While Tokyo's streets are rich with tradition, at the turn of a corner you’re met with a more vibrant modern world of loud, manga-inspired pop culture. Despite these clashing influences, Japanese style still has a cool, minimalist aesthetic – one that’s increasingly influential in western fashion. Here are our biggest sartorial takeaways from the land of the rising sun.
JAPANESE STYLE INFLUENCE
By Sam Higgins, 8 November 2017
There’s a good chance your favourite jeans are made in Japan. Widely regarded today as the leading purveyors of premium denim, the country’s love for the twill textile began in the mid-50s, when Hollywood heartthrob James Dean hit the big screens in Rebel Without A Cause wearing straight-leg, turned-up indigo jeans. An obsession with American culture ensued, with denim being shipped over by the ton. Japanese designers embraced the phenomenon by meticulously crafting their own selvedge and raw-denim versions. By the late 90s, nearly every fashion house could boast a line of Japanese premium jeans and, today, the country’s home-grown brands like Edwin and visvim deliver high-end denim on a mass scale – and in more cuts than just your traditional straight pants, too.
By now, you’re no doubt familiar with the story of the sukajan. Kanye and the crème de la crème of stylish dressers have welcomed the silky piece into the mainstream, while, in the last few seasons, designer after designer has placed the souvenir jacket centre stage in their collections. But the jacket’s origins lie in post-WWII Japan, where American soldiers commissioned hand-crafted souvenir jackets that boasted the familiar fit of their flight jackets but with the adornment of Asian artwork. While a true vintage edition will set you back a considerable sum, the intricate detailing of contemporary takes ensures the jacket remains the memorable piece you’d expect a souvenir to be.
Traditionally, in Japan, the kimono is reserved as formal finery, but with western designers recognising the appeal of the minimalist design, the T-shaped form has been taken and adapted in a range of casual cuts that make the most of its sleek silhouette. The kimono’s key qualities are there in the form of drapey, longline shirts and wrap-around tees, but its buttonless, lightweight feel has also given 2017’s key pieces (like the bomber jacket and worker shirt) a subtle, contemporary refresh. The kimono cut has also become a favourite of street style's most prominent players, leaving the peacocking poseurs to stroll around outside fashion week shows like stylish samurai.
We’re not talking about the holiday shirts your dad wears around the pool here. Japanese floral detailing showcases a more artistic approach than the bold hues and hibiscus prints of Hawaiian shirts. The Japanese art of flower arrangement – known as Ikebana – is a key reason for the focus on florals, and the country’s botanical brilliance has been a feature of their clothing culture for some time. In 2017, the detailed decoration adorns not just traditional souvenir jackets and silky shirts, but denim too, in keeping with the recent trend for expressive embellishment.
With the desire for all things oversized reaching every corner of the globe, the boxier shapes and clean-cut lines of Japanese design have thrived. The east Asian take on XXL sees the same wide-leg and drop-shoulder shapes that hip-hop’s most stylish have adopted, but in sharper, more contemporary cuts. This is most evident and most effective when piecing together the boxy silhouettes in a full tonal ‘fit of neutral hues (as this stylish street-styler demonstrates).