In the four short years since launching, Akiko Aoki has quickly become one of the most talked-about brands on the Tokyo Fashion Week calendar. So when she chose to stage her fall show in a tiny underground space, the city’s top editors clamored for one of the few seats. The setup seemed a bit strange at first, with the audience seated on one side of the room facing a wall of mirrors, in front of which were five sets of white pipes, a shoehorn at the base of each, and in the middle, a single pair of oxfords.

But the props hinted at what was to come, as did the two men dressed in black suits and white gloves who wheeled out racks of clothing, which they transferred to the pipes. Aoki blurred the lines between the runway and backstage by having her models change into the different looks right in front of the audience. It was an unusual choice that worked well for the collection, emphasizing the versatility of the men’s wear-inspired shirts and dresses.

The models came out first in shirts or shirtdresses, which were then tucked into pants or layered under a jacket with long, asymmetric panels. Suiting and shirting fabrics traditionally used in men’s tailoring were given a  feminine touch with puff sleeves, gathering and ruffles. A white pantsuit was sprayed with yellow and black paint, which Aoki said was inspired by graffiti.

Aoki is one designer who clearly has her finger on the pulse of what Tokyo women want. She produced a tight collection of multifunctional pieces that follow recent trends while remaining unique.

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