It is enough to take a glance at New York Fashion Week in order to notice at least 13 distinct Japanese-born or Japanese-American fashion designers mentioned in the schedule. Fashion industry is a changing landscape with trends that change from a season to another, just like the fashion designers behind them. Even though French designers were probably the pioneers of this wide landscape, there is no doubt that Japanese fashion has become impressively popular since the 19th century.
Names like Yohji Yamamoto have been known since 1981, when Cathy Horyn from New York Times said that Yamamoto likes to dissolve sartorial boundaries. WTAPS was launched in 1996 by Japanese designer Tetsu Nishiyama, who follows the principle “placing things where they should be,” giving birth to new fashion collections twice per year.
The main point is that Japan is a controversial country with plenty of various cultures and subcultures that make fashion very complicated to follow. Staying up-to-date with the latest fashion trends is surely complicated, as there are, if not hundreds, then thousands of different fashion magazine issues being distributed in Tokyo all the time. Street fashion styles like harajuku and shibuya are probably the most popular, and they appeared during the last decade, when colors have started to flood up Japan.
However, Japan fashion distinguishes among the other styles through its eccentricity, with oversized garments, colorful accessories and incredibly nice shoes, which are neither pump shoes nor leather boots. By the beginning of the 21st century, people have started to adopt various fashion styles, which are usually called street fashion due to the fact that they combine both current and traditional trends within.
What about the international podiums? Well, there are still only a few Japanese fashion designers who present their creations during international fashion shows, which means that Japan is still a limited country and the main problem is originality. Even though most Japanese outfits produced by designers like Yohji Yamamoto seem unique, the problem is that they approach similar styles like other designers’, bringing novelty only through their way to fit shoes or accessories to the other garments. Let’s take a look at Tokyo street fashion: during the last fashion week in New York City, Japanese designers presented various versions of Lolita dresses, which were meant, according to their saying, to “present traditional femininity, blending childishness and voluptuousness at the same time.” Lolita fashion has been popular for quite a while, but it stayed the same since it was firstly approached. However, many Japanese women of various ages dress like Lolitas, approaching a Japanese-adjusted Victorian look.
An interesting fact about Japanese fashion is that many reputable designers, such as Diane von Furstenberg, consider it “an intelligent way to duplicate dated or current trends that keep appearing.” Unfortunately, Japanese fashion evolved because many important Japanese fashion designers have chosen to approach similar fashion styles, which were, of course, already popular within the fashion industry. “Bringing something new on the scene, surprising the public and getting positive comments from the critiques – this is what makes a fashion designer unique and really talented,” says von Furstenberg. “I do not like when others duplicate my outfits – it is like I would take Chanel Coco Noir, change its recipient, but keep the perfume itself and say I made it. I would not mind if someone was better than me at creating outfits, but stealing current trends – that is horribly and truly unfair.”
Is that the truth about Japanese fashion or just a way to disapprove and denigrate it? If we consider that, in many countries around the world, such as Germany, people, and especially teenage girls, prefer dressing like Lolitas instead of wearing haute couture garments, we should not rush into saying that. However, we believe that these fashion designers should be more original. Exactly like von Furstenberg said, “just dressing a guy with a pair of light-colored trousers, a jacket and a pair of huge glasses, and styling his hair just like a cockscomb will not be enough to integrate among popular fashion houses, like Valentino or Victoria Beckham.” And we agree with her – uniqueness has always been appreciated within fashion industry, so bringing new outfits and styles on the international fashion events will definitely be a great way to rise Japanese fashion above others around the world.