Buying for a retail space, be it a physical location or online, can be a tedious and daunting task. Some buyers prefer to play it safe by going with established brands, while others travel around the world in search of designers that their patrons may not know of just yet.
Many Japanese street brands have only become available internationally over the past few years, making Japan a new bastion for the international buyer. The country is bursting with authentic and extremely skilled designers and Japanese brands have become highly sought after within high-end streetwear circles. One designer making his way through the international market is Yukio Mishiba.
|Yukio Mishiba. Source: caraandco.net.|
A textile designer and importer since 1985, Mishiba has an extensive history within the fashion and textile industries. His company, Molto Belle Limited, produces textiles, plans and manages apparel production, and handles the sale of a wide variety of garments worldwide. However, it wasn't until 2008 that Mishiba created the Gene line.
Not often does one find someone with a business background launch into the risky waters of post-modern clothing construction: non-uniform layering, overly simplified enclosures and asymmetrical zippers abound. That being said, Gene seems more of a labour of love than a method of increasing profit margins for the parent company.
Due to differences in sizing and distribution regulations between Japan and North America/Europe, it can be difficult for fashion connoisseurs outside of Japan to obtain coveted Japanese items. But because of Mishiba's prior experience in selling to an international audience, he was able to launch internationally right away, with exhibitions in Italy, Paris and New York during Gene's first year. Now with a healthy list of shops and showrooms in over 23 locations - Milan, Moscow, New York, Hong Kong, etc. - it's apparent that buyers around the globe are taking note. Currently, the line is available at several Canadian retailers, including Crome Yellow.
Gene's formal side.
Another advantage Mishiba has over many others in the industry is the fact that he actually produces much of his own fabrics. This allows him to maximise how accurately an envisioned piece can come to life and to keep everything Japanese-made. Too often, designers are at the mercy of available fabrics. His self-made fabrics could also be one of the reasons why he is able to add such complexity to his pieces, since he doesn't have to cut corners due to fabric restrictions. There are probably quite a few designers that would kill for a bolt of his custom fabric, given how specific the ingredients and processing seems to be.
Despite Gene being widely available, very little information about the line or Mishiba himself surfaces in the Western world. While some press is available in Japanese and Russian, next to no information is available in English, outside of short designer profiles on online stores. Again, this may be due to the fact that most Japanese apparel has only made its way out of the country within the last few years. Pick up any fashion magazine from Japan - at a retail location like Haven in Edmonton, for example - and you'll immediately notice how much more insular the industry is in Japan.
What international retailers such as the UK's Autograph have discovered is that, unlike many other high-end labels, Gene is essentially two collections within each release. Every season, Mishiba creates a grouping of more tailored dress pieces (blazers, long sleeve and polo shirts), as well as a number of overtly drapey, distressed or sleeveless pieces which seem to have come from a very different direction.
Not surprisingly, many collections come with a full assortment of tops, bottoms, outerwear, footwear and accessories. Many distributors and retailers choose to buy both styles, because each side pays such strict attention to detail and quality. Despite the differences in the visual aesthetic of the pieces, the more dress-oriented garments mesh well with the edgier and avant-garde, as is often showcased in the lookbooks for the Gene collections.
Gene's philosophy is that, "possibilities are spread through the genetic transcending of the 'chooser' and the one who chooses the attire. It is borderless, no race nor age. Free sensibility and creativity are achieved at this instant, and then new genes are released." Mishiba attempts to subvert the traditional notion of apparel as a simple consumer item by making the choice of purchase one of deep internal foresight.
These "new genes" may be the creative ideas or forms generated from the adaptation of the Gene lifestyle, as the clothing begins to make or influence the individual. Even staple pieces - such as a collared or long-sleeve shirt - stand out from the norm; proving that, while Gene may sometimes appear to be comfortable to the average consumer, they aren't simple comfort pieces. You aren't going to blend in with the crowd. This is the genetic difference that sets the Gene wearer apart.
Not your average trench coat.
Official statements on the Gene website equate apparel with genetic structures, hence the name "Gene." Each piece is "a complete product of transcended variety of genes. The fabric becomes newer, by the designer's professional craftsmanship, and creates a visualization of different tastes and nuances. There is no reproduction nor limitations in the process."
At first, it almost reads like a Greg Bear novel. Bear might actually be a good analogy of Gene, given its post-human quality. Smatterings of over-distressing, large angular panels and atypical enclosures abound in a way that transcends much of the limitations of traditional Japanese construction. The line is also very asexual, never actually claiming to be menswear. Given the fit of many of the pieces, they can work with almost any body type.
The mystique of the cloistered Japanese designer is certainly not lost on Yukio Mishiba. With a highly philosophical outlook for the collection and a strongly identifiable look, Gene sets itself apart from both the norms of streetwear and established avant-garde fare by oddly hovering somewhere around the ambiguous centre. As far as price point is concerned, you'll also find it a far cry from the standards set by the StyleZeitgeist staples. Including import fees, you'll find the line much more accessible financially. With its list of distributors growing internationally, expect to see pieces from the line popping up in your favorite high-end retailers. Don't worry: you'll know it when you see it.
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