Bright, bold and eye-catching, but still somehow elegantly simple, the work of Chisato Tsumori is a swirl of clashing ideologies and contradictions that come together so harmoniously it’s almost impossible to articulate. Born in Saitama, just north of the centre of Tokyo, Chisato worked with Issey Miyake in 1977 before going on to create her own line in 1990.
Most of Tsumori’s designs are hand drawn, and she lets her prints take centre stage. Mixing manga boldness with a relaxed bohemian aesthetic, she’s garnered quite a large following overseas, especially in the US. Today she lives in Paris, though she still draws inspiration from her home country.
If you have even a passing interest in Japan’s street wear scene, chances are you’ve come across the enigmatic sk8thing. In the past, this iconic local designer worked with some of the biggest names in the street fashion business, including working as a designer for BAPE, Pharrell’s Billionaire Boys Club, NEIGHBORHOOD and Undercover. A man who likes to work behind the scenes, rather than be the face of the label, his past collaborations have always seemed to be with brands that already have a face (like Pharrell).
He has stepped out of the shadows in recent years, teaming up with a British collaborator (and ex- XL Records A&R) Toby Feltwell. Together they created Cav Empt, a skate brand with a focus on bold, graphic prints that are both futuristic and retro. Taking all the best bits from the past and diving headfirst into the future, Cav Empt and sk8thing are clearly the hottest names in Tokyo street fashion today.
Nicola Formichetti is probably best-known as the former stylist of singer Lady Gaga. Formichetti is also the artistic director of Diesel, fashion director for Uniqlo and Vogue Hommes Japan, as well as a contributing editor to a number of other leading fashion magazines. The designer’s eclectic style is, in part, a result of his diverse upbringing in Japan, Italy and England. His previous designs for Mugler were reminiscent of Lady Gaga’s style, with plenty of latex and off-beat pointed shoulders; while his work for Diesel has more of a focus on street-wear, emphasizing leather and denim fabrics.
The founder and creative director behind NEIGHBORHOOD, Shinsuke Takizawa has a special knack for adopting classic western fashion and somehow making it better. Think perfectly crafted jean jackets and classic biker style aesthetic with a clean cut edge, and maybe you’ll be on the way to understanding the world of Takizawa. Founded in 1994, NEIGHBORHOOD melded work-wear and street-wear to become one of the biggest and most sought after brands on Japan’s high-end and street fashion scenes.
Yoshio Kubo spent four years as an assistant designer for Robert Danes in New York before returning to Japan to launch his own eponymous label in 2009. Kubo aims to incorporate social themes into his pieces, encouraging people to think critically about the true meaning of wearing clothing. Some of his earliest collections were inspired by Los Angeles gangland style, featuring sporty bandannas and aquamarine colors. He’s known for presenting his models with unusual hair and makeup designs, such as sturdy helmet-like wigs. His most recent Spring/Summer 2015 Collection had a contemporary marine vibe, featuring camouflage in addition to other bold prints and color combinations.
After studying design in Tokyo, Yu Amatsu moved to New York in 2004 to work as a pattern maker for brands like Marc Jacobs and Jen Kao. Amatsu launched his own brand, A Degree Fahrenheit, in 2010. His collections for the brand have focused on wearable designs featuring creative draping, unusual silhouettes and intricate details. The designer has recently partnered with renowned Japanese fashion house Hanae Mori to help introduce the well-established brand to a new generation. His first collection for the brand featured butterfly motifs printed on classic shorts, jackets and shift dresses.
Toshikazu Iwaya has gained a reputation for consistently being ahead of trends with his exotic and glamorous designs. Iwaya is the designer and founder of Dress Camp, a brand that specializes in flamboyant men’s and women’s wear. Iwaya graduated from the Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, after which he began working with At One printing textiles in 1996. With the backing of At One, Iwaya launched Dress Camp in 2002, debuting at Tokyo Fashion Week in 2003. The brand is known for its flair, color and couture-style details, often drawing on the styles of past eras of fashion. His 2007 collection featured 1970s-inspired styles, while his more recent work has blended street-wear with intricate tailoring and bold prints.
Hiroshi Fujiwara is as much a music fan as he is a fashion designer. Although having two passions may lead some to think that it could dilute the work, in Fujiwara’s case, it helped create it. The often overlooked father of Japanese street wear visited the US in the 1980s, when he discovered hip hop and fell in love with the scene. Bringing the love back with him to Japan in the form of music, skating and fashion, Fujiwara created one huge cultural bubble. You can see this bubble in the form of the sneaker-store-lined streets of Harajuku. Fujiwara’s work spearheaded skate culture in Japan and inspired many big-time designers we see today, including Nigo (Bape) and Jun Takahashi (Undercover), who both worked under Fujiwara when they were younger.
For something a little more classical, you can’t miss the work of Hiroko Takahashi. The Tokyo-based artist and designer is bringing the kimono back into the modern age with a ‘60s retro-futuristic design. Focusing on patterns that predominantly use circles and lines, Takahashi has created a world of diversity from the simplest origins. In the early 2000s she worked as a fashion designer before going back to university to complete her Master’s in Fine Arts. Walking the line between art and fashion is where Takahashi is most comfortable. Apart from clothing, she’s also created her own set of home fragrances called ‘Japanese Stories’.
Tokyo-born Shigeki Morino’s unusually-named brand, Patchy Cake Eater, is designed for the sensitive ladies’ man. Launched in 2012, Patchy Cake Eater is playful, colorful and contemporary. Morino incorporated the word ‘patchy’ into the name as a nod to the mixing-and-matching of fabrics in his designs. Morino’s menswear takes the essence of feminine tailoring used for women’s clothing and reinterprets it for men’s fashion, lending a delicacy to his designs. The designer often draws inspiration from vintage styles, adding a contemporary twist to classic elements. For example, his 2015 Autumn/Winter Tokyo Collection was inspired by the style in Tokyo in 1977.