Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rag & Bone's ninja pants


In ancient Japan, ninjas are specially trained mercenary warriors familiar with unorthodox methods of battle. They are skilled in using assassination, sabotage, illusion, espionage, and many martial arts disciplines to cause destabilization or chaos in the service of feudal lords.

Indeed the war for attention and influence in the fashion industry constantly requires new ways of thinking and presenting ideas. Though I'm sure ninja pants have already been done one time or another, only Rag & Bone presents it as vividly for Fall 2009.

Together with the trousers dyed in gray and violet are shirts, vests, and jackets cut with origami in mind. This one above, with a black leather torso and arms in a different fabric, looks like medieval armor transposed to the East.


Conflicts between the daimyo, or the feudal leaders, are resolved not only through battles of direct assault - they also resort to guerilla warfare and assassination as alternative. Since the samurai code, or the Bushido, forbid such methods as dishonorable, a daimyo has to recruit ninjas to execute such tactics, especially in infiltrating the strongholds of enemies.

The same concept is employed for this shirt with a bluish gray bib. The sash brings it closer to the warrior's outfit.


There are some that say the phenomenon of ninjas developed in opposition to the culture of the samurai: "Ninjutsu did not come into being as a specific well defined art in the first place, and many centuries passed before ninjutsu was established as an independent system of knowledge in its own right. Ninjutsu developed as a highly illegal counter culture to the ruling samurai elite, and for this reason alone, the origins of the art were shrouded by centuries of mystery, concealment, and deliberate confusion of history." (according to Masaaki Hatsumi and Stephen K. Hayes, author of 'Mystic Arts of the Ninja')

Just look at how the vest is cut: not very different from how paper is folded for origami. Note also that it is double-breasted but with only two buttons and with red piping, so that, together with the single-breasted jacket with only the thin piping as collar, the entire outfit comes to represent a futuristic feudal lord who rose from the ranks of the ninja. Again, the sash is indispensable.


The all-black garb of ninjas we are familiar with may actually be more fiction than fact. There is no evidence to support the popular cultural representation. As it turns out, the stereotypical outfits (shinobi shozoku) may have come from kabuki theater, where handlers would be dressed in black when moving props, including the costumes of ninja characters, around the stage.

This time I question the stylist's use of twine for the pants since the traditional jacket is already tight. The trousers should have been given more freedom, so that instead of a modern Japanese businessman, this outfit could have represented a theater master or a fastidious merchant - like the one below.


The boots that ninja use, called jika-tabi, similar to what the Japanese wore at the time, have a split-toe design. This enhances grip and is useful for wall or rope climbing. Moreover, they have soft soles that grant wearers virtual silence. Ninjas also use special spikes, called shuko, and attach these to the bottoms of boots. These shuko are also handy for climbing trees, when used with the hands. Ninjas also attach ashiaro, or wooden pads carved to look like an animal's paw or child's foot, to their boots to fool their enemies.


This is an interesting adaptation of the tailcoat or the cutaway, with the fabric coming diagonally down in the front instead of it staying horizontal. Here Rag & Bone also introduces shorter outerwear layering that they use for other outfits, and that indeed many other designers have presented.



As ninjas have gained their costumed image through a popular misrepresentation, they continue to inhabit the mind of the public through a more distorted medium: video games, where the masked villains continue to battle the more socially respected samurai. ("The Legend of Kage" must have been the first game I played with the mysterious mercenaries.)



Notice the hemming.



This jacket looks like a waistcoat hybrid. The thinness of the fabric once again brings paper to mind.



Interesting modification on the button and zipper combo, but this looks more Chinese. The lax turtleneck underneath is a good proposition.



Now the outfits go more into European territory.



I like the delicacy in the construction of the jacket on the left: the fabric, the single button, the suggested collar, and the Chesterton (?). See also how the coat on the right naturally creases. It seems so pliant; would easily tear when sliced by a samurai blade.



The silver jacket is the most modern execution of the concept. Boardroom adventurist? Activist shareholder?



The construction of this jacket and coat betrays the inspiration of origami - the lines, partitions, and piping. See how ninja pants have been fully adopted via cut and fabric into the executive's wardrobe. Though these are not the times for unorthodox corporate competition.

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