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Street style in Tokyo
Street style in Tokyo

A Guide To Fashion in Tokyo in 30 Seconds

Picture of India Doyle
Updated: 29 June 2017

In the new book, 30-Second Fashion: The 50 key modes, garments, and designers, editor Rebecca Arnold collates a quick fire guide to fashion around the world.

Tokyo is renowned worldwide for both its avant-garde high fashion and its distinctive street style.

In this extract, contributor Emma McClendon brings you the debrief on fashion in Tokyo. You can also read the 30 second guides to China and São Paulo on Culture Trip.

30-SECOND FASHION by Rebecca Arnold of the Courtauld Institute of Art

30-SECOND FASHION by Rebecca Arnold of the Courtauld Institute of Art


Since Japan opened its borders to the West in 1853, its culture has greatly influenced artists and thinkers alike, but during the 1980s, Tokyo emerged as one of fashion’s great capital cities. At this time three young, Tokyo-based designers began showing at Paris Fashion Week. They were Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo (for her label Comme des Garçons) and Yohji Yamamoto. During the 1980s, much of the industry was producing opulent looks in a kaleidoscope of jewel tones. In contrast, Miyake, Kawakubo and Yamamoto showed rough, worn-looking garments in monochromatic shades of black, white and grey.

Their clothes were loose fitting, unconventionally cut and often asymmetrical. They used holes and frayed edges as decoration and would ‘deconstruct’ traditional garments and reconstruct them into new and interesting forms – a technique that would become de rigueur for cutting-edge fashion in the decades to follow. At first, the press derided their work as ‘post-atomic’ chic, but these three pioneered a conceptual approach to fashion. They challenged Western notions of fit and finish, and, in so doing, solidified Tokyo’s position as a hub of fashion’s avant-garde. The next generation of designers has continued this legacy, including Undercover’s Jun Takahashi, Junya Watanabe and Sacai’s Chitose Abe.




Tokyo-based designer



Tokyo-based designer and founder of Comme des Garçons



Tokyo-based designer


The 50 Key Modes, garments and designers 

by Dr Rebecca Arnold (Ed.)

The Ivy Press / Wordery

160pp. / £14.99