On the surface, designer Chitose Abe’s Sacai screams “overnight success.” Ever since the line’s 2009 Paris runway debut, Abe has garnered gushing reviews from the likes of Suzy Menkes, Anna Wintour and other critics notoriously hard to impress. For Fall 2014, she was hailed as the standard-bearer and applauded for setting the seasonal bar high. But despite the aura of the ingénue surrounding Sacai, Abe’s brainchild is anything but the new kid on the block – it’s a ’90s baby (born in 1999, to be exact); a 15-year-old brand and former best kept secret that has long been poised for its rise.
Aside from those deeply plugged into the industry, Abe’s name flew under many a radar before Sacai’s Paris debut. Not a fan of the traditional show format (nor driven by a desire to boost sales above all else), Abe eschewed runways for her Tokyo apartment where she sold her signature multidimensional pieces. Quietly, Sacai’s now global fan base steadily grew by good old fashioned word of mouth between key buyers. Fast forward to 2013 and Karl Lagerfeld is declaring Sacai the most interesting brand of the moment, wearing a Sacai blazer to a Chanel press event and sending flowers Abe’s way.
One look at the Japanese designer’s avant-gard-meets-timeless, conceptual-meets-wearable aesthetic, and it’s easy to see why Lagerfeld donned Sacai for his photo ops. Abe is the master of sartorial mash ups. She has a knack for reinventing wardrobe staples – think moto jackets, delicate slips, menswear inspired overcoats – by hybridizing them together to form multi-tasking, architectural pieces that are familiar and novel at the same time.
The ability to make a Prince of Wales coat and biker jacket structurally make sense in the same silhouette speaks to Abe’s eight years of experience at Comme des Garçons as a pattern cutter under Rei Kawakuno and as a former member of Junya Watanabe’s team. But the ability to stay ahead of the curve and deliver the innovation audiences expect from Japanese designers, without over conceptualizing at the expense of wearability and desirability is a skill that’s all her own. You may not realize that you need a shearling puffer leather biker jacket hybrid come fall, but thankfully, Abe already does.
– Erica Smith
Images via Vogue