Tokyo is renowned worldwide for both its avant-garde high fashion and its distinctive street style.
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 and founder of Comme des Garçons
The 50 Key Modes, garments and designers
by Dr Rebecca Arnold (Ed.)
The Ivy Press / Wordery
160pp. / £14.99