Japan’s Fashion Subcultures

Ulara Nakagawa writes: Japan’s fashion-forward reputation has reached legendary proportions.

It’s all a result of more than 30 years of fashion evolution. In short, while the country’s fashion industry started to gain international acclaim back in the 1980s, with the debut of higher-end fashion designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo in Paris, Japan’s one-of-a-kind and quirky street fashions are reaching a whole new type of consumer.

I recently downloaded a talk by New-York based sociology professor and author Yuniya Kawamura, who spoke at the Asia Society late last year for an event called ‘Young, Rebellious, Stylish: Tokyo! Look!’

Kawamura—who says she’s ‘fascinated by Japanese subcultures’—has done a lot of on-the-ground research over the years on the streets of Tokyo, interviewing young members of the various major subcultures and photographing their unique styles. And what she has to say on the current scene is fascinating.

According to her, in the past 10 to 15 years, Japanese have gone from being mostly consumers of Western fashion, to the producers of cutting-edge style. More importantly, it’s incredibly ‘interesting,’ ‘creative’ and ‘sophisticated’ Japanese youth, who are driving this movement, and making an international impact. ‘The world is now watching Tokyo,’ thanks to them, she says.

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