Japanese Fashion: From The Feudal Era to 2017
For centuries, both the Japanese men and women donned kimonos to wear on their day to day lives. Regular kimonos were worn on regular days, while the more luxurious kimonos were saved for special occasions. Up until the nineteenth century, the only acceptable choice of clothing for the Japanese were kimonos. This can be attributed to the fact that Japan lived in close isolation for two hundred years prior to the Meiji Restoration.
By the time of the Meiji Restoration, Emperor Meiji wanted to integrate western ideals to the extremely traditionalist population. While Japan developed a lot after its unification under Tokugawa Ieyasu, Emperor Meiji felt that western influence was needed in order for Japan to truly modernize.
The first pieces of western clothing that were integrated into Japanese culture were suits. The government mandated that all men workers were required to wear suits on a daily basis. At the dawn of the twentieth century, western fashion became more and more evident in Japan. Slowly, more western pieces started finding it’s way to the day to day lives of the Japanese, that by the turn of the twentieth century, the kimono can no longer be found anywhere.
Spring/Summer 2017: Current Styles and Fashion Trends for Japanese Men and Women
During the 90's, up to the 00's, Harajuku style in Japan as at its peak. It was a trend that took over the whole world by storm, as western countries tried to imbibe the fun, quirky and loud Japanese style. Even global superstars like Gwenn Stefani joined the Harajuku bandwagon by creating a Japanese inspired clothing line for the American market. Just recently,
But alas, gone were the days when the loud Harajuku style, along with its distinct “kei” or subcultures, dominated Japan’s street style scene. The style has subdued to more wearable versions that are more and more similar to street wear in fashion capitals such as Paris, London and even the United States.
After the Spring and Summer 2017 campaigns for major fashion brands in Japan that were held late in 2016, it was obvious which styles will be prevalent in the upcoming seasons. Below are major trends that are expected to transcend from the runway, and be found in the busy streets of Japan at this time.
Unlike typical Japanese school girl fashion where hemlines are extremely short, the real trend in Japanese streetwear right now is longer hemlines. Micro mini skirts have taken the backseat, and longer skirts and dresses are seemed to be on trend right now.
Mid-length skirts, popularly known as midi-skirts, are expected to be everywhere during spring and summer time. However, this trend is not entirely new as long skirts have been common in Japan for a while now. It is just now that they are truly dominating the runways of major Japanese brands. Given the Japanese’ affinity towards neutral colors, these long skirts are expected to be seen in neutral colors such as black, white, gray and navy.
Mid-length skirts from Japanese brand Uniqlo are particularly on-trend right now, as most of the style-savvy folks own at least one in their wardrobe. The rise of Uniqlo has, in some way, replaced the bold prints and outrageous streetwear that a lot of young adults in Japan used to wear. Instead, it is now more common to see individuals who are donning wearable minimalist pieces, that are not just on trend but are also comfortable and functional.
Longer hemlines, in general, are expected to dominate the fashion scene in the spring and summer. Of course, mid-length skirts are already a given for this season, however, dresses and outerwear are also expected have longer hemlines this year. Loose maxi dresses that are in neutral colors are very stylish in Japan right now. However, despite leaning more towards minimalist style, the Japanese still manages to infuse some quirkiness into their personal style so long dresses in loud colors and bold prints may be expected as well.
For men, outerwear, such as coats and cardigans, are also expected to be at knee or ankle length as during this season. Cropped blazers and jackets are expected to be outnumbered by long knit pieces, and ankle length structured coats.
Someone who has been following fashion trends in Japan would know that the Japanese are more inclined towards loose clothing pieces. This season, the spotlight is on culottes. Culottes are basically pants that are loose and flowy. They can be cropped up to knee level, or fall down to ankle length. It is worth noting that culottes are not just trendy in Japan, but they have been gaining much attention from all over the world these days. A typical Japanese pairing would include a slouchy sweater and wide legged pants (culottes) that are both in monochromatic colors. Even the men of Japan are inclined to wear loose pants, which is reminiscent of the Japanese samurai style in feudal japan.
Basically, the theme for spring and summer fashion in Japan is long and loose clothing. The only defining factor would be how each individual area in Japan would translate such styles. For example, Ginza, Shibuya, Harajuku, and Omotesando are areas with distinctions on personal style.
Harajuku district, as the name implies, was the birthplace of Harajuku fashion. This means that a person in Harajuku is expected to be dressed loudly as compared to other districts of Tokyo. It is expected that their take on these trends would be bolder, such as midi skirts in unusual materials like tulle and vintage knee length dresses in funky and dated prints. Harajuku’s definition of outerwear with longer hemlines may mean long fur coats in a mix of multiple colors, and their take on culottes involve pairing it with chunky black creepers and eye-catching headpieces as an accessory. Generally, the fashion scene in Harajuku has an air of kawaii uniqueness.
Ginza is considered to be the center of luxury fashion in Japan. A lot of western designers are widely available within the malls of Ginza. Hence, it comes to no surprise that the people in Ginza tend to give out an air of sophistication while still being on trend. Here, there are individuals who are sporting a mix of high street brands and designer luxury pieces. Bold colors are less common here, instead, a common spring palette would include powder blues, baby pinks, whites, and grays.
To visualize Ginza’s take on streetwear, imagine mid-length tailored coats in monochrome colors, elegant culottes that are from Zara or another trendy and up-and-coming Japanese brand, paired with bags designer bags ranging from lower end designer brands like Michael Kors and Furla to the latest from European luxury brands like Prada.
