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Tokyo Fashion Week: a new generation of Tokyo street and vintage culture

Translated by
Isabelle Crossley
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today Oct 24, 2019
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The first Tokyo Fashion Week with Rakuten as its title sponsor has just concluded. Going against the global trend of returning to a more mature and authentic fashion that has arisen as a response to the current environmental and political troubles, the latest season of Tokyo Fashion Week presented a youthful and streetwear-centred aesthetic. A number of brands showcased more wearable collections, while a common thread that ran through the entire week was a community of fans centred around a Japanese sympathy. The vintage culture unique to the streets of Tokyo also made an impressive statement.


Balmung - SS 2020 - Tokyo - Image: Fashionsnap.com


As other competing fashion weeks from neighbouring Asian countries including in Shanghai and Seoul expand, Tokyo Fashion Week has more reason than ever to showcase a unique aesthetic. Although the event is still sponsored by an e-commerce giant, it has now shifted from one driven by foreign capital to a Japanese business. If the fashion week succeeds in establishing its unique credentials, it could find a new significance that surpasses being just a springboard to the four major cities. 

One of the unique developments in Japanese streetwear culture is its own take on vintage clothing, "furugi," that is distinctly different from chic vintage styles found in Europe. During the heyday of Harajuku street fashion, a distinct and unique style was formed by combining designer brands with vintage and second-hand clothing and by cutting them up and reassembling them as experimental “remakes”. A new group of young designers that grew up in this era have emerged with a modern, DIY, and street aesthetic and this could clearly be seen at Balmung and Bodysong’s runway shows.

Moreover, brands that showcased more wearable and everyday inspired creations such as Cinoh, Sreu, and Rito have shown steady growth by calmly working on their businesses through showcasing their worldview, the completeness of their products, and the total composition of their collections. They are also following the global trend of bring up-cycling and eco-consciousness into the design process.

Designer Tomo Koizumi brought his fantasy-filled and optimistic worldview to the fashion week following his success in New York and the FACE. A-J project that connects Africa and Japan brought a fresh creative energy to the event. This contributed to the fashion week sparking a fresh wind of inspiration for the fashion industry.

Rakuten is considering sponsoring the event for the next 10 years. Although its first season with the fashion week has been somewhat lacking in the high octane glamour of past seasons sponsored by Amazon, this season marked the beginning of a long-term change that will depend on how the new generation of young designers will develop and indeed how the event will develop in partnership with the domestic e-commerce platform. 


A new generation of Tokyo street fashion 

Tokyo street fashion gained global fame following the Urahara movement of the 1990s but has dwindled in prominence in recent years. The iconic street-snap magazine Fruits even ceased publication in 2017 saying “there are no more cool kids to photograph." However, this season of Tokyo Fashion Week brought to the stage a new generation of Japanese designers who had experienced the golden years of Tokyo street style. 


Bodysong. - SS 2020 - Tokyo - Image: Fashionsnap.com


A group of three brands took part in a joint showcase for the department store chain Parco’s up-and-coming brand incubator project “Next Age Parco”. Amongst them, Balmung stood out for its industrial and futuristic streetwear. Its designer, Hachi, explores the theme of the relationship between the city and humans in his designs, showcased unique dimensions in his designs created by layering textures such as packaging materials. The way the clothes were worn in a DIY way, regardless of gender or shape, gave the collection a fresh feel. On social media, the label has attracted the support of the young generation, developing and evolving as a result of the interest of its online fan community. The digital world, is the new “street” for fashion, reflecting real-time Tokyo. 

Bodysong, which was showcased for the second time at Tokyo Fashion Week, is another brand that examines Tokyo as a city and showcased “improvisational” creations on the runway which alluded to the new generation of the city’s streets. The collection notably featured layered denim and workwear items with genderless and oversized silhouettes. The collection’s footwear also featured sneakers created in collaboration with Descente.

Non Tokyo incorporated elements of subculture into its girly collection which had the theme of “Ai no senshi” (warrior of love). With a style that dropped more “kawaii” elements in favour of military and workwear inspired accents, the collection brought to mind the street style of a grown-up Harajuku girl. The brand’s first runway show gave a glimpse of its playful spirit with music and production that brought to mind an anime heroine. 

Upcycling everyday wardrobes

Although the Japanese fashion industry has struggled in the post-Sacai era, a group of designers whose brands have a real understanding of the modern woman are beginning to emerge such as Mame Kurogouchi, who made her official debut in Paris last season. Among the brands taking part in Tokyo Fashion Week, it is these brands that have a serious focus on business and the greatest potential to “graduate” and travel to the Big Four.


Sreu - SS 2020 - Tokyo - Image: Fashionsnap.com


Among these brands, Sreu showcased sophisticated vintage clothing remakes for its first runway show. In Paris, Marine Serre is attracting attention for its futuristic remade clothing while in Tokyo, Sreu designer Saori Ueki presented a creative collection that was not limited to just upcycling. Sreu, previously named Furugi-ni-lace, uses old dead-stock t-shirts, sweaters, and denim and reimagines them in a sophisticated and modern way. The collection featured slim silhouettes, with notable items including denim and lace patchwork, t-shirts, satin, and a long dress with lace and finished in a sleek style. Although the brand has a small-scale production line that manufactures garments one by one in its atelier, it already has a presence in Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong and has been expanding its sales channels in Europe and Asia.

Cinoh, which has already achieved success inside Japan, showcased a collection with its own unique take on French chic. The collection featured border and basque shirts and, as well as cotton and polyester textiles, also incorporated recycled textiles that it is starting to introduce. 

Hyke, which has its roots in vintage army gear, further developed its minimal and clean utility wear this season with a collection that skilfully deconstructed military wear to conceptual and artistic effect. This season, the brand also announced a collaboration with Adidas. Combining the brand’s classic logo and sportswear elements with fringe and pleats, the Adidas by Hyke collection cut a sophisticated silhouette. 

Colourful optimism

Tomo Koizumi, who made a big impact at his New York runway debut last season, put on a fantastically optimistic show in Tokyo. Koizumi used tulle and ruffles to tell the story of one woman’s success with dreamy looks. Three new looks were added to the collection which debuted in New York for the designer’s Tokyo showcase and, although the brand has not yet produced a product intended for general public consumption, the show was a pure reminder of the fun of fashion and creation.


Tomo Koizumi - SS20 - Tokyo - Photo: FashionSnap.com



At groundbreaking project FACE. A-J, a number of African designers showcased their unique and modern sense of colour. Thebe Magugu used traditional African textiles and reimagined them in modern silhouettes  and Kenneth Ize presented a collection of colourful tailoring. Anyango Maphinga’s models performed a spirit-lifting performance in a collection of ruffled dresses. The event was a cultural exchange between Africa and Japan and Japanese brand Sulvam used handwoven textiles from Kenneth Ize in its own collection. Following the event in Tokyo, a similar event was held at Lagos Fashion Week in Nigeria.

Typhoon 19, which hit Japan just before fashion week, had caused extensive damage in the wider area. Mistergentleman decided to change its show finale at the last minute and presented a colourful ensemble with 10 colours. “I want to show positive power through fashion,” was the designer’s message. 

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