A Guide To The Most Famous Japanese Fashion Designers

Issey Miyake apparel store | © Hani Arif/Flickr
Issey Miyake apparel store | © Hani Arif/Flickr
Photo of Alicia Joy
Tokyo Writer15 September 2016

Japanese designers have a reputation for being on the cutting edge. These influential fashion designers have been shaping the fashion industry for decades now. Read on for a guide to the most famous Japanese designers and how they influenced the world.

Rei Kawabuko

Kawabuko is known as the founder of the Comme des Garçons fashion house. Her edgy, counter-cultural looks challenge the normal standards of beauty in the fashion industry, earning her respect and admiration from around the globe. Kawabuko’s fashion career began in 1967 as a freelance stylist, and six years later she launched her company, Comme des Garçons Co. Ltd. In 1981, Kawabuko began presenting her work in Paris each season and opened up a boutique there the following year. Comme des Garçons has grown to include over ten unique lines of men’s and women’s fashion.

An entrance to a shop in New York City, in typical Comme des Garçons's style | © ForgeMind/Flickr

Yohji Yamamoto

Yamamoto’s will be a familiar name to those well-versed in the fashion industry. He incorporates traditional Japanese aesthetics with his expert tailoring skills, creating unique, inspiring pieces that fashionistas clamor after season after season. His main line, Y’s, is especially popular in his native town of Tokyo. When this line first launched in 1977, Yamamoto’s goal was to design men’s clothes for women. His avante-guarde approach was a hit. Yamamoto has been awarded numerous awards for his contributions to the fashion and artistic industries, such as the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) from France and the Master of Design Award from Fashion Group International.

Yohji Yamamoto in 2010, left | © Masaki-H/WikiCommons | A silk dress from the Y's line | © Museum at FIT/Flickr

Issey Miyake

Miyake’s futuristic, technology-inspired designs have put his company on the map. He started his fashion house, then called Miyake Design Studio, in 1970. Miyake was always researching new ways to work with fabric, and his groundbreaking pleat designs were used for European ballet troupes in the late 1980s. He is also well-known as being the iconic producer of former Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck sweater, which the former Apple CEO wore every chance he got. Miyake retired from fashion design in 1997, but still claims to oversee the overall direction of the fashion lines produced by the House of Issey Miyake. His daughter, Limi Feu, is following in her father’s footsteps. She made her debut at Paris Fashion Week in 2007 to high praise and admiration by critics.

Issey Miyake apparel store | © Hani Arif/Flickr

Junya Watanabe

Watanabe was once the design apprentice of Rei Kawabuko and her Comme des Garçons fashion house. After graduating from Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, he began his apprenticeship as a pattern maker before being promoted to designer for the Comme Des Garçons Homme line in the late 1980s. In 1992, he launched his own line with Comme Des Garçons under his name. Watanabe’s reputation for innovative, futuristic styles and designs earned him exclusive design partnerships with big brands like Converse and Levi’s, and earned him a place in the unofficial Fashion Hall of Fame.

Kenzo Takada

Takada is known as the director of the Kenzo brand, under which clothing, perfumes and skincare products are sold. Another graduate from Bunka Fashion College, Takada struggled in his early years of designing clothes. With limited resources, he purchased fabrics from flea markets and blended the incongruous colors and textures together to make one fine garment. In 1970, six years after settling in Paris, Takada’s designs finally started to get noticed. He presented his line on the catwalk for the first time and opened his first store. His work continued to grow in popularity. Soon, a men’s line would be added; later, perfumes and finally cosmetics. Takada retired from fashion in 1999, and the Kenzo brand is now owned and operated by third parties. His influence in the world of fashion, however, lives on.

Kenzo Takada | © Tai Ping Carpets/Vimeo

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