TOKYO’S STREETS OF DREAMS

Byline: Koji Hirano

TOKYO — This city is literally bursting with streetwear trends.
As more styles emerge and become increasingly diversified here, new neighborhoods are popping up as trendsetters, spilling over from the usual streets that are incubators for hot looks.
“A lot of fashion streets exist in Tokyo now,” said Tsuyoshi Kawata, a fashion trend analyst and fashion editor here. “Shibuya and Harajuku are well known as fashion areas for young streetwear. But now, Daikanyama and Ura-Harajuku are also very popular.”
Daikanyama, which refers to both a street and a neighborhood, is a three-minute train ride from Shibuya. It is an emerging shopping destination for young consumers.
“There have been more teens here in the past couple of years,” said a spokesman for Hollywood Ranch Market, a store that carries Californian-inspired styles from the Sixties and Seventies, located on Daikanyama. “People come here to relax on weekends and fashion is more advanced than in other places.”
Harajuku, the heart of young street style here, is under constant evolution. Ura-Harajuku, or Off-Harajuku, has been gathering attention in the fashion scene and is now one of the hottest areas in town, according to Kawata and others. Young independent designers and buyers without enough funds to open their own shops along the main strip have found a home one block off the main street of Harajuku, and they are attracting young consumers on the hunt for the latest fashions. This is how Ura-Harajuku started three years ago, said Kawata.
“This is the first time there is a market like this,” said a spokesman for casual-streetwear shop Non Sect. “This is the place where young fashion-conscious people come to find new looks.”
As the locations for finding fashion have broadened, stores have also expanded their offerings. Japanese retailers are keying into the idea of a lifestyle concept that has been a critical element of American stores in recent years.
“Only selling clothes is not attractive for consumers now,” the spokesman added. “We sell CDs as well, for example. Shops here have to propose a certain lifestyle for consumers.”
The recent invasion of Starbucks Coffee into Japan has accelerated a custom that is new for many Japanese: having a chat or relaxed time over a cup of coffee. Domestic fashion retailers including Ships, Indivi and Comme Ca all feature cafes in their shops now.
With all the new areas for trendspotting around town, Tokyo and surrounding areas are fast becoming meccas of inspiration for fashion designers, merchandisers and buyers from around the world.
Judging from looks on the street, teenagers and 20-somethings are combining classic looks with more updated styles, such as a classic button-down shirt with sporty pants, or a hip-hop T-shirt with an expensive Gucci watch. Basic items bought at the Gap and Uniqlo, the Japanese equivalent of the Gap, are often used as a foundation of each style. Accessories like cell phone holders are commonly worn. It is common to see young shoppers with Louis Vuitton handbags at a Gap store, or Prada and Gucci accessories coordinated with casual streetwear.
“Mixed taste is very important for today’s fashion,” agreed Masayo Shimeno of Journal Standard, a fashion retailer. “Classic button-down shirts are hot here now, but they are not worn in the standard Ivy League fashion. They are coordinated with jeans, skirts and sandals.”
The retailer, which now has five shops in Japan, plans to open a new shop with a cafe in Shinjuku this September.
At Non Sect, cargo pants made of cotton pique are popular, as well as sweatshirts and cut-and-sewn knit shirts with small logos on them.
Shimeno added that classic fabrics like tweed and herringbone are also important right now, especially when paired with vintage streetwear items.
This mixture of styles is a result of the nation’s history of fashion. Japanese people’s penchant for imported brands and the American lifestyle are well known, while domestic apparel manufacturers and retailers always try to lure consumers with their own products.
During the nation’s bubble economy in the late Eighties, consumers learned about style primarily from overseas. At that time, the yen was highly valuated and more goods were imported to Japan. Now, after a long recession, the Japanese economy has started to show signs of recovery, although the recent bankruptcy of Sogo, Japan’s giant department store group, has caused some concern about how well the economy is actually doing.
Today, Japanese consumers — like consumers around the world — get their fashion information instantaneously, from local and international sources, and know how to coordinate their clothes in their own style. Bookstores here are filled with young fashion magazines that are instigators of trends. In many consumer magazines, photos of young street styles taken in Shibuya, Harajuku and Omote Sando are often used to demonstrate the latest trends.

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