It wasn’t such a long time ago when the online luxury fashion retailer Net-A-Porter decided to include Japanese designer’s Hanako Maeda’s brand Adeam on their website. Without a single doubt, this was quite an impressive omen of a wider recognition, but it certainly wasn’t the first time the fashion world became aware of this name. In fact, Adeam appeared on the radars in 2013, when it presented its first collection during New York Fashion Week. And still, this kind of attention for a particularly young brand, coming from the online giant raised some very important questions: who is this woman, already being compared with such Japanese design legends as Rei Kawakubo?
Hanako hasn’t given many interviews yet, but there are certain things that emerge very quickly, some details that are impossible to ignore. It seems that fashion was her destiny, programmed from the very start: Her parents own fashion brand Foxey that presents ready-to-wear collections. It’s quite uncommon for a child to decide to create his/her own brand rather than develop family business (aren’t we already used to successful stories of different generations, or even dynasties, perpetuating family’s heritage?), but there aren’t many other traditional things in Hanako’s story anyway. Even though this young woman, who was born in Tokyo, grew surrounded by sketches and fabrics, had a possibility to decrypt the subtleties of design from a very young age, it wasn’t family’s influence or fascination for fashion that encouraged her to take her own, independent steps in this sphere. It’s quite the opposite. In New York, Hanako studied art history, anthropology as well as Greek and Roman cultures. It took some time until one of the most obvious realizations came upon her: Fashion is also art, only it has probably the biggest audience at its disposal and gives quite effective tools to express ideas. Just like many other young students, aspiring to be designers, Hanako started searching for internships. But not every young creator gets to be an intern in Vogue – this success acted as a very strong encouragement. After working in a prestigious fashion magazine and helping Phillip Lim with this designs, Hanako returned to Tokyo and established her label Adeam (which is her own name, only in backwards). She created a capsule collection and then presented it to her parents – Hanako doesn’t hide that in order to receive support and investment, the fact that she was their daughter wasn’t enough. She had to show a serious attitude and strong ideas without expecting any concessions.
It’s very difficult not to fall in clichés and stereotypical categories when talking about Japanese designers, not to give misleading conceptions. Adeam collections could be described as a cultural crossroad, something like Tokyo-meets-New York but also where other cultures are more than welcome, even if they’re overshadowed by these two principal urban centers. With almost scientific approach, Hanako dissects and displays what’s essential in this cultural conversation between the East and the West. By looking at Spring/Summer 2017 collection, I can’t help thinking about the French influence. There’s simply something very Dior-esque there (a bit from Bill Gaytten’s years) with those elegant, oversized silhouettes. But Japanese culture is undoubtedly prevalent, incarnated by intricate, origami-worthy cuts, the way clothes are matched together, finally, the subtle prints are also reminiscent of Japanese spirit. In Fall/Winter 2016-2017 collection, sentiment of Japanese arts and crafts is present, but what’s important is that it’s not so easily decoded. Her country’s history lies in a very particular type of braiding and intricate patchwork, used to design clothes that will get you from the morning to the late night. Sophisticated evening dresses are displayed next to tracksuits, untraditionally frilled skirts, asymmetric tops and other finely detailed ensembles.
Japanese designers (like Yohji Yamamoto or Rei Kawakubo) are essentially viewed as partisans of avant-garde movement, but behind these surreal and often shocking decisions, untraditional cuts and attention-grabbing details usually lies a wish to exalt a feminine (or a masculine) body, give original answers to what a 21st century people want to wear in an unconventional way. Adeam clothes are precisely that. Translated in simpler words, they reconcile art with practicality. This formula is constantly repeated and evoked by different designers, especially by those who wish to outline their originality. Isn’t it, after all, a goal of almost every creator, keeping in mind the necessity to make even the most surreal creations adaptable to streets and, on the other hand, to inject some originality and creativity even to the most practical pieces in order to make them more desirable?
Hanako is very attentive to her heritage and doesn’t shy away from Japanese folklore details, but marries them with an urbanistic, modern style philosophy. That’s how elegant hoodies, oversized proportions, turtlenecks, shirts and tracksuits find their place in the ensembles. Even though some critics are hesitant about her style, whether it’s distinctive enough, in what sense it is innovative and original, the works are more than promising. When Adeam presented its first collection during New York Fashion Week, the brand received offers to collaborate with Shakira, Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga, and, of course, the before mentioned contract with Net-A-Porter means that a much larger audience has a chance to get familiar with Hanako’s world. It’s a sign for Japanese design icons – they already have a talented successor.
Lithuanian readers can find this article in the newest Lamu Slenis paper issue