ANARCHY ON THE AIRSTRIP: NUMBER (N)INE'S DREAM BABY DREAM
Anatomy Of A Catwalk is a column wherein we closely examine some of our favorite runways, presentations, and editorials from designers we love. We explore the impotence behind the collection, motifs, and the historical and philosophical significance of the designs.
Takahiro Miyashita's reverence for musical artists shines through in each of his presentations. For Number (N)ine's Spring Summer 2004 collection, "Dream Baby Dream", Miyashita dissected the nuanced style of early punk acts like The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and The New York Dolls.
In place of the glamour of conventional runway shows, the presentation took place at The Tokyo Tower Parking Center. There was no platform present, allowing for more intimate interaction with the spectators. Amongst the crowd was Nobuhiko Kitamura of Hysteric Glamour and others in the Harajuku Fashion scene. The show's atmosphere was akin to the music presented: seedy, subversive, and doing away with pageantry. Rather, the show was almost an edgy display meant for Miyashita's friends to appreciate.
Miyashita began his show dimly lit with a single bulb of red light, hovering over his attendants, the Godfather soundtrack blaring ominous horns served as the perfect intro for what was to come. The classic punk anthem, “London Calling” by The Clash boomed out of the speakers as the first model stepped out in a long coat worn over a fishnet top. The album cover for London Calling would later be rendered and used as graphics for the t-shirts. (Many of which were not shown on the runway). These t-shirts included rendered skeletal graphics of Paul Simonon, Tom Verlaine of Adventure, and Johnny Thunders.
The collection’s title comes from the Suicide song of the same name. The song was originally released as a single in 1977. Written by Alan Vega and Martin Rev, the band crafted a sound that became the progenitor of synth-pop. The track is a heartwarming pop song that has since been covered by various punk and synth acts alike. While the show served as an ode to the punk culture as a whole, the style of Suicide singer Alan Vega influenced the majority of pieces. Much of the tailoring on the models was reminiscent of Vega's blazer and jean look. The leather pieces showcased were similar to the early look of Suicide when the band wore raggedy jeans, leather, and flamboyant accessories. Many models wore fingerless gloves, and skull face masks; pieces that were kindred with Suicide’s tongue-in-cheek attitude.
Most of the collection seems to rely on this very attitude that early punk pioneers exuded. However, this nostalgic display was nothing to be sneered at, seeing how Miyashita is one of the few designers whose reverence for the punk culture is wholly sincere. By wearing his influences quite literally on his sleeve, he illustrates to the audience that his adoration is through a historical lens. Hence, the pieces should deserve the same scrutiny and appreciation.
Skulls and distress themes permeated the show. The double skull graphic was printed on hoodies, crewnecks, and t-shirts while also making its way onto track jackets. In punk fashion, all the tees featured small distress marks on the collar, pits, and other imperfections. To this day, Miyashita does not stray far from a raw hem. Outerwear and knitwear pieces featured intricate slash and distress marks. One look featured a reproduction of a torn knitted sweater worn by Paul Simonon, showcasing Miyashita's unbridled hero-worship.
Mesh played a large role in the collection. Up until the 1970s, mesh and netted fabrics were not a mainstay in popular culture. Before the counterculture movement, the material was primarily seen on women's dresses and handbags. It was only after punk acts, The Sex Pistols and Richard Hell began to wear them underneath jackets that they became popularized within the punk fashion sphere. While being incredibly sexually suggestive for the time, the top also serves as a layering piece that can be worn under jackets or over t-shirts. These mesh offerings included hoodies, knitwear, and striped sweaters reminiscent of Kurt Cobain's famous striped mohair sweater.
Much like the punks he referenced for the show, Miyashita went on to play with the cuts of tailored garments. The suiting was a blend of distressed blazers and slim pants worn on models with disheveled hairstyles akin to Richard Hell and Johnny Rotten. Accessories in the collection showcased the more deviant nature of punk, with models wearing fetish leather gloves, spiked bracelets, and chains. Outerwear offerings included long mac coats and leather bomber jackets with crossbones patches sewn onto the garment. These jackets featured intricate linings and subtle details like custom pull tabs and textured ribbing. Other bombers featured zippers on the sleeves allowing for the garment to be worn as a vest. The sleeveless silhouettes were also present in the shirting as many models wore cut-off shirts with short, loosely worn ties similar to New York Dolls guitarist, Johnny Thunders and other early punk pioneers.
As with many of Takahiro's early Number (N)ine collections, the emphasis was placed on the historical context behind the collection and the mood that the pieces evoked rather than any particular form or function. The collection harkened back to a time of DIY style, where decoration and attitude were much more prevalent than practical and minimalist design that defined the late 90s. By today's standards, “Dream Baby Dream” would seem rather tame and unoriginal, though at the time Miyashita was one of the few punks who brought the DIY aesthetic to the catwalk. The fact that the presentation took place in Japan is notable as many of Miyashita's compatriots weren't known for anti-establishment sensibilities. The show served as a signal for what was to come from Japan and the Harajuku scene in terms of design.