Shibuya, being the fashion and shopping capital in Japan, is bustling with hip and trendy young adults. The streets of Shibuya are filled with a good mix of shops that are either global fast fashion brands or trendy local clothing stores, so it is easy to spot the latest trends within the district. In contrast to Harajuku, Shibuya street style is less loud. While there are still occasional individuals who are wearing outrageous vintage pieces, it is much less common. Compared to Ginza, however, the people are not as commonly clad in designer pieces. Since the Shibuya crowd reacts quickly to changes in fashion trends, their choice of pieces tends to veer away from usual expensive high-end clothing.
Similar to Shibuya, Omotesando is also a popular district for shopping in Japan. Hence, the individuals of Omotesando are also expected to be fashion savy However, their fashion style tends to stick to a more minimalist side. Upon observing the typical pieces of clothing that are common in Omotesando, it would be obvious that they have a penchant for monotone colors and classic, timeless pieces. The streets are flooded with long tailored coats in khaki, navy and black, paired with black culottes. The minimalist aesthetic of Uniqlo is extremely evident within this district.
Latest Hair and Makeup Trends in Japan
Unlike fashion trends, the majority of hair and make-up trends in Japan are aligned with what’s trendy in neighboring countries like South Korea, or even trends from the United States. Usually, popular products from the west tend to make their way into a Japanese woman’s purse, while local brands like Canmake, Shu Uemura, and Shisheido are recognized all over the world as well.
In terms of make-up trends, a look that is particularly “in” right now is the “igari girl” look. This make-up look was huge in Japan a couple of years back and is starting to become on trend again due to the influx of Korean beauty gurus who are imitating the look. The “igari girl” look aims to give a “drunk girl’ look. It may seem crazy, but the trend works in a way that the look imitates the flushed cheeks of a drunk girl in a flattering manner.
In order to execute the look, it is important to keep the base looking as natural as possible by using a sheer coverage foundation or BB cream. It is important that dark circles are covered as eye bags do not go well with this particular look. The real secret to achieving the drunk girl flash is to layer on blushes. The blushes must be placed on an inverted triangle below the eyes. The lighter color must be placed first, then the darker color can be concentrated on the upper part of the triangle - underneath the hollows of the eyes and above the cheek temples.
A Spotlight on Notable Japanese Fashion Designers
In the recent decades, Japanese aesthetic has gained recognition from other countries for their unconventional fashion sense. It was through the artistry of five Japanese fashion designers that Japan cemented its status among other fashion capitals.
The 70’s was a great time for Japanese fashion, as more up and coming designers aimed to showcase their designs not just in Japan, but also into the world. One of these pioneer designers is Rei Kwakabo, who started Comme De Garcons in 1973. Here pieces entered Paris Fashion Week in 1981, and at the same year, she was able to set up her own boutique in Paris. Yohji Yamamoto, another big name in the global fashion industry, also started during the same decade - particularly in 1977. He focused on women’s fashion, creating trendy and edgy pieces for daily women, which was inspired by pieces that were meant to be worn by men. His aesthetic received wide acclaim not just in Japan, but even in the western world.
Known for his edgy but minimalist pieces, Issey Miyake is another famous Japanese designer who has gained popularity all over the world. In fact, he is responsible for designing the ubiquitous black turtleneck that Steve Jobs wore often at the peak of his Apple career. Similarly, Junya Watanabe also has designs that are unique and futuristic. His designing skills have gained collaborative projects with major brands such as Converse and Levi’s. Kenzo Takada, who was known for pioneering the brand Kenzo, is known for his designs that incorporate several loud designs to create something artistic. His pieces have cemented their place in the European luxury market, competing with homegrown European brands.
Local Japanese Brands and Where To Shop The Latest Fashion Pieces
Aside from touring notable spots, tourists who are traveling to Japan must do two other things: eat local food and shop. Fans of the global brand Uniqlo would be delighted to know that it is priced relatively cheaper there since it is a local Japanese brand. It is recommended to stock up on Uniqlo basics since they are known for good quality pieces anyway.
Aside from Uniqlo, one may opt to explore local Japanese brands. Non-mainstream brands can easily be found in Takeshita Street in Shinjuku, but popular fashion brands such as Deicy, Emoda, Murua and Snidel can be found in shopping malls along Shibuya and Harajuku.
In terms of designs, Deicy and Snidel are noticeably for the girly girls, with the abundance of bright colors, fun prints, and girly silhouettes. It is truly a mecca for pieces that exude girliness, with pieces that are to die for. On the other hand, Emoda carries a more diverse range of different styles. There are edgy black pieces for girls who are not into bright florals, and off shoulder tops that are reminiscent of the global trend. The last brand is Murua, which carries timeless pieces that can withstand the test of time.
The prices can be on the steeper side for Deicy, Emoda, and Snidel. A single piece can cost approximately from 10,000 to 30,000 yen, which are even more expensive than Zara’s pricing. Murua is on the more affordable side, with pieces that are justifiable below the 1,000 yen mark.
Be Inspired By Japanese Fashion Magazines
Anyone who wants to learn about Japanese fashion can easily browse the internet for style inspiration. However, old souls may want to buy printed medium to take home, since these serve as great memorabilia as well. For those who are interested in seeing the bold Harajuku style in print, Fruits Magazine is a great option. One can easily march to the nearest bookstore and buy this magazine with Peco or Ryuchel on the cover.
Other popular publications in Japan are Vivi and Nicola, which are magazines that cater to trendy teenage girls. CanCam on the other hand targets young adults who are in their twenties already. For men, a good option is Non-no, which features the latest in Japanese men’s fashion.