Apologies for the lack of articles here yesterday, but you might have noticed that we’ve made a few changes to the site (bigger images, responsive design, more streamlined – still working on it!) in the mean time. I’m very proud to say that today marks the second anniversary of Tokyo Telephone – two whole years, and we’re still here, writing about what we love: Japan and Japanese fashion.

It’s been a year of big changes, both for us and Japan, so here’s a few thoughts from me and Samuel:

Samuel: It seems difficult to imagine that one year ago we were in the aftermath of 3.11, with lookbooks replacing catwalk shows, brands missing seasons and women choosing not to wear high-heels so they could walk home in an emergency.  It was truly amazing to see just how quickly all that negativity and worry disappeared even only a month or so down the line.  I think we did see something of a lasting legacy in fashion, for example, if you had walked into 109 Shibuya during the AW season after, you would have seen a mass of beige that magazines like CanCam would be proud of, and it didn’t stop there.  It felt like the whole industry was pulling towards conservatism  for a while.

Rebecca: That’s true, it was all a bit beige for a while! I think this spring has seen a return to form for many retailers and brands though – there’s an air of optimism that had been missing for a while. I think the cherry blossom has got everyone in the mood for having a little fun… and all things pink and pastel, too. I think that the edge has come back this year as well – Jouetie’s spring collection really gave the mainstream a much-needed kick, and we’ve seen many shops responding to that, as well as people on the streets too. One of the most interesting developments for us this year has been the growth of the Akihabara-influenced fashion groups…

S: Definitely, that has been a real surprise, and it has been really interesting the amount of times that topic has come up unprompted in conversation with unlikely people lately.  I guess it is a logical progression of the power to define modern Japan that anime and manga still enjoys, but on the other hand I think to reduce it to those terms undermines the quality of the output we are starting to see.  Just last week I was talking to Hachi (the designer of Balmung) at a party and he was saying that he felt like you were seeing the kind of creativity in Akihabara that you got in Ura-Harajuku back in the 90s and early 00s.  Obviously it is not all just fashion, but the music, club events and street culture that actually leads to people wearing the fashion that is key.

R: Exactly, I think it’s arguably been the most important development in Japanese fashion over the past year. It’s a little at odds with the influx of ‘grown-up gyaru’ that’s come to characterise much of womenswear, but that’s what Japan does best: throwing up fashion curveballs that make you look at everything differently. With Jenny Fax dressing idol groups like Momoiro Clover Z and Mikio Sakabe putting his male models in girls school uniforms, do you think it’ll catch on abroad?

S: In a word – yes.  People abroad have always latched on to the extremes, precisely because it is pretty hard to wear in their day to day.  I often think that out of the context of Japan both regular street fashion and subculture fashion are equally controversial, so why not go wild?  Personally, I just hope that people start working out how to wear it in Japan well first, I have seen a couple of people mixing in Chloma scarfs and Balmung gloves into great outfits already.  On that subject, how are you feeling about your own fashion at the moment?

R: Good question! It’s an ongoing process as I’m just never happy with how I look. I was really inspired by the older women we saw at fashion week, buyers and journalists, so I’m not worried about a couple of wrinkles here and there. This year I’ve definitely embraced the shirt – cropped, oversized, black, white, patterned – and I’m edging ever closer to the kind of 90s Comme des Garcons look that’s my ideal. I’m still hunting for the perfect pair of black trousers though! I think I know the entire stock of the best designer resale shops in Shibuya now, haha. This spring I’ve started adding a little colour into my wardrobe by investing in some amazing socks – don’t worry, I’m not abandoning black clothes just yet! I’ve also started wearing glasses again, rather than contacts, so that’s changed my make-up too: I feel like I can get away with a much darker eye now. How about you?

S: I have been obsessed with lowering my silhouette as much as possible lately using a variety of wraps and skirts from Julius and Rick Owens.  I like the idea of referencing a traditional Japanese men’s silhouette with either a column (kimono) or hakama shape on the bottom, but a classic Western masculine shape on the top like a biker jacket.  Hopefully I have stayed away from obvious fashionista or shock-value  territory, I guess I just wanted to get out of the menswear rut and try something new.  I know that my classic jeans and boots will be still waiting for me if I want them, but in reality the only thing I miss with my current silhouette is a belt to hang pouches from, but one has to move on…

R: I think the future of fashion in Japan is a tough topic to cover – I’ve already mentioned how unpredictable it can be at street level. Of course, there are things I’d personally love to see, such as more designs along the lines of Yohji Yamamoto and of course more success for our favourite young designers. We’ve been exploring a lot of vintage boutiques over the past few months, and I can definitely see this continuing to grow and develop in the future. What do you think our future holds?

