the part of Tokyo that is a little vexing for fashion watchers. In the hustle and bustle, the moving mass is not quite a collision of individualists.
Yet it is in Shibuya that Juniche Abe chose to film his spring/summer collection. That he chose to present video clips rather than the traditional show that he has been staging in Paris for the past six years is perhaps indication that Mr Abe is making a statement about the street when such a point need not really be made in the present Men’s Fashion Week climate. With the stills evocative of Japanese street style, this could be a declaration that street wear in Tokyo is as valid as street wear in any part of America. For us, it’s better.
Kolor has always been a label that rejects the tag classic, yet Mr Abe is an adherent of rather classic ways of clothes-making, especially with his fondness for technical outdoor wear. This is not quite the technical of White Mountaineering—fashion that can test the tough conditions of a climb, but Kolor does pull components of technical garments to work into those pieces culled from sportswear and even collegiate clothes (and the occasional preppy blazer). Hybrid would be a lazy description as Kolor is not about amalgamating but enhancing.
Take their outwear. A blouson always looks like a blouson but it’s what Mr Abe adds to or subtracts from it that makes you wonder what to call this garment. A lightweight Harrington jacket from the latest collection, for example, is given a ribboned bib-front and is worn tucked into the trousers like a shirt. So is this a shirt or a jacket? It is not really a hybrid either, is it? Whatever you might wish to call it, the shirt-slash-jacket is not without its charm. And that is why Kolor is always so intriguing.
Furthermore, there is the colour. For a name that plays on colour (the K predates Kardashian’s vulgar fame), it would be strange that Mr Abe does not have a sharp chromatic sense. He does not use colours the way Raf Simons does, but Mr Abe has a rather keen sense of those that do not owe their brilliance to modern pigments. The hues he uses has almost a retro vibe: the burnt orange, hillbilly green, the rain-wear blue—these and their combinations border on the off-beat, something that will appeal to the fashion geek.
At times, it feels that what Kolor proposes is typical of Japanese labels also walking down this path, such as Sacai and Undercover. We can’t negate the fact that is Japanese aesthetics and motivation: never to quite leave a garment alone and unwilling to reject the desire to create the unexpected from standard forms. The most powerful street wear designer today Virgil Abloh owes much of Off-White’s DNA to the Japanese. Let’s see him deny that.