TOKYO — Lanvin melded the worlds of fashion and sport here by staging a fashion show at the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo stadium.
Wednesday night’s event, a reprise of Lanvin’s spring women’s and men’s collections, attracted more than 1,000 guests, including Kanye West, who camped out in the second row with his entourage and attempted to conceal his identity with a black hooded sweatshirt and a scarf covering his face. Ai Tominaga opened the women’s portion of the show in a black asymmetric dress with a ruffled collar and a glove on one arm.
Creative director Alber Elbaz said he and his staff considered several potential locations for the show, including museums and temples, but the sumo stadium appealed to him for two reasons: He’s a fan of the sport, and he couldn’t miss the chance to break a cultural taboo.
“First of all, I love sumo,” the designer shared over breakfast at the Park Hyatt Hotel. “I watch it on TV, and I think that sumo wrestlers are gorgeous.”
Traditionally, women are prohibited from entering the stadium’s center ring, which is considered a sacred space. But Lanvin managed to secure permission to build a runway and scaffolding on top of that very spot. A gyoji, or sumo referee, clad in emerald silk, read from a scroll to announce the start of the show.
Elbaz said he sees parallels between sports and fashion. By way of explanation, he also made a dig at celebrities looking to leverage their fame into clothing lines.
“They may think that all it takes to do fashion is to be famous,” he said. “[But] you have to devote your life. You have to work hard. Imagine if I tell you I want to be a ballerina….I mean, I cannot even jump two centimeters, but can I be in the opera and jump? No. So I let the ballerina dance and the chef cook and the actor act and designer design.”
Elbaz took a more sympathetic tone when it came to talking about one of his design peers and a Japanese fashion legend, Yohji Yamamoto, whose company earlier this month filed for bankruptcy protection. A group of private equity investors has assumed control of the fashion house.
“You know that is the saddest thing for me,” said Elbaz. “That after all these years, you end up in Chapter 11, and such a genius and such a talent. But I’m not worried about Yohji. I’m sure he will be wonderful.”
The Tokyo show coincides with the reopening of Lanvin’s refurbished and expanded flagship in Ginza and the brand’s expansion drive into Asia. Thierry Andretta, chief executive officer, said Japan represents only about 7 percent of Lanvin’s sales but it is registering double-digit increases despite poor market conditions for luxury goods. Last year, sales at Lanvin rose 29 percent to 140.4 million euros, or $206.6 million at average exchange rates, although Andretta said he’s expecting a slight decrease for 2009. Those figures exclude the sale of some Japan-only product lines produced by its local partner Itochu.
The Lanvin store is located on Ginza’s main strip near luxury players like Van Cleef & Arpels and Salvatore Ferragamo, as well as fast fashion labels Zara and Hennes & Mauritz. The changing face of Tokyo’s most luxurious shopping district doesn’t seem to faze Elbaz.
“This is what life is all about,” he surmised. “Tradition can be nice, but tradition can be dangerous if you go only with that because you don’t go forward.”
Elbaz said he hasn’t been approached about doing a collaboration with a fast-fashion chain but he would consider it if the right offer came along.
“First let me find the bride,” he said. “Then I’ll see if I say I do or not.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast