Saturday, March 27, 2010

BACKSTORY: So-en magazine

Like most city dwellers, I find alone time a rare luxury. So whenever I have a day to myself at long last, I wake up early, slip on my navy military-style coat, knot my grey checkered scarf around my neck, and set off for a stroll in the city. I'll usually pick up a coffee and browse design stores, but I almost always inevitably end up at the Kinokuniya bookstore by Bryant Park for its selection of Japanese and foreign fashion and art magazines. However, one magazine that's not readily at hand is So-en, Japan's first fashion magazine.
Published by Japan's leading fashion and art institute, Bunka Fashion College in Shinjuku, Tokyo, So-en was first published in 1936 and continues to churn out up-to-the-minute industry news along with avant-garde and cutting-edge editorials that include designs by the college's talented students.

Bunka Fashion College was originally founded in 1919 by the tailor, Isaburo Namiki, as a dressmaking school for young women and has since flourished, doling out icons ranging from Kenzo Takada and Yohji Yamamoto to Junya Watanabe and Tsumori Chisato.

So-en is, needless to say, similarly prolific in its aesthetics. The cover, with its oversize kanji type conveys an uphold of traditions under an über-modern guise, an attitude that saturates the overall Japanese culture. Along the same thread, even though its attachment to the Bunka institution gives it caché as the country's unyielding voice in fashion, So-en's impact beyond Japan is felt very minimally, if at all; its publisher, the college, seems to purposefully keep it within an insulated environment while its content is composed of the radical extreme. Perhaps it's another case where reverence is derived from limited accessibility?

Either way, it'd be nice to see more of it on the web and in a bookstore beyond Japanese soil.

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