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!