Look closely at the biographies of Japan’s top fashion designers, young and old, and you’ll likely come across mention of the Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix, a prestigious industry award presented by Tokyo’s Mainichi newspaper. Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo was the first to grab the honors in 1983. More recent winners have included Toga and Mina Perhonen.
This year, the prize went to quirky label Mint Designs, even if its designers and Central Saint Martins grads Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi approach the label more as product design than fashion. The designers are on a mission to create, say, a coat or a sock in the way an industrial designer might endeavor to perfect a chair. As such, each season is less about presenting a new look and more about getting nearer to this elusive ideal.
This has not made Mint Designs immediate fashion darlings. “We’ve had this concept since we started the brand, which not so many people got,” they said. “But now people who are design-conscious, though not necessarily fashion-conscious, like our clothes.” Their latest collection, auspiciously titled “A New Hope,” won over the jury with voluminous pieces (like maxi dresses and coats) tempered with careful stitching and geometric prints.
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