S: It has been great working for other sites, magazines and of course The Japan Times, but I am glad we have decided to be more visible as representatives of this site more, in particular being interviewed in ADD magazine (more on that tomorrow) was a really good experience.  Likewise, we have a TV project coming up where we will be the other side of the camera, rather than being the ones doing the recording.  Obviously neither of us are the type to want to be the subject of that attention rather than the ones producing the content, but I am all for trying new things.  On that note, we have a couple of projects on the go that we still can’t talk about openly, but rest assured that they are all about taking what we do here to its logical conclusion, rather than a departure.

R: Agreed! We’ve got big plans, and we’re working harder than ever to share the best of Japanese fashion with the rest of the world… Now, who’s for a slice of birthday cake?

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6 Responses to Tokyo Telephone’s Two Year Anniversary

  1. Andrew says:

    Congratulations on two years guys!! It’s hard to believe I only found your site about 6 months ago; I feel like I’ve been visiting for a lot longer, probably because you guys are so prolific. Thanks as always for all the great articles, looking forward to the year to come!

    Interesting thoughts on Akihabara fashion–I hadn’t considered it as a potentially new Harajuku a la the last two decades, but that would be really interesting. Concerning mainstream Western perception / media coverage, I’m personally not very optimistic that it will be much better than it was with Harajuku (i.e. “Harajuku Girls” etc)–I think being in Akihabara will unfortunately make it easy to talk about Maid Cafes and whatever else seems like it will get clicks and to downplay / diminish the fashion. Also, I think it’s hard to be hopeful after some of the 3.11 coverage we saw. In any case though, I’m getting way ahead of myself and out of my league, plus I honestly believe a site like this can have a large influence on how Japanese fashion is seen in the West.

    Good luck in the year ahead, can’t wait to see what’s in store!

  2. Samuel says:

    @ Andrew

    Thanks as ever, we do try and be prolific, in fact we have only missed an update for a couple of days throughout the life of the site.

    On the subject of Akihabara, these things always take a while to happen – especially to the point where they are significant. But the signs are all starting to fall into place, and there is even a new Akiba magazine with a street-snap section!

    Thanks for your support!


  3. Very great article, I feel the same as @Andrew.. I feel like I’ve followed this site forever. I truly think you guys give a different perspective when compared to other web sites who offer a “western” take on Japanese fashion. You guys get it, you live there, you’re connected with the upcoming brands, subcultural movements, shops, and people. I have been glad to follow a site that also appeals to my personal taste in Japanese fashion culture as well, something that was a bit hard for me to originally find in English.

    As for the Akihabara thing, it is very interesting for me. I think it takes time as well, but the thing about Akihabara is there is already so much culture going on there, I wonder how much this integration of fashion can really shine there? The talent we have seen with these designers has already been incredible though, so I think even if it remained subcultural/steady with what it is doing, its exciting enough for me.

    Do you see Koenji taking off much more? I really admire what’s going on there, but I would hate to see it become super mainstream. Not because I’m against these shops and designers getting more attention, but I think when things go mainstream, fast fashion tends to take over and kind of kill the original vibe of the place, kind of like we have seen happening in parts of Harajuku already.

  4. Samuel says:

    @ Lactose Intoler-Art

    Thanks as ever. Not to go off on a stream of cliches, but so much Japanese cultural coverage treats it as “the other”. Hopefully by actually living and breathing the same world as the subject we can avoid a degree of that. Maybe that stops us from being so critical, as we always have a personal interest in what we write about, but it is our site, and we want it to be a celebration of all that is good. After all, if we want to be critical we can do that in other mediums.

    I think you are right that in the context of Akihabara, fashion will always be secondary to the other aspects of culture. So it is unlikely to shine through there, it will be when it shows up outside Akihabara that it will be truly visible.

    And don’t you worry about Koenji, it is going strong. In a recent Kera shopping map the three areas it highlighted were Harajuku, Shinjuku and Koenji, so things are definitely becoming more popular, but I think we are a way off fast-fashion getting involved. The only thing that makes me uneasy are the certain (no names!) Harajuku based shops that rip off the real culture and sell it on the cheap. The ones who claim to be “Harajuku Culture”, but just copy the real thing and cheapen the culture they claim to champion. When they latch on to Koenji fashion and culture, that is when we will have a scuffle on our hands…


  5. Wim's says:

    Congratulations for these two years. I found tokyotelephone when I cme to Japan and thanks to the website, I discovered numerous famous and infamous Japanese brands.

  6. Samuel says:

    @ Wim’s

    You are very welcome – that is what this site is all about!


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