Perhaps I should amend the title to call this a small selection of our favourite Japanese fashion books?

The only thing I love more than Japanese fashion is reading (and Samuel, of course!). So, inevitably, I get a bit giddy when I get my hands on books about Japanese fashion, and I thought I’d take opportunity here to share some of my picks from our vast library. I’ve chosen books in English as I hope they’ll be more accessible to a wider audience and easier to find if you do decide to purchase any. (We also have a million billion more fashion books in Japanese, so if you’d like Japanese language recommendations then just let us know!)

“Japanese Fashion: A Cultural History” – Toby Slade, 2009, Berg. 

I quite honestly cannot recommend this book enough for the serious Japanese fashion enthusiast. Yes, it’s not exactly light reading, but the academic approach to fashion is well worth ploughing through. Slade provides the best cultural history of clothes and fashion in Japan, and crucially looks hard at the period when Japan switched from traditional kimono to Western dress. I’ve read this book several times and I always learn something new!

“Kimonos” – Sophie Milenovich, 2007, Abrams (English translation).

While Liza Dalby’s epic “Kimono” is about as comprehensive as you can get on kimono in English, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Milenovich’s quirky look at the world of kimono. Beautifully presented in the book is a variety of content: photos old and new; quotes; how-to sections; and art inspired by the kimono. It’s utterly charming, and one of my favourites from a design perspective as much as the subject matter.

“Japan Fashion Now” – various, 2010, Yale.

Accompanying FIT’s Japanese fashion exhibition in New York, Japan Fashion Now takes a look at (as you’ve guessed!) Japanese fashion through several essays on the subject. From Rei Kawakubo’s striking Comme des Garcons designs to the rebellion of lolita fashion in Japan, this is a great snapshot of modern Japanese fashion exploring both ‘high’ and ‘low’ fashion culture.

“The Tokyo Look Book” – Philomena Keet, 2007, Kodansha.

Although published a few years ago now, and we all know fashion is a fickle thing, The Tokyo Look Book does well to capture a particular point in Japan’s contemporary fashion history. As well as photographs by Yuri Manabe, Keet’s interviews with Japanese fashion’s brightest and best highlight the people involved in the fashion scene as well as the cult of street wear in Tokyo.

Style Deficit Disorder” – Tiffany Godoy, 2007, Goliga Books. 

With a primary focus on the Harajuku area, Style Deficit Disorder is a look at everyone’s favourite bit of Tokyo.  Godoy’s vision of Harajuku is made up largely of influential individuals involved in Japanese fashion, and the history of Harajuku-centric brands is a bit of an eye-opener. As a huge Japanese fashion magazine nerd, I really enjoyed the reading about the evolution of household names such as Kera.

“Japanese Goth” – Tiffany Godoy & Ivan Vartanian, 2009, Universe.

One of the more text-light books I’ve highlighted here, Japanese Goth is proper eye-candy for those who like life on the dark side. Mana? Check. Imai Kira? Check. Kaya? Check. More black and dolls and make-up and other gorgeous things than you can shake a reasonably large stick at? Check. Oh, and there’s a darling mini-essay by Novala Takemoto on lolita fashion too.

“Fruits” – Shoichi Aoki, 2001, Phaidon.

Where would we be without Fruits? The magazine and book publication that to many people is their first (and sometimes only) contact with the wonderful world of Japanese fashion has spawned a couple of subsequent books and a vast number of budding Japanese fashion fans. Would I be writing this right here right now if I hadn’t picked up a copy of Fruits a decade ago? Like people watching in book form, Fruits is and always will be iconic.

So there we have it – seven books to get you started on making up your very own Japanese fashion reading list. If you’ve got any more recommendations, don’t be shy – let us know!

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8 Responses to Tokyo Telephone’s Favourite Japanese Fashion Books

  1. Gem says:

    Ahhh Fruits ^ ^ I too became obsessed with Japanese fashion through this book. It became my style bible and is the basis for probably everything I’ve ever designed and created and my reason for going to fashion school. There is always at least a little bit of something I’ve seen in that book in all my work. I also love Fruits 2 and Gothic&Lolita.

    I agree that Japanese Goth is amazing and so is Japan Fashion Now, both books that I adore. Will look into the others as I don’t own those ones.

    – Gem

  2. Rebecca says:

    I have such fond memories of Fruits, I’m so glad other people do too!

    I hope you enjoy the other books 🙂

  3. Lisa says:

    Wahey! I have two of those! “Japanese Fashion: A Cultural History” and “The Tokyo Look Book” (^~^)b
    Always meant to get the Deficit Disorder one, will definitely make an effort to pick it up sometime soon. 🙂

  4. Tori says:

    Thank you SO much for the books recs! ♥ I’m really tempted to get my hands on the ‘Cultural History’ book just because I’m a nerd like that & definitely the ‘Japan Fashion Now’ one.

  5. Rebecca says:

    SDD is great! It’s very Harajuku-centric, so it’s quite focused 🙂

  6. Rebecca says:

    The Cultural History is amazing – it’s quite academic in it’s approach, but it’s the best work on Japan’s adoption of Western dress that I’ve ever read! 😉

  7. jana says:

    It’s the same story for me – stole my mom’s Vogue, said Vogue had a review of the Fruits book. Fast forward to now, with all of those books standing on my shelf. Well except the kimono one, but I have to check it as well. Thanks for featuring all those great books, I hope many people find out about them this way!
    If you could do a japanese rec list as well that would be wonderful (as well as pretty dangerous for my wallet…). I have various books like Across’ great street fashion history, but always manage to get distracted by more general publications on subculture, so there just has to be a ton of great fashion books i don’t know about yet.

    p.s.: While flipping through Fruits, I just can’t help wondering what all those people are doing today… On the one hand, faces in Harajuku often seem oddly familiar, but on the other, there’s the whole ‘sotsugyo’ thing and people leaving into a ‘normal’ life.

    p.p.s.: Thanks again for your London recommendations! I really had a great time there, although I didn’t make it to Primitive in the end. Definitely need to visit again soon!

  8. Rebecca says:

    Hi Jana!

    I’m really glad you enjoyed London! It’s one of my favourite places, but I really don’t think I could live there, haha 😉

    It’s so great to hear that the Fruits book has been so influential on so many people – I’m the same as you, I always like to imagine that they’re living the same crazy colourful lives as they did as teens, even though the reality is probably way more boring! I love current issues of Fruits just as much as the collective books even though the style is so different now.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more academic books on Japanese fashion in English rather than Japanese! I do have a lovely bi-lingual book on Comme des Garcons that deserves its own post, but sadly I don’t have it with me right now. I’ll make time to come up with a Japanese language list soon!

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