A New Generation of Japanese Designers
The post-war relationship between Japan and the United States saw a cultural exchange unlike any other; it brought western culture to the forefront of eastern society. Classic western troupes were reinterpreted into what would later become staple styles in mainstream fashion all over the world. Brands like VAN Jacket and Kamakura Shirts popularized cropped trousers and tailored suit jackets. Up until the 1970’s, Japanese fashion wasn’t the terribly outlandish entity that it has become synonymous with today. It was the re-imagination of Americana, a lifestyle that dominated the menswear fanboys of Japan for decades. It was the denim obsession that lead to the launch of brands like Kapital and Evisu. That was until The DC Boom in Harajuku that brought us the avant-garde styles of Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, and Issey Miyake.
Strange cuts and perplexing patterns would resonate with the fashion community, regardless of their outlandish nature. Shortly after, streetwear emerged as a regional phenomenon. Brands such as A Bathing Ape, Bounty Hunter, Undercover, WTAPS and Neighborhood would pave the way for Japanese streetwear brands to come. NOWHERE, the original house of Nigo’s A Bathing Ape and Jun Takahashi’s Undercover, opened in 1993 in Urahara. Both brands later parted, taking separate paths. While Bape remained true to its streetwear roots, Undercover took a different approach. Takahashi’s brand was initially a series of tees and vintage pieces that he would customize himself with studs and patches. The brand was far from achieving the recognition it has today. However, once he was introduced to Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons, the brand was able to become the embodiment of punk, street, and high fashion it is known for today. Along with Takahiro Miyahshita’s Number (N)ine, a new wave of Japanese fashion was born that introduced streetwear to high fashion. Similarly, many contemporary Japanese designers are taking note of Takahashi’s bold move and taking similar approaches to their own designs.
The child of Daisuke Obana, a fetishist of 20th century America, N. Hoolywood incorporates Obana’s love for old military garments and workwear with a modern twist. Neoprene trousers and military cargo jackets sit side by side, encapsulating the brand’s vintage yet contemporary vibe. Each collection embodies a different theme, bringing together both the old and the new. For the traditional streetwear fan, N. Hoolywood releases technical jogger pants, pullovers, and collaborations with some of the biggest streetwear names out there (think Wacko Maria, Converse, and Fragment). Every collection since 2014 has followed a similar theme of modern construction and high-quality fabrics. Obana has brought Japanese fashion into the 21st century, without having to sacrifice traditional designs and fabrics.
On the other side of the spectrum, BED j.w. FORD, an up and coming Tokyo based brand started by Shinpei Yamagishi and Keisuke Kohsaka, has taken a more unique approach towards design. Yamagishi credits his native Japan as the main influence for his collections, rather than fashion, music, or western culture. Still, his collections draw inspiration ranging from vintage and streetwear as well as some of the G.O.A.T's like Yohji Yamamoto, Ann Demeulemeester, and Jun Takahashi. Unconventional colors such as mustard, teal, and burgundy make up many of the stand-out pieces in each collection. Even as Yamagishi puts it, “If you see my personal style you’ll find that I wear a lot of black, but it just isn’t as interesting or unique for a brand to sell only black anymore.” BED j.w. FORD has moved past all archetypes of Japanese fashion in order to bring their vision to a new audience. The brand is quickly expanding, having just held its first runway show for Amazon Fashion Week TOKYO. That being said, good luck finding it in the states…
Ametora, or “American Traditional,” has been a driving force in Japanese fashion for centuries. However, the whole “prep” thing is more of a relic from #menswear than it is a trend. Regardless, designer Ryo Kashiwazaki has managed to bring ametora to the forefront of streetwear in order to deliver his unique tribute to western culture. Hender Scheme’s Homage collection has taken advantage of the blurred lines between streetwear and high fashion. The Homage collection consists of reinterpreted silhouettes of classic shoes from Nike, Adidas, Vans, New Balance, and even Timberland in a luxe-leather upgrade. Kashiwazaki aims to create products with a balance between “modern” and “craft.” Over time they even develop a beautiful and individually unique patina based on each individual's wear (sick fades bruh). Hender Scheme has reimagined ametora in a way that has made it relevant once again to the fashion community.
While Japanese brand’s have very strong reputation for being dope, only a handful of them can stand out in the ever-changing world of menswear. They all have similar attributes: craftsmanship, high-quality fabrics, and functionality. At this point, those just sound like buzz words. The legend himself, Jon Moy, could not have said it better, “Another Japanese brand with a random ass name.” Lucky for all the jawn purveyors in the world, designers such as Yamagishi and Obana continue to change the game by bringing their own interpretations of contemporary fashion to the vast landscape of Japanese menswear.