Fashion History of Japan
Japanese fashion reached a turning point in the 70's. Pr?t-a-porter (ready-made clothing) which people could wear more easily than haute couture, became widely available and that drastically changed Japanese fashion. Japan was in the middle of a high economic growth period and strong personal consumption backed the situation. Hanae Mori, Kenzo Takada, and Issei Miyake received attention internationally in the 1970's.
Kenzo Takada established The House of KENZO in Paris in 1970 and opened his own boutique "Jangle Jap" there. He then started participating in the Paris Pr?t-a-porter Collection and his colorful, pretty and dynamic folklore look, big look, and layered look quickly became popular. Issei Miyake also started showing in Paris the Pret-a-porter Collection in 1973. Hanae Mori had her first show in New York in 1965 and then opened her maison de haute couture in Paris in 1977 and joined the Paris Haute Couture Collection. At the same time, Sayoko Yamaguchi, a Japanese fashion model, became very popular in the Paris Collection with her bob hair and makeup which emphasized her long-slitted eyes.
In the 80's, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto received high recognition internationally. Their "boro look" which was loose black clothes ripped and frayed, brought sensational controversy in Paris, but their clothes then gave influence to the fashion after the period. Kawakubo and Yamamoto's clothes matched to the mood of the 80's when clothes with strong impressions were considered to be interesting. Their avant garde and dress-down approach had carved out new possibilities of fashion. It was an era when Japanese fashion bolstered a unique and original image which would shake the general idea of Western clothes. Kawakubo and Yamamoto's deconstructed and sexless clothes later influenced designers in Belgium such as Martin Margiela.
In 1985, the Council of Fashion Designers, Tokyo (CFD) was established with 32 designers and then the Tokyo Collection was started. The DC (Designer Character) boom in the 80's helped to energize the Tokyo Collection. In addition to designer's brands which had been recognized internationally as high-end brands since the 70's, character brands referred to brands which were more affordable yet very fashion trend conscious. Many character brands such as Bigi, Nicole, Atelier Sab, Pink House, and Takeo Kikuchi swept the Japanese market. Strong economic growth referred to as a "bubble" intensified the movement.
Shortly after the 90's started, the economic bubble burst and casual fashion became the mainstream fashion trend. In addition to "Shibukaji" which meant casual fashion originated from Shibuya in Tokyo in the end of the 80's, "kogyaru" which referred to high school girls with loose socks, "chapatsu" ( brown hair), and "ganguro" (face with black foundation or strongly tanned) gained power in Shibuya. Street fashion in Tokyo started to get attention even from the international media and Shibuya and Harajuku especially became recognized as sources for fashion trend. "Ura Hara" which referred to the back streets in Harajuku, also became popular as a trendy fashion area. Jun Takahashi who is the designer of Under Cover originated from "Ura Hara" and he joined the Tokyo Collection in the middle of the 90's and later started showing in Paris with the 2003 Spring Summer collection. Shibuya 109 (ichi maru kyuu), which is a building with many fashion brand tenants such as Egoist, Cocolulu, Moussy and Cecil McBEE, became very popular among young women in their teens and 20's and the sexy and pretty fashion was called "maru kyuu fashion."
When 21st Century started, more Japanese designers such as Chisato Tsumori, Junya Watanabe, Chitose Abe (Sacai), Limi Yamamoto (Limi Feu) started showing in the Paris Collection. In New York, "Japan Fashion Now" which was started in September in 2010 at the FIT Museum extended the term for three more months to the beginning of April in 2011 due to the popular demand. Among the featured designers in the exhibition, Under Cover, designed by Jun Takahashi was particularly favorite among the visitors. Noritaka Tatehana, who launched his shoes brand "NORITAKA TATEHANA" in 2010 quickly became famous as the pop singer Lady Gaga wore his highly distinctive shoes with no heels. His collection pieces are all handmade by the designer himself who has a back ground of creating kimono and wooden clogs utilizing yu-zen dying. Among the veteran designers, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons still actively inspires the world of fashion not only with her collection each season, but also her concept stores Dover Street Market, which are in London as well as in Ginza, Tokyo. Rei Kawakubo was chosen to be awarded for the international design from CFDA, Council of Fashion Designers of America in June, 2012.
On the other hand, the first Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo was launched in October, 2005 through collaboration with the Japanese government and designers. Since the 2012 Spring/Summer, the name has been changed to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week TOKYO as Mercedes-Benz became the title sponsor. For the 2012-13 Autumn/Winter, 60 brands participated including those in the off schedule such as mintdesigns by Hokuto Katsui and Nao Yagi, Anrealage by Kunihiko Morinaga, and White Mountaineering by Yosuke Aizawa.
The Fashion Week is not only the major fashion event in Japan. Tokyo Girls Collection (TGC) which was also launched in 2005 and open to public has been very popular. The TGC has become more entertainment event with talk show and live music and the most recent TGC in March, 2012 attracted 27,000 people. The Girls Collection has been expanding into some local cities such as Okinawa, Nagoya, and Miyazaki as well as overseas including Paris and Beijing.
Japanese fabric is also highly respected. Many designers overseas admire the quality of Japanese fabric as well as the detail-oriented sewing techniques. Japanese denim is especially highly admired. In March, 2012, Ginza Runway, the outdoor cat walk focused on denim was held on the main street in Ginza. The models walked on the denim carpet provided by Kaihara, the major denim manufacturer in Hiroshima and a jam-packed audience watched the show. Some of the sewing techniques can be done only by one or two Japanese artisans and clothes with those techniques have been very attractive to buyers overseas as they cannot be found anywhere else.
The number of Japanese companies who open stores overseas have also been increasing from Number Nine and A Bathing Ape, which have young cult followers to Uniqlo which is a mass fashion specialty chain. Japanese multi-brand specialty apparel stores such as United Allows, Beams, Tomorrowland, Ships, Baycrew's, and Restir, have also received attention from fashion designers from both in and outside of Japan as fine specialty stores. Japanese fashion has been expanding by designers, apparel manufacturers, and retailers in Japan as well as overseas.
Text: Yoshiko Sugimoto
Picture: Yohji Yamamoto
Tokyo Girls Collection