The Japanese aesthetic has left a deep and long-lasting impression on the fashion world.
Ranging from the contemporary Harajuku scene to the traditional kimono, Japanese style has attracted much attention on the world fashion stage because of its constant, mind-bending innovation.
Japanese street style and fashion houses have become notorious for their continual, avant-garde experimentation. Ranging from unique cuts and silhouettes to fantastically creative subcultures and styles, Japan’s fashion scene is known for its relentless pushing of the boundaries of aesthetic commitment.
We have selected three enormously influential designers who were born and raised in Japan, and who have since shaped the world of fashion through their productions.
We’re kicking our list off with Yohji Yamamoto, one of Japan’s national treasures. Because a list about influential Japanese designers without a Yohji mention can only be a bad joke.
A master tailor, Yohji revolutionized the silhouette game with his distinctively Japanese design aesthetic.
Born in Tokyo, he studied law at Keio University, graduating in 1966. He then attended Bunka Fashion College, where the likes of Junya Watanabe, Nigo, and Kenzo Takada also studied. He graduated from Bunka with a degree in 1969.
In describing his aesthetic philosophy, Yohji expounded:
“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.”
Although there are gendered sentiments expressed here, his exposition nonetheless captures the spirit of his aesthetic: dark fabrics that shroud the wearer in an ambiguous, powerful, often flowing form.
His collaboration with Adidas, spawning the Y-3 line, is a very commercially successful, higher-end streetwear line that has strongly guided and shaped the athleisure movement.
The influence of the Y-3 Qasa High continues to be seen in recent sneaker releases from other brands who have hopped onto the popularization of the wrapped, ninja footwear aesthetic.
His eponymous Yohji Yamamoto line and Y’s have also been met with widespread critical acclaim, and are clearly identifiable from his signature generous use of black fabrics and avant-garde silhouettes.
Nigo’s influence in streetwear has been tidal. Titanic.
The global reach and influence of A Bathing Ape was nothing short of mind-blowing, reaching peak levels of wildness with hip-hop artists like Kanye West and Lil Wayne.
* So go ahead, go nuts, go apeshit/Especially in my pastel, on my BAPE shit *
Stronger (2007), Kanye West
Named after the 1967 film Planet of the Apes, BAPE’s brand name is also a reference to “A Bathing Ape in Lukewarm Water” — supposedly an ironic dig at the “lazy opulence” of the brand’s own customers, who were predominantly the younger Japanese generation.
BAPE’s standout trademarks, beyond the colorful loudness that strongly defined its early life, have been their camo prints
the shark hoodie
and, of course, variations of their incredibly iconic logo.
Nigo apparently speaks zero English, but here he is wearing a BAPE x KAWS get-up, and lifting the diamond-encrusted logo of the world-famous brand he founded.
Although BAPE was sold to Hong Kong fashion giant I.T in 2011 for an astoundingly low 2,800,000 USD (90.27% stake in the company), Nigo has since retained a role in its creative direction, and has collaborated with Pharrell Williams in co-founding Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream.
Visvim is, perhaps, the evolutionary pinnacle of the hipster aesthetic.
Founded in 2000 by Hiroki Nakamura, visvim has grown from a brand that made primarily footwear to an extremely coveted insider brand that delivers a full range of apparel.
With flagship stores in Tokyo and Hong Kong, visvim now boasts a strong world presence.
Visvim has several defining characteristics. Its aesthetic is a seamless, beautiful synthesis of multiple cultural heritages — often evoking vintage Americana, the Japanese Edo period, Native American clothing, the Alaskan outdoors, and even French workwear.
The result is a strikingly novel and refreshing assortment of garments that elegantly gesture towards the sources of their creative inspirations.
The construction process behind a visvim garment is touted as one justification of its high price points.
For instance, the use of natural dye results in non-identical iterations of a single design concept, because the dyeing process involves the organic behavior of bacteria and cannot be held perfectly constant.
Visvim is also known for its use of non-generic fabrics. Some shirts, T’s, and sweatshirts in the visvim collection are made of a Sea Island cotton (Gossypium barbadense) that result in an exceptional garment softness associated with high quality products because of the material’s extra-long staple fibers.
Visvim’s traditional and vintage construction methods are complemented by their use of highly technical, waterproof Gore-Tex for certain outerwear pieces
and their installation of Vibram outsoles on their footwear.
Stay tuned for the second part of our series on Japanese fashion as we profile Undercover's Jun Takahashi and other visionary designers!
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