TOKYO — Shinjuku red light district Kabukicho has not historically been at the crossroads of high fashion.
That reputation is now being tested. Located behind a love hotel is select shop The Four Eyed, which has set Charles Jeffrey, Y/Project and Martine Rose upon an area regarded for its swarm of hostess clubs and Yakuza enclaves.
Former Fruits magazine photographer Keisuke Fujita opened the boutique in 2016 with the aim to energize Tokyo’s fashion scene. Fujita and shop creative director Maiko Shibukawa hope to push the city’s aesthetic needle past its “stale” cutesy reputation and toward a new, thoughtful era.
“There are no places like this in the area — it’s kind of a weird location, but that’s what is good about it,” Shibukawa said. “We are really anti-kawaii [cute] style, we didn’t want to become one of the Harajuku stores. It’s one of our challenges — to change Tokyo’s mainstream fashion. It has always been about kawaii for the last 20 years of Tokyo fashion.”
Kabukicho’s cheap rents enable Shibukawa to select eclectic merchandise that is not particularly driven by sales. “I pick what I like,” she said. Shoppers can find a hodgepodge of vintage shoes, zines, Mauricio Stein sunglasses and Mimi Wade T-shirts sitting atop stacked tatami mats and nestled within the store’s crusted concrete alcoves.
By promoting itself as a community center for the creatively inclined, The Four Eyed has cultivated an IRL allure beyond just that of a consumerist experiment. The shop is open until 9 p.m., making it an apt meeting place before an evening out. The shop’s Instagram page has become something of a guest book for Tokyo’s style boppers — capturing model Fernanda Ly, designer Noriko Nakazato and Japan’s newfangled version of Björk, Kom-I on their drive-bys.
Fujita hopes to bring substance back to the in-person shopping experience. “It’s been my dream for a really long time to have an actual store even though online shops are becoming so big.” he said. “I wanted the challenge to open up a physical shop nowadays and make it a worthwhile place to visit. I wanted to make it mean something to go to a store again.”
Fujita and Shibukawa see the store as an incubator for Tokyo’s next fashion wave. They enlist designers, artists and creative-types to work in the store and encourage local fashion students to volunteer time in the creation of shop campaigns.
“In Tokyo’s fashion industry it’s been quite difficult lately to find someone really cool or a brand that’s really cool,” Shibukawa said. “Our main customers are fashion students. They too are sad about state of Tokyo’s fashion industry, so we are trying to give them a space where they can help see that change.”
“We try to get them involved in our project so find something they want to do; If they love a brand, we try to have them meet with the designer when they visit Japan,” Fujita said. “It’s what we are aiming for — to stimulate those young people in Tokyo who love fashion. No one comes to this store by chance, they usually come because they want to see something.”