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Japanese Clothing

Japanese clothing designs mix the traditional with the new.

The kimono remains a strong influence in Japanese design. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The kimono remains a strong influence in Japanese design.

Japanese Clothing

Japan is emerging as a world leader in innovation, technology, cinema and now fashion. With an intriguing and powerful mix of modern design and traditional silhouettes, the luxury of Japanese fashion is making waves at home and abroad.

Japanese Design: A Little Background

It was in the 1980s that modern Japanese design really hit the western world when a number of bourgeoning Japanese designers, including Hanae Mori and Takada Kenzo, showed ready-to-wear collections in Paris. The mix of tradition and new thinking, clean lines, interesting silhouettes and bold monochromatic color schemes had mass appeal. Together, they became known as the Japanese movement.

Today, a number of movements are taking place in the world of Japanese design. Influenced by anime, British punk and '80s electronica, the Japanese street style is almost notorious for its bright loud colors, garish pattern mixes and baby doll looks. From asymmetric hairstyles, neon color palettes and costume-like pieces, Japanese street wear is incomparable and popular.

Several distinct styles exist: gothic Lolita (porcelain gothic doll look), Ganguro (bleach hair, tans and colorful outfits), Kogal (Japanese Valley girl) and Harajuku style (extreme gothic and creative outfits). The richness of Japanese fashion is due to its great variety of designers, both old and new.

Hanae Mori: Japanese Haute Couture

Known as Madame Butterfly in the world of high fashion, Mori has been an international headliner for a number of decades. Her blending of western silhouettes and Japanese finery has brought her global acclaim. According to Boston University, Mori was the first Japanese woman to show in Paris and New York (where she had boutiques before retirement) and have her work designated as haute couture by the leading French fashion authorities. She is known for her butterfly-inspired designs and theatrical costumes. Mori is celebrated for her clean cuts, asymmetrical patterns and stunning evening wear.

It is not only Mori's clothing designs that made their way into the American fashion world. Her lines of perfumes, colognes and scented creams and lotions are available at top salons and major retailers.

Takada Kenzo: East Meets West

Another pioneer in the world of Japanese fashion, Takada Kenzo was one of the first men to attend fashion school in Tokyo. Like Mori, Kenzo took traditional Japanese clothes, such as the Kimono, and introduced them to European influences. The blending made him a global fashion innovator. Debuting in Paris in 1970, Kenzo produced his own line and started his own company known as Jungle Jap. But it was his 1980s menswear line that made him a well-known name in the world of fashion. He went on to design for women and was heralded as the most multicultural designer of the 20th century. Bold colors and exquisite tailoring are hallmarks of Kenzo's designs. He retired in 2003.

Keita Maruyama: King of Kimono

One of Japan's foremost runway gurus, Keita Maruyama began his career in Tokyo after studying at the Bunka fashion college. His professional career began in the early 1990s when he designed for both men and women. He hit Paris in 1997 and began winning fashion awards a year later. Like the Japanese designers before him, Maruyama uses the kimono as a major influence in his design.

Hiroshi Fujiwara: Father of Street Style

Hiroshi Fujiwara is considered the father of street style and a pioneer in the art of limited-edition fashion items and represents the modern side of Japanese fashion. This snowboarding disc jockey turned designer is known for his brands Head Porter and GoodEnough. Focusing on hip, young separates and collector item sneakers, Fujiwara seems focused on not being focused. Inspired by socializing and human interaction, he represents the youth culture of Asia. With his constant change approach to design, Fujiwara is one designer who reflects the continual flux between Japanese known how and modern innovation that is Japanese design.

Japanese Fashion Trends 2009

According to Time Magazine (May 2009), Japanese street fashion is changing pace with a growing preference for off-the-rack international brands from America and the United Kingdom, rather than the more expensive Japanese Haute couture. Japan's fashion district Harajuku is full of Western stores packