Chitose Abe is what one might call a fashion late bloomer.Roughly 15 years after launching her Tokyo-based collection, Sacai, Abe has experienced a recent surge in interest. Some credit the uptick to Karl Lagerfeld, who was seen wearing a Sacai blazer around Paris last season; others pinpoint Anna Wintour’s pit stop in Abe’s showroom during a 2011 trip to Tokyo. Regardless, the press caught onto Sacai when Abe upgraded her Paris presentation to a full runway show for fall 2011. “I felt the clothes needed to be worn on the runway to see the three-dimensionality of them,” said Abe of her hybrid cuts — spring’s sporty Windbreakers in grand Sixties couture volumes, for example — during an interview Tuesday morning at Barneys New York’s Madison Avenue flagship.Making an impact on the Paris show schedule has thrust Abe’s business into expansion mode outside of Japan, where she’s had a steady following and a freestanding store since 2011. She sees the U.S. market as the biggest opportunity, thus this week’s trip to the States for the first time in seven years. She’s doing bicoastal personal appearances with Barneys, today at the Madison Avenue flagship followed by a small dinner at Omar’s. Her next stop is Los Angeles for a store appearance on Thursday and an event at the Hammer Museum on Friday.RELATED STORY: Sacai RTW Spring 2014 >> Arriving in New York on Monday left little time for touring, although visiting downtown art galleries and some furniture shopping were on Abe’s agenda, with the opportunity to interact with her American clientele as the big priority. “I’m very proud to be an independent woman, a mother of a 15-year-old daughter, with a full-time job,” said Abe. “I think women in America identify with that more than in other places.”Barneys stocks Sacai’s main collection as well as the more casual Sacai Luck, yet interestingly, Abe said that her runway pieces are the top sellers in the U.S., where they attract “women who want to feel empowered by clothes but don’t feel the need to wear a power suit,” she said. Indeed, the Sacai aesthetic, with its focus on complicated cuts and what Abe describes as “something a little off” can be classified as distinctly Japanese. Prior to launching her own line, Abe worked at Comme des Garçons as a patternmaker with Rei Kawakubo before joining Junya Watanabe’s design team. Abe’s interpretation of Comme des Garçons’s avant school of thought is more playful and light than Kawakubo and Watanabe’s work. It’s tempting to call the look youthful, particularly in light of the bright and athletic collection she just showed for spring, but Abe says her customer base covers a broad age range. “Women in their 60s wear it, at least in Japan, and much younger women, too,” said Abe, 48, who made the case for the individualist wearability of her line by dressing in a velvet dress and trench combination from her fall collection — paired with high-top Vans and a handful of Repossi rings. Her outfit was definitely not wearing her.
A grooming moment between @tanfrance and @antoni last night at the The LGBT Community Center Trailblazer Awards honoring Anna Wintour, Ricky Martin and more. See more photos at WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
“It was a very surreal feeling. It wasn’t like we were in the studio together coming up with it — it’s more like he discovered it and loved it. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up, but then it happened it was very exciting,” said singer-songwriter @nombe on discovering that @pharrell would be using his song, “Cant Catch Me” on his HBO documentary series “Outpost.” The German-born singer — named Noah MacBeth — talked to WWD about feminism, using art as a platform for political expression and personal style. Read more on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
This season, denim is going west – in influence. Brands like @fathersdaughterla (pictured here), @tommyhilfiger Jeans, @levis and more are opting for raw, top-stitching styles. (Styled by @thealexbadia; 📷: @ryanplett)
20-year-old British singer @jorjasmith_ made her debut at Coachella last weekend. We caught up with her and talked about her love for Amy Winehouse, working with Kendrick Lamar on the “Black Panther” album and her fashion philosophy. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @katiedaisyla)
Supermodel @helenachristensen teamed up with longtime friend and designer @camillastaerk on a joint @paredeyewear collaboration. The lineup features three styles and 11 offerings, all of which embody a vintage feel. Get all the details on how they celebrated the collab on WWD.com. #wwdaccessories #wwdeye (📷: @slovekinpics)
“It’s a hard industry to keep motivated, as well, so finding different subjects and people is what makes it worth it – when you’re like, oh, I’ve met great people, I feel like I’ve done something good, and I feel proud of having done this,” said French actress Stacy Martin on being grateful for the variety of roles she’s take on. Read @ktauer’s full interview with Martin on her her latest film “Godard Mon Amour.” #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)