One of the questions most frequently asked of me both professional and personally is where I see Japanese fashion progressing next, but you would get a very different answer out of me if you asked where I wanted Japanese fashion to progress to. I suppose to properly frame my answer I think you would need to see how Japan rarely has a very positive relationship with adapting its own culture, you just have to look at the only dominant sub-culture to thrive amongst the lost generation, otaku culture, to see that by and large these waves are epiphenomenal to whatever is happening in the mainstream, i.e. they rarely expand beyond their original medium and audience. However, inherently foreign culture is the exception, it is quite possible to have any given country’s culture become the flavor of the month and be splashed across every TV show, radio program and yes, fashion while being appropriated in the process. We are at a point where there are any number of vintage fashion shops spanning every possible genre of foreign clothes (and inventing new ones), and foreign brands are given carte blanche to enter the market while domestic brands struggle and buying Japanese vintage clothes is a trial. It all speaks of a desire to introduce foreign culture without audit and a reluctance to break the status quo when Japan’s own culture is involved – ramen must always be served a certain way despite their being 5 other shops on the street to compete with and kimono and yukata are never worn except at culturally permitted instances.
It puts me in a difficult situation, because I personally admire the preservist nature of certain cultural aspects, but there is also an argument that if traditional Japanese culture is not allowed to evolve it will be lost. Reeling this topic back to fashion, there are anecdotal instances of a certain movement being mounted to buck the trend and re-invent traditional culture, most notably from Matohu, Sasquatch Fabrix and the Showa nostalgia boom among bohemian types in Tokyo, but by and large there is such an oeuvre of traditional Japanese aesthetics to explore that I can’t help but think that Japanese fashion ought to do more get to grips with its past, before it takes another step forward.
I am not proposing a literal return to wearing vintage Japanese clothes, although that would be fun to see more of, but rather that the aesthetics, shapes and techniques might be an inspiration rather than being consigned to the history books.
The magnificent armor below was produced as a collaboration between J.S.ART and Marutake in python leather.
Imagine how fantastic just a single percent of this in a conventional western ensemble would be.
Here you can see above, the past and future of Marutake – good on them for taking the lead.
This shop is located in Kanda on the outskirts of Akihabara and a stone’s throw from Yushima Seido. Obviously the armor enthusiasts of Akihabara frequent the shop, but this location was also chosen in homage to the old artisan district of Tokyo that stood here long ago.
Check the official site if you want to pay them a visit.