Deftly Kolor-ed

With his masterful deconstruction, Junichi Abe propels Kolor from strength to strength

Kolor’s Junichi Abe has a way with deconstruction that is beguiling. It isn’t the same as what we have come to know as Japanese deconstructionism—at Comme des Garçons, for example, which can be rather confusing—but something quite different. The parts on the garments he makes are re-arranged, but they are recognisable: a collar, a sleeve, a placate. But the pieces do not appear as they should. More often than not, they seem constituents dismembered from other garments (even old clothes?) and then reassembled, as Victor Frankenstein might a sapient life form, to create necklines (especially), bodices, sleeves that are fetching, not freaky, amalgams of similar garments, rather that the hybridised forms that his wife Chitose Abe prefers for her label Sacai. The Kolor aesthetic is not so much a chromatic blend as a mash-up of parts, and therein lies the label’s irresistible pull.

Mr Abe did not always present Kolor in this manner, but in recent years, he has become more adept at this mixing of parts (not necessarily matching), and it reached quite a high in the spring/summer 2022 collection. He can, for example, fuse polo collars with the V necks of sweaters, and ribbed round-necks can be linked to other ribbed round-necks, all the while providing a comfortable opening for the neck. Graphic designers might recognise the work as cut and paste. But, now matter how many bits are assembled, there is always a balance in the form and silhouette of the garments. No one is going to mistake a sweater for a jogger, a blouson for a skirt, even if they look disjointed at times. In fact, it is the recognisability and wearability of the clothes that fans continue to visit Kolor for their beyond-basics.

This season, Kolor’s show is a digital presentation shared during Paris Fashion Week (whether there would be an IRL reprise in Tokyo later—as in last year—is not known yet). The runway is within a lab-like space with glass walls and ceiling that reflect the models’ images and what they wear, as in a house of mirrors. At some point, the viewer is given a glimpse of the outside of the rectangular tunnel, and it looks like rush hour in a Japanese underground train station, with uniformed men and women rushing to somewhere. And then it’s a return to the calm on the runway (although the soundtrack by Sakanaction offers no clue of this orderliness). Perhaps Mr Abe is saying that no matter how incoherent (rambling?) the externals of his clothing might be, there is an orderliness within, and a structure that is assuring and confidence-boosting?

Many of the pieces could be described as work clothes. But what fantastic work wear they are and how not belonging to any work site! Jackets have a mysterious collar unfurled onto the lapel—on one side; blazers appear to have the tail of an inner garment slipped through a vent, necklines of sweaters look like scarves crisscrossed on the collarbone; sleeves of outers are puffed on one side, as if the sewer did not get that side of the cut pattern; coats reveal portions that are inside-turned-out, and we could go on. There is a lot to see. And unpack, which may not be necessary at all. It is too easy to be pulled into the off-beat world of Kolor and remain within. There is no denying that Junichi Abe is an innovative designer, but perhaps even more appealing, he is one pushing boundary-within-boundary too.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Kolor

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