h.NAOTO’s New Gallery in Nishi Azabu


by Leela McMullen, Mio Nagasaki, posted December 25, 2014

Celebrating the opening of his new showroom on December 6, h.NAOTO gathered a host of collaborators to the hotspot in Nishi Azabu where he will take custom orders and display unique pieces. The initial greeting welcomed guests who were decked out in various NAOTO wear and described the function of the new space. Decked by MANTAM in detailed wooden structures, slightly disturbing puppetry and skeletons, and purposefully burned pipes to act as clothes racks, the gallery is an atmospheric environment designed to insulate customer’s in NAOTO’s world which goes beyond fashion and into lifestyle itself.

As guests wandered the gallery with h’orderves and drinks in hand,  NAOTO explained the purpose of each area. One corner of the store which was open for display that night will be cordoned off for private meetings to discuss custom orders, or for celebrity collaborations not yet ready for public viewing with a few not-for-sale items scattered around to show off the designer’s prowess.

Beyond that is a section for browsing, full of grand item from all of NAOTO’s lines but currently with the main theme of steampunk coloring the surroundings, a space that would give any wearer of subculture fashions a new sense of self. MANTAM’s artful mannequins and some others notably resurrected from the Heaven store, which was once found in the back alleys of Harajuku, give the area a personal touch that invite the imagination to soar as to how those clothes and accessories will look in the right settings. Accessories adorn every inch of the displays with everything from pocket watches to necklaces hanging about and adding to the period feel.

Nearby is an installation previously seen at the old Harajuku PLUS store which has a ladder leading up to a loft. This is the heart of the gallery and offers a little showcase of the steampunk world itself right beside the dressing room. Upon emerging from the mirrored wall clad in NAOTO’s co-ordinates, one will feel right at home. From there, leads a path of NAOTO’s past collaborations such as some of the outfits he has designed for GACKT. Fans can get a a close-up look at the glamorous coats and designs there. Of course, the view from outside is just as fascinating, with a window display full of unique MANTAM and NAOTO fusions that will certainly catch any eye.

When MANTAM arrived on the scene, he shared with the crowd some anecdotes of the making of the installation which was originally for the PLUS store, including his favorite tale of working through the night with NAOTO phoning in his two cents as he watched from elsewhere via the surveillance feed. Meanwhile, for the Nishi Azabu showroom, the designer requested three different atmospheres of MANTAM who related a tale of woe, having missed trains and left things behind in his determination to fill the order.

He shared with the crowd some of the details he had gone into such as the burning of the lead pipe used in the private area to give it just the right feel, and the wood imported from a hotel in Bali; both extremely hard and heavy, making it difficult to work with. Of course, when NAOTO joked that it might fall over when passed by, MANTAM insisted that it will never fall. “It’s well built!” he promised. When MANTAM was done describing his work, NAOTO tipped him out of the frying pan and into the fire: “MANTAM will talk with you about anything from the big bang to goats, so please have a chat with him!”

The showroom and gallery in Nishi Azabu is not just any store. The designer’s purpose in creating this space is to take things to a deeper level than ever before. “Even though it’s a little out of the way, you can purchase items you won’t find anywhere else. Not to mention the ability to order custom wedding dresses and all sorts. Basically, you can come here to request things you wouldn’t find in our stores,” he explained. Furthermore, the gallery will exhibit further collaborations with not only musicians but also artists and artisans and will be an ever-changing environment to keep fans on their toes–yet offers a variety of chairs and resting spots to maximize comfort and a sense of belonging!

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Leela McMullen is a strong believer in the philosophy "no music, no life." Having traversed the range of Japanese fandoms, she found her home at last in visual kei and has made it her mission to share what she loves most with the world. Leela completed her B.A. in Japanese language from Griffith University in Gold Coast Australia. She now lives and works in Japan, striving to bring you the goods, hot from the scene. Follow her on twitter for juicy hints of upcoming articles if you've got a bit of Japanese language under your belt! http://twitter.com/#!/LeelaInTokyo

Mio Nagasaki is a freelance photographer lending her time, skills, and love for the genre to ROKKYUU Magazine.

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