Tokyo On My Mind


Whether it’s the Maid Cafes in the nerds’ electronic hive of Akihabara, the Hysteric Glamour fashions around Harajuku, the leather jacketed Shibuya Gals, or the more couture looks coming from the likes of Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto,  Japanese fashion is pretty intense and diverse.

By adopting a mixture of current and traditional trends, Japanese trendsetters are unabashedly ready to explore their personal fashion identities no matter what you might think of them.

While more couture looks boldly highlight a higher end identity, street style renegades mixing homemade with anime punk are at the front and center of a fast fashion trend moving as fast as any other part of the world.

Kate Black, founder of  eco-blog Magnifeco says the climate for disposable fashion there doesn’t differ from other developed nations in that “fast fashion” is just part of the fashion psyche. Black says long before H&M and Forever 21, the Japanese frugal-fashionistas had Uniqlo, ABC Shoe Mart and 109 which are filled to the brim with low-priced items.

“There is an annual fashion show called the Tokyo Girls Collection – which dictates fast fashion trends to women in their early 20s. It’s a huge sold-out event where 20,000+ girls attend a full stadium event, with runway shows from some of the top “fad” designers and brands and then what appears as a mainstream trend on the street stems from that,” says Black.

Cosplay Girls at Harajuku

Shantel Girtley, Sales Account Executive of L.A based Style Assembly, a showroom housing many sustainable designers gets to see forward dressing Japanese buyers at Market a couple times a year. She says there are usually two types of savvy Japanese buyers that emerge at markets to buy for their customers.

“Those that are American press driven and those that want ‘under the radar’ lines. They’re usually swarming the designers who are unusual in some way. You will also find them shopping for lines that are domestically made here in the U.S. at  Market locations in Vegas and New York,” says Girtley, who is particularly enamored with the looks coming out of Tokyo.

“I may be biased when it comes to Japanese fashion, specifically originating from Tokyo. I personally love the way they use clothing and accessories to transform on a day to day basis. I believe they are pushing the envelope in every way to carve out a path for most to follow. The fashion coming out of Tokyo is fearless, yet incredibly graceful. This ironically would be my personal definition of ‘fashion’. Whether its straight off the runway or straight out of the streets, Tokyo fashion infuses both to create a buzz that we just can’t stop talking about,” says Girtley.


Tracey Forrest, founder of the True Collaborative Showroom out of Portland, Oregon – another sustainable designer’s showroom – says Japanese buyers are very professional buyers who know their budgets, know what their demanding customers will want, and make quick and calculated decisions.

“They plan a smart mix of heritage brands with strong brand equity and also place a few new innovative brands to keep the mix interesting and innovative for their customers,” says Forrest.

Not sure what you think about Japanese fashion or its interesting history? Currently two Japanese fashion exhibits are running that you can take in: One is “Japan Fashion Now” at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) in New York City, and the second is “Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion” at the Barbican Art Gallery in London.

According to Sarah Scaturro, of the print journal Fashion Projects, “both focus on Japanese fashion designers and celebrate their contributions to the Western fashion system,” and both shows offer looks dating back to 30 years ago and pay attention to contemporary Japanese sub-cultures.

Image: The Sydney Morning Herald

Amy DuFault

Amy DuFault is a conscious lifestyle writer, consultant and fashion instigator. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.