Posted on November 17 2018
Author: Jasper Drummond -
In the contemporary fashion world, there are many brands to be aware of, many brands who insist upon our awareness— brands who have commanded public attention for the better part of the last century, often trading hands, trading out creative directors, establishing trends and defining popular culture. Unfortunately, with operations so large, brand DNA is often muddled in the process. Amidst this current landscape, The Viridi-anne feels like a quiet resistance.
Brands like The Viridi-anne (that is, brands who have taken a slow, deliberate approach to developing a distinct point of view, rather than cashing out on the Next Big Thing™) now stand in ever–sharper contrast to the “mainstream” through their development of craft and attention to detail. We are living in a time when so many voices are struggling to get their foot in the door, to not only be heard but to be the loudest in the room (just open up Instagram and search #fashion). Tomoaki Okaniwa seems to propose that the solution is more of a whisper; keep your head down, continue doing what you trust and let the people who are listening find you.
Okaniwa originally pursued painting, graduating from Tokyo Zoukei University’s Department of Fine Arts. However, he found himself wanting to explore his ideas on the body, rather than just on canvas, which led to the establishment of The Viridi-anne. The Fine Arts perspective has been couched into the heart of The Viridi-anne, always opting for substance and refinement of previous ideas rather than reinvention from season to season. “The idea is that we are constantly trying to improve on our past collections and evolve gradually as a Label rather than suddenly changing our image or jumping on some new trend bandwagon.” By focusing on a few, key ideas in his work, Okaniwa brings clarity and craftsmanship to The Viridi-anne with each new presentation.
This most recent collection was an example of the designer at his most refined and direct. Overall, the collection focused on fusing elements of his work (western tailoring, Japanese aesthetics, futuristic utility) together to create cohesive and compelling clothing. In naming the collection “Collection” and then proceeding to strikeout the title and rename it “Correction”, Okaniwa is already exploring the notion that each new idea is built through reexamining earlier collections, in an ongoing attempt to “correct”.
Linen trousers and jackets were wrinkled, knitwear was intentionally distressed, wools were thick and knobby, hems were left raw. These details have been present in much of Okaniwa’s work for The Viridi-anne, demonstrating the Japanese aesthetic philosophy of “Wabi-Sabi”, which seeks out the beauty of imperfection and flaw, a sort of harmony within disharmony. Many of The Viridi-anne’s collections have investigated these aesthetics using distressed fabrics, monochromatic color palettes, and silhouettes that abstract the body rather than define it. (Neither World, Okaniwa’s SS 2013 collection, is an earlier example of the themes which would eventually become more refined towards the current collection.)
The Viridi-Anne SS 2013 (Left) Vs. FW 2018 (Right)
The way this collection was styled, and the lens through which these ideas have been filtered, added a newer level of sophistication and edge. While there were pieces of decidedly vintage western detailing— especially some of the tailored jackets, wools, pinstripes, overcoats, combined with mottled felt hats that resembled derby hats or bowlers— the addition of backpacks with multiple buckles and straps, nylon vests, multifunctional zippers and cargo pockets helped keep the overall vibe sharp and updated. The result was a dystopian Oliver Twist vibe, without falling into costume or theatrics.
By keeping the clothing functional and uncomplicated, Okaniwa is able to produce clothing that works in daily life, on the street, while the fabrication of each piece feels like something truly special and carefully considered; the level of detail you would expect from a much more prominent luxury label. While some may see the idea of the “craft collection” as something of a trend in itself (as “slow fashion” labels and made-to-order designs have emerged in the face of the all-consuming, fast fashion market), Okaniwa has operated in this way since day one. Roots of the current collection are embedded throughout the years, in various ways. (The archive on The Viridi-anne’s website only reaches back to 2012, however the brand was established in 2001.)
Looking back over the years, it’s apparent that The Viridi-anne has always focused on quiet refinement, producing clothing informed by time and perfected by its passing, yet able to stand apart from the anxieties of our contemporary world.