For those who know me well, know that I have worked in fashion since I was a little grasshopper, and more so, I have a deep-rooted love affair with the land of the rising sun. So when you put these two things together, I get to write about two things I know very well.
When most of us think of Fashion capitals, Tokyo may not immediately spring to mind. You may think of Paris, London, Milan, New York – yet Tokyo is not far behind, coming in at number 11 on the ranking of the 55 fashion capitals of the world. Therefore, as Tokyo sits one spot above Milan, also beating the likes of Florence, Madrid and Sao Paulo on the Global Language Monitor Fashion Capital list, it is clear that they are the Asian fashion hub of the world. Period.
The industry sees many successful designer emerging from Tokyo. Fashion is a big deal for both Japanese men and women, with a high percentage of both genders spending a lot of money to be dressed in the latest styles and trends. In fact, the fashion market in Japan is so big that it is estimated to be worth a whopping 65 billion dollars. If you take into accounts the fashion different districts within Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya, Omotesando and Aoyama, these feature almost every major designer brand in the world, creating the world’s largest fashion district.
Let’s look at some of the reasons behind Tokyo’s ever growing fashion scene. To begin with, some of the new and cutting edge brands emerging from the city are discussed below – followed by some industry veterans!
Patchy Cake Eater
Patchy Cake Eater is the brand from desinger Shigeki Morino. He launched his brand in 2012. The interesting brand name apparently translates to a ‘Ladies man with patches’- he has created a patchy clothing range for the ‘ladies man’. This represents his non conformist lifestyle, and is also reflected in his work, with different pieces of fabric being used on different parts of his design to create a patchwork effect.
Shigeki Morino began his career as a designer when he realized that he could not find any clothes that he wanted to wear, so he would have to make them himself (love it!). Therefore, when he is designing he does not look to inspiration from fashion sources such as the internet, magazines and runways. Instead, he focuses on bringing his own ideas to life. Morino studied at a specialized men’s fashion at college- the name of which he has not disclosed- and trained there in tailoring techniques. These techniques have become a strong part of the brand’s ethos. He pays special attention to the silhouette created by the garments, including the shoulders and he waist, adding a touch of femininity to the menswear collection. Morino has described his brand as ‘the masculinity that a woman wearing men’s clothes exudes’.
A Degree Farhenheit
A Degree Farhenheit is the name of the brand by Japanese designer Yu Amatsu. Yu Amatsu studied design in Toyko before moving to New York in 2004. In New York, Amatsu worked as a pattern maker for various brands, including Marc Jacobs and Jen Kao.
Six years later, Amatsu launched his own brand in 2010. The brand focuses on creating clothes that are both interesting and wearable, by using techniques such as draping, intricate detailing and focusing on stunning silhouettes. Recently, Amatsu collaborated with Hanae Mori. They aim to bring the brand into a new generation together. This is definitely one designer collaboration to watch.
The brand Yoshio Kubo takes the same name as it’s creator. Kubo is another Japanese designer who has worked in New York prior to launching his own brand. For the four years that Kubo worked in New York, he was an assistant designer for Robert Danes. However, in 2009 Kubo returned to Japan for the launch of his label.
With his brand, Kubo aims to create clothing that sparks the discussion and thought of social themes. He wants the wearers of the clothing to think critically about the meaning of wearing these clothes. For example, one of his early collections was inspired by the Los Angeles gang culture. The collection featured bandanas and bright turquoise colors. His recent Spring/Summer 2015 collection has a marine feel to it, with prints such as camouflage. Kubo’s artistic flair does not end with his garments, but also with their presentation, having models sporting bold makeup and hair choices.
In addition to new and emerging brands and designers are the long standing Fashion houses, powerful fashion houses that have encouraged Tokyo’s fashion capital reputation, and are respected and admired all over the world. Here we look at three of the most powerful fashion houses of Tokyo.
Issey Miyake is a household name in the fashion world. He is a Hiroshima born designer, known for his technology driven designs. Miyake graduated from the Tama Art University of Tokyo in 1964, before working in Paris and New York city. Returning to Tokyo in 1970, he founded the Miyake Design Studio, and began the legacy of the brand that we all know and love.
It was in the late 1980s that Miyake began to experiment with new fashion and clothing methods. He decided to start working with new methods of pleating, methods that would allow flexibility, movement and ease of care. These pleats were then used to Miyake to create costume for the Ballett Frankfurt. Miyake also become a friend of the late Steve Jobs, producing the staple black turtleneck that became Jobs’ signature look. Miyake has continued to make popular stylish clothing for both men and women, in addition to his large range of perfumes. His success is proven by his many awards: 2005 Praemium Imperiale award for Sculpture, 2010 Order of Culture award, and 2014 XXIII Premio Compasso d’Oro ADI award.
Yoji Yamamoto is another award winning Japanese designer I absolutely love and had the pleasure in working with back in the day.. He is based in both Tokyo and Paris. Yamamoto is known for his avant-garde tailoring and is widely considered to be a master tailor. Yamamoto graduated with a degree in law in 1966, and later a degree in fashion design in 1969 from Bunka Fashion College. He began working as a designer in the early 1970s, debuting his own brand in Paris in 1981. Yamamoto is known for his avant-garde clothing. He creates designs that are not in sync with current trends. He is most well known for oversized silhouettes, draped in varying textures.
Yamamoto has a successful clothing line popular in Tokyo called Yohji Yamamoto, making fashion for both men and women. It is also available in Paris, Antwerp, New York and in department stores worldwide. Other lines of Yamamoto include Y’s, Costume d’Homme and Pour Homme. The sale of only the two main lines- Yohji Yamamoto and Y’s- generate over 100 million dollars a year.
Awards won by Yoji Yamamoto include: Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon, Ordre national du Merite and Royal Designer for the Industry. Of his designs, Yamamoto has said:
“When I started making clothes for my line Y’s in 1977, all I wanted was for women to wear men’s clothes. I jumped on the idea of designing coats for women. It meant something to me – the idea of a coat guarding and hiding a woman’s body. I wanted to protect the woman’s body from something – maybe from men’s eyes or a cold wind.”
Comme des Garçons
Comme des Garcons is the fashion house of designer Rei Kawakubo. It is based in both Tokyo and Paris, and each year grosses around 180 million dollars. There are also stores worldwide in New York, Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, Seoul, Singapore, Manila, and garments are available in high end department stores. The fashion label was launched in 1969, and established as a company in 1973. It reached success in Japan after the 1970s, and then the menswear line was added in 1978. The year 1981 was the turning point, as the label was debuted in Paris. It was from this point that Commes des Garcons became well known for it’s dark and distressed fabrics. However, this changed slightly in 2006. The 2006 autumn, winter collection was created with the concept of the ‘persona’. Tailored menswear was fused with feminine elements of corsets and floral fabrics, and vice versa. This collection was addressing the issue of the way we present ourselves to the world.
Comme des Garcons have collaborate with many labels over the years, including H&M, S. N. S Herning, Louis Vuitton, Supreme, Hammerthor, Speedo, Nike, Moncler, Lacoste, Levis, Converse All Star, Fred Perry and Chrome Hearts. It has also been adorned by many celebrities, including Bjork, Matt Bellamy, Chloe Sevigny, Usher, Kanye West, ASAP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Mary-Kate Olsen, Alexander McQueen and Lady Gaga.
So there you have it people.. I could have gone on for another 20 pages to cover so much more on the fashion sub-culture – further coverage on both established icons and disruptive designers but we have run out of time on this post.
More on my Japanese fashion obsession in post to come.
Until then.. Arigatou Gozaimasu