Edit&Text by Yukihisa Takei（HONEYEE.COM）
Photo by Rintaro Ishige
A Sneak Peek Backstage at the Maison MIHARA YASUHIRO’s Show in Asakusa, Tokyo
In January 2022, Maison MIHARA YASUHIRO held A/W 2022 runway show in Asakusa, Tokyo at the Sushiya-dori shopping arcade. This was the brand's first physical show since the Covid pandemic, and also the first time in a long time that returned to the city of Tokyo where its the home of the brand. We caught up with the backstage to cover the show, which made a real buzz on social media.
Invitation Designed Look Like a Supermarket Flyer
It was around the end of 2021 that the designer, Yasuhiro Mihara, told me that the show would be held at the Susiya-dori shopping arcade in Asakusa. The Maison MIHARA YASUHIRO office is now located in the Harajuku area, but the venue is a place of starting point for Mihara, as he started his shoe brand in 1996 in Asakusa, the centre of shoe manufacturing in Tokyo.
The moment I heard about the location, which is one of the most popular old towns in Tokyo and attracts tourists from all over the world, I had a feeling that it would be a great show, but I was already convinced when the invitation arrived at the office earlier in the year. The invitation looked so much like a typical Japanese supermarket flyer that I almost put it in the bin, mistaking it for the spam (In fact, another editor I spoke at the show said he threw it away by mistake).
The Designer's Focus on “Playfulness"
Yasuhiro Mihara's fashion designs are always full of playfulness. This can be seen in his recent sneaker designs, in which the sole is moulded out of clay, but it also applies to his clothing creations. The clothes, which incorporate a lot of mixed techniques, often reinterpret existing fashion elements, reflecting the designer's character, who confronts fashion with an open mind, but with a somewhat contrarian output.
In the last interview, Mihara repeatedly talked about the importance of "playfulness" in creation, referring to the book "Homo Ludens" by the anthropologist Johan Huizinga, his all-time favourite book. It was easy to imagine that this playfulness would be shown off at this show, but what was waiting at the venue was more than I could have expected.
In the press release, Mihara says, "In an age where global information is becoming more and more accessible, I thought about the localism that lies within myself”. For Mihara, that localism means the atmosphere of Tokyo in the 1990s, when he started his brand, as well as the locations such as Harajuku and Asakusa, where he started his business.
The atmosphere of Tokyo in the 1990s
Coincidentally, I was born in the same year as the designer Yasuhiro Mihara, and as an editor who experienced the Tokyo culture in the 1990s, I can look back and remember the kind of chaos that existed in the city of Tokyo at that time.
The '90s saw a new movement emerging in Ura-Harajuku, while still retaining a strong American casual influence in fashion. Magazine culture had a much stronger influence than it does today, and many subcultures were born from it. Amid this frenzy, the lines between what was the main culture and what was subculture were blurred, and even minor things suddenly became major the moment they appeared in a magazine.
Most of the people walking the streets in the Ura-Harajuku area and hanging out in the clubs were “unidentified". Today, with the rise of social media, it's quite easy to identify the “famous-ish” people, but back in the '90s, people who appeared in magazines were famous without a doubt, and everyone else was just ordinary people. Even if you wondered who that fashionable person was, or who that eccentrically dressed person was, there was no way to find out unless you were able to join that community, and in the '90s these people were all over Shibuya and Harajuku areas.
This memory came back to me when I saw a group of 80 models gathered near the show venue. Although there were some professional models, there were also a lot of non-professional but very unique models who I couldn't help wondering who they were. Each of them had their own professional life, and this was perfectly matched with the strong design of the clothes in this collection.
At the fitting, Mihara called out the names of the models one by one after they had finished their make-up, and he was making sure that their styling was right.
Rehearsals Like a Live Concert Venue
This show had several "tricks" hidden for the guests. They even got permission to use this crowded shopping arcade from the morning on the day of the show to make sure all the "tricks” are fine. Then the rehearsal began in the early afternoon with a performance by The SKA FLAMES, a Japanese ska band formed in the 1980s.
The twelve-piece big band gathered under the shopping arcade to perform the ska sound that they have developed over the years as if it were an actual show.
