Rising Japanese brand Doublet is drawing attention for a reason

Photo by Koji Shimamura
Models walk during Doublet’s 2022-2023 Fall-Winter show.

The 2022-2023 Autumn/Winter menswear collection was released in fashion capitals, such as Paris and Milan, from the end of January to early February.

What attracted me the most among the shows was the collection of Doublet, a Tokyo-based brand that gave an innovative show on Jan. 21. It was a physical show where models, watched by buyers and journalists, walked in the brand’s outfits, when about 50% of collection shows still seem to be streamed online due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The show was also streamed worldwide as the Doublet Fall-Winter 2022-23 Collection on the Paris Fashion Week website.

In Japan, journalists were told to go to Yoyogi Park in Tokyo at 1:45 p.m. on Jan. 21. Upon their arrival, they were put on a bus exclusively for them, unaware of their final destination. There was a traffic jam en route caused by a road accident, and it took them a good 2½ hours to reach the destination: the city of Ashikaga in Tochigi Prefecture. The journalists gasped in surprise as they got off the bus. Sprawling in front of them was Tokyo’s famous Shibuya crossing, faithfully re-created with details from the Hachiko Memorial Statue to graffiti on the walls. The place, however, was not created for the show. It is called Ashikaga Scramble City Studio, a film-set rental space modeled on the crossing in real scale.

Photo by Koji Shimamura
A model in fur

It is a restoration of Shibuya in the 1990s, when schoolgirls created a major fashion movement as they proudly walked down the streets with their uniforms fashionably modified. The scene was a reminder that the 1990s might have been the last decade when fashion had an innovative and appealing presence in Japan.

As dusk approached, the show began in the replicated scramble crossing.

It was not the first time for Doublet to surprise and delight journalists with a show. The brand has showcased collections at all kinds of venues, such as a family restaurant, an amusement park’s haunted house with zombies and an organic farm in Mitaka, Tokyo. Those shows also served as some form of social criticism, which is a characteristic of the brand. For example, the theme of the show this time was diversity, so it included plus-size models and models with disabilities. The models all wore a mask of the face of imma, a pink-haired virtual human, which evoked chuckles as it seemed to contradict the event’s theme. When the show ended, the models took off their masks to reveal there were both men and women present.

Photo by Koji Shimamura
A model with a prosthetic leg

As if to rebel against the sustainability movement of late, several of the clothes for the show used fur. But in truth, some of them were made with pieces of real fur that was in storage for a long time, and others were a mixture of real fur to be discarded and fake fur. I have the feeling this use of fur satirized blind sustainability.

Doublet’s previous show was held at the Mitaka Organic Farm on June 27 last year. The models were dressed in punk-style fashion and walked to the blast of punk music, seemingly indifferent to sustainability. What we see here is the brand’s peculiar sense of humor. While it is cynical, the brand is not completely denying sustainability or diversity.

Masayuki Ino, the designer of Doublet, became the first Asian person to win the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers in June 2018, which raised his profile overnight.

Photo by Koji Shimamura
A plus-size model

At 42, Ino is no longer very young. One may regard him as someone who has worked very hard to get where he is. What sealed his winning the grand prize of the fifth LVMH awards was a compressed T-shirt in a Cup Noodles container, which morphed into a full-fledged T-shirt when put in water. It also came with a warning, “Don’t use hot water!” The late Karl Lagerfeld, one of the judges of the awards, reportedly laughed heartily at the Cup-Noodles T-shirt and at another Doublet T-shirt compressed to the shape of a hanger.

At the core of Ino’s fashion is an exorbitant amount of energy in trying to surprise people and make them laugh. There aren’t many brands out there that make people look forward to seeing what they will do next.

Doublet is a word game conceived by Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In the game, each player changes a given word into another, one letter at a time, for example: tea — sea — set — sot — hot. It is impressive that Ino hit upon such a cool brand name. It seems his intellect is not to be overlooked. I’d like to witness how long he would last in that word game.