You have to hand it to Daisuke Obana: when he picks a theme he commits to it. Like last year’s airmen or 2012’s Hemingway fishermen, there was absolutely nothing halfway about his approach to that most American of all icons, the cowboy (specifically William S Hart’s establishment of the visual archetype in silent films of the 20th centuries first two decades).
Obana’s models–unlike anyone else’s at NYFW: somewhere between rocking hipster and rough trade–showed more denim than you could find in your average raghouse. His outlaws and young gunslingers, wearing handkerchiefs and scarves around their necks, brought the dusty saloon gear into the contemporary era slender two-button blazers (patterned with horseshoes), crisp wool trousers a color-blocked varsity jackets in pastel. At times, the combination was visible in a single garment, as in the with poncho-like shirting, Josey-Wales-via-Williamsburg duster, and clever take on a cowboy shirts with their rhinestone collar tips.
There’s a fascinating relationship between Japan and American denim that goes back to the post-war era and has some neat twist-and-turns–including all the original mills used to make classic Levis being purchased by Japanese companies–and ends up with Japan being the source of the world’s best denim, that most American of materials. Cowboys are American metonymy, so by exploring that symbolism with all this denim–at the risk of mixing my metaphors–Obana is going for a somewhat profound hat-on-a-hat. The designer’s outsider status is complicated by his choice of material, making his narrative more akin to the complex familial and social drama of Shane than the enemies-become-friends simplicity of Red River.
The result is absorbing, daring and a challenge to the status quo.