The band Asakusa Zinta, the other band in this "live" show, were also sound-checking on the runway in riding on a DIY bicycle sidecar with their own sound system.
Both were filled with euphoria, and the music, which was more "festival" than a fashion show, was so fitted in the shopping arcade of Asakusa that many people passing through the there would have mistaken it for a local event.
About two hours before the show began, 80 models who had finished their fittings appeared on stage for the final rehearsal, which was almost like the actual show. The live music echoing through the shopping arcade, the models walking at uneven paces and with unique personalities, and Maison MIHARA YASUHIRO's new collection, all working in unison to create a powerful atmosphere. I could imagine the guests enjoying this show after the number of physical events has been drastically affected by the Covid pandemic as we were all starving for the time to share the fun created by the "human connection".
After the rehearsal, I saw Mihara chatting with the owner of one of the restaurants in the Sushiya-dori arcade and I told him that even just the rehearsal was enough to get me excited, he looked relieved and happy, but what was awaiting at the show was beyond that.
All Standing Runway Show
Around 4 pm, the guests started to arrive. As you all know, runway shows are mostly seated, and people in the fashion industry are often interested in other things than the show itself, such as "front row" or not, but this show was all standing. With a large area taken up by a video camera set up for filming, guests were standing very close to the models. Besides that, the band set of The SKA FLAMES was also standing by. I was slightly unsure whether the shopping arcade would be able to accommodate all the guests.
The show began at 5.00 pm with The SKA FLAMES shouting "Tokyo Show!” and their performance. The 80-metre long runway was filled with guests from one end to the other.
During the show, something unexpected happened. A police car and officers came into the middle of the runway where the models were walking along. I've never heard of the police coming to a runway show and forcing it to stop, but a couple of policemen got out of the car, which had the 'Metropolitan Police Department' on it. The moment the crowd was in an uproar, it was the designer himself, Yasuhiro Mihara, dressed as a policeman, who appeared from the car.
Mihara had told us about this " accident " beforehand, and we had seen him checking the safety with a regular passenger car in the rehearsal, but when it happened during the show, it enthused the whole crowd.
Designers at fashion shows usually appear from behind the curtain at the end of the show, give a small wave or bow, and then disappear again.
This may be to convey the message that "the main focus of the show is not myself, it's the clothes", but on that day, Mihara was dressed like a policeman wearing teardrop sunglasses, guiding the models as they walked around, and sometimes even taking the guests in and checking their belongings. He was just doing whatever he liked. Mihara's unexpected appearance drew the attention of the guests turning their smartphones to the designer, and the venue was filled with laughter and smiles.
The Frenzy of the 90s
As the models went round the runway and The SKA FLAMES finished their performance, the theme song from the movie "It's Tough Being a Man" on trumpets started to echo from behind the runway. When the local band Asakusa Zinta came onto the runway with all the models came back again, the venue was filled with glittering confetti.
A flurry of cheers calling out the designers' names. It seemed more like a live encore than a fashion show, like the finale of some kind of festival. Is this the right kind of fashion show? How will the people in the international fashion industry feel when they watch this online during Paris Fashion Week? These are questions that Mihara himself must have asked himself many times, and his words from the recent interview, "It's important to have a playfulness", kept repeating in my head.
The enthusiasm and excitement of the guests after the show was something you don't usually see at a fashion show. On the evening of Friday 21 January, the day the video presentation was shown at the Paris Collection, there was a flurry of praise for this show on social media (*uploading was banned until that day).
That night, when I messaged Mihara saying that it was so great, he replied with one word: “I went too wild”. I read that as a bit of embarrassment at having pulled it off, rather than regret.
The Japanese brands' collections for the Autumn / Winter 2022 season overall reflected the mood of the 90s in their creations and show direction. It is not only the outward appearance of fashion that designers looking at or rethinking the 90s.
As the theme of Maison MIHARA YASUHIRO's this season "SELF CULTURE” implies, I think that Japanese designers are showing once again that there were many cultures and freedoms in the chaos of that era.
Maison MIHARA YASUHIRO