7 New-Wave Tokyo Designers Changing The Face of Japanese Fashion. From military uniforms to dramatic cuts to bondage references, Japan’s stellar new-wave designers are truly extraordinary.
Japan is a fashion market unto its own. Its most famous designers — Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake — known as the big three by most commentators aren’t strangers to the fashion world. These masters have earned their god-like titles by creating a cult following through their progressive clothing styles, thus rendering Japan as one of Asia’s most exciting fashion cities to watch.
Thanks to the trio, a route is paved for other Japanese designers in communicating their language on a global scale. Following their success, exciting Japanese brands such as UNDERCOVER and Sacai are taking over the baton in this fast paced industry.
Conceptual, quality and uniqueness are words synonymous with most Japanese brands. That said, though many of these labels embody such attributes, each one of them are expressed differently. What can the rest of the world expect from Japan and who are the ones to watch? In our list we introduce 7 new-wave Tokyo designers who change the face of Japanese fashion today.
This avant-garde fashion label was established way back in 2003 by designer Kunihiko Morinaga, combining the words “real”, “unreal”, and “age” to form the brand, each word representing something their clothing stands for: the realness of everyday life, the unrealness in the extraordinary, and the age of everything. Morinaga describes part of his creative process as noticing the possible unrealistic elements of everyday lives and things and designing from all the kinds of misery he observes.
Featuring colorful and fine patchwork based on the mantra “God is in the details”, the brand sorts their garment records into three periods: the first seven seasons of collections from 2005 to 2009 represents the era of handiwork, the second period of five seasons from 2009 to 2011 is the era where shapes and silhouettes were brought into focus, and the third period includes 12 seasons from 2011 to 2017 with an emphasis on incorporating technological elements into the brand’s designs.
For ANREALAGE’s latest Fall 2019 collection, entitled “DETAILS”, Kunihiko took the aforementioned mantra quite literally and zoomed in to the details of several items of clothing, like the ends of a coat’s sleeves, for example, and translated that into actual, wearable clothes. It’s very much impressive; we see a large collar followed by two buttons on a wide cropped white tee paired with a white skirt, which displays the two last buttons on a zoomed-in button-up. There’s a huge dark coat, presumably zoomed in to an actual coat’s collar, resulting in Kunihiko’s interpretation of a ridiculously long collar with a shining gold button placed just above the hem. Then there are the big zippers, the oversized fits, asymmetrical cuts, and the look that probably stole the show was what looked like to be the zoomed in sleeve of a flight jacket turned into a dress, with the wristband hugging the torso.
Launched in 2014 by designer Mari Odaka, a Bunka Fashion Graduate University alumnus, this knitwear brand aims to express elegance in manufacturing that makes use of the texture and unique life wear knits suitable for modern women who combine strength with softness.
Their latest collection is a Fall 2019 line, and it seems that Odaka is giving knitwear a whole new image and reputation, featuring a stunning red crocheted slip dress as one of the looks to grace the runway for the brand’s Tokyo Fashion Week show. It’s completely true then, that Odaka creates her garments with great care to flattering the delicate female body in a strikingly creative and innovative manner.
Opening the show was a long black dress adorned with red and pink roses made from loose tangles of thread, and Odaka’s talent in effortlessly blending diverse textures and materials should definitely not be looked over.
DressedUndressed was founded in 2009 by Takeshi Kitazawa and Emiko Sato, launching its first runway show with presenting an A/W collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2013 in Tokyo. The brand’s capsule collection was featured as one of the six finalists for the International Woolmark Prize – an award that would spotlight growing fashion designers – nominated by Franca Sozzani from Italian Vogue.
The brand is known to stray away from distinctions of gender, specializing in unisex “genderfluid” attire and design, a choice that the Japan Times noted as treated with patronization until the brand’s collections began to receive rapid overseas acclaim. Kitazawa and Sato express closeness to their culture, describing the aspects of minimalism and the kimono as largely ungendered from a structural perspective. The duo believes that exploring unisex clothing culturally would be their way of contributing to their society.
The brand’s Fall 2019 line was presented at their latest show with a “video installation meets catwalk” concept, featuring live footage of models in masks. After they all made the walk to the stage, it was as if each model represented their own character, one of them holding up a sign that read “do something boring”, establishing performance art as a significant element to the show’s unconventional runway. There were some interesting and debatable choices made, like the nude unitards and ornate black briefs, but the cropped take on trench coats and button-downs were unmissably daring and attractive, along with blazers and their multiple key chain details and transparent panels here and there for an extra touch.
Designers Hideaki Yoshihara and Yukiko Ode appreciate the wonders surrounding heritage and evolution. It’s no surprise that they ran a vintage store in Tokyo together decades ago, but after dealing with the sentimental sadness in parting with clothes they loved, the two decided that they never wanted to separate with their darling garments; thus they took on designing and making their own to share with the world while keeping them under their names at the same time, granting the spirit of their fashion the ability to endure a long life ahead.
HYKE, a Japanese Adidas-approved label whose name merely comprises of the designers’ names combined and holds no particular meaning, prides itself on its use of outlandish material. Their clothing, deemed as “straightforward” by Woolmark, is high quality in tailoring and fabric choice; the two designers explained that the dissection of a vintage item is involved in the process of inspecting the thickness and quantity of thread, guaranteeing the best possible result, and using those fabrics as a reference when arranging the threads they do use as well as the style’s finish. After all, the brand’s concept is very sweet: “to evolve fashion history by our heartstrings”.
HYKE’s latest collection is a Fall 2019 line, and it’s clear that they’ve taken to military uniforms as inspiration. They’ve consolidated details from Royal Navy duffle coats and Air Force B-15C jackets into the outerwear in this collection, references that establish utility as a focal element here. The uniforms for chilly weather in earthy colors continue: plush faux fur coats, work skirts embellished with fringe and pleats, cable-knit sweaters, shirtdresses that go all the way to the knees, and fringed ponchos.
Established in 2015, designer Keisuke Yoshida launched the eponymous brand with the belief that the emotional distress that arises during adolescence poses no meaning. A bold statement indeed, though the intrepidity does go hand in hand with his daring designs. Mixing sharp tailoring and an eclectic range of textures, KEISUKEYOSHIDA believes in letting go and embracing oddities.
The brand’s latest is a Fall 2019 collection, which displays subtle bondage influences, a red light prominently present throughout the collection’s runway show, models walking down with bandaged heads. Featured in this collection are white slinky dresses in mesh, a short suit with an oversize double-breasted jacket layered on faux leather leggings emphasized with cutouts and buckles, and elements of structure like an origami-like silhouette achieved by clipping the tails of coats to the backs of collars, ballooned and extra long sleevs, shoulder plates, high waisted pants with ropes fastened, yet there’s a balance between the conservative and the libertine, as satin blouses are present in the show.
This eponymous label was established in March 2015 by designer Kotoha Yokozawa, an ESMOD Tokyo graduate. The brand places emphasis on exploring the relationship between feelings and clothing, attaining a sense of sensitivity that comes with dressing. The brand also has a second line named todo kotohayokozawa, where Yokozawa creates improvized items, launched recently in 2017.
The brand’s clothing is bold in cuts and silhouettes, evident in their latest A/W 2019 collection, a very diverse ensemble of clothing. There are slip dresses and shirts with a hole cut in the middle to show the stomach, interesting knit knee-high shoes which come in the shape of boots as well as a sandal-slip-on hybrid, pants and jeans with most of its front section cut out to expose legs, a black shirts with contrasting white stitching that covers one arm in a long sleeve and leaves the other arm sleeveless, a skirt cut around the middle yet still dangling on the knees, baggy trousers, and graphics on sweaters and shirts. That’s a lot of ideas jumbled into one thing, but Yokozawa turns chaos into harmony as her clothes stick to an earthy palette and are ironically pretty consistent in unpredictability.
Creating new ideal ways of life through unique experiments, PERMINUTE was established in 2016 by designer Yoshiki Hanzawa. The brand develops collections by focusing on the diversity of life through unprecedented cutting and material tests. Hanzawa and his label were nominated as a semifinalist from Japan for the H&M Design Award in 2017.
The brand’s latest A/W 2019 collection is mostly dark with the exception of a bright green and reds, and the styling is rather interesting. A cropped black coat is worn with a silk shirt and sheer white tights, a black knit sweater with red and white details are matched with the same white tights and bold red knee-high boots, a gray sweater is worn with long pants with bright blues and greens and pinks on it resemblant of pajama pants, an an asymmetrical green sweater is worn with a flowy maxi skirt. The overall silhouettes and oversize fit are quirky yet elegant, and a piece that may have been one of the focal points in this collection is long skirt made out of scraps of white, gray, and black fabrics pieced together.