We all have an idea of what fashion in Tokyo entails. Harajuku girls, manga-inspired makeup, doll-like dresses embellished with lace, Muji minimalism and bold, Comme Des Garçons silhouettes. Our perceptions of Japanese fashion from the West understand boldness and visual excess, yet there are innumerable nuances within Tokyo’s fashion scene as seen through labels such as Pugment.
Founded in 2014 by Karin Imafuky and Masahiro Otani, the designers created Pugment not only as a fashion label, but as a fine art practice that connects clothing with society. On the benefits of operating in the world of art, as well as the constantly shifting paradigms of fashion, the designers tell It’s Nice That: “We want to work with a timeline of hundreds of years instead of a single season. Although fashion is transmitted through generations, art is based on ideas that transcend the timelines of fashion and can extend hundreds of years in the future and beyond.” By viewing themselves as artists as well as fashion designers, Karin and Masahiro are able to “express [them]selves beyond this era” and the fickle scale of a human’s lifetime.
In Tokyo, fashion trends and “creativity within fashion is expressed by the youth who showcase their style around the city rather than through designers.” Karin and Masahiro assert that “the existence of social classes is less pronounced in Tokyo than in Europe and America”, seen through the explicit sense of self-expression of the notoriously fashionable Tokyo-ites. “We have a culture of enjoying fashionable clothing for daily use instead of high fashion,” says the design duo. Those without the financial means to buy new clothes, instead “recreate the latest styles from bricolages” and in turn, Pugment picks up on “the context and stories” behind these fashion stories and applies this analysis to its own brand, resulting in “clothing that reflects the reality of modern-day Tokyo”.
Karin and Masahiro reject the canon of “consuming fashion symbolically” and believe that people should think about clothing on par with the environment to “form a new relationship” between the two. While maintaining the importance of feeling “beautiful in your own clothes”,
at its core, Pugment also aims to provide a social evaluation of Tokyo’s fashion scene.
In their latest collection for autumn 2018 titled 1XXX-2018-2XXX, the designers base the clothing around a sci-fi narrative “where fashion is a sentient entity that takes over protective clothing in a future where humans no longer exist.” The collection subverts fashion norms by rethinking how an image of a “look” usually transcends a place and time, rather than the actual clothing itself. Printed images — based on the history of fashion in post-war Japan — are seen on semitransparent veils which explore this subtle relationship between the image and object of fashion. And despite the fact that Pugment’s work has been published in a book, and impressively spans the disciplines of fashion, art and photography; the design pair hopes to further expand their work to encompass music, graphic design, architecture and more, in the hopes of avoiding restricting their creative practice through the limitations of a discipline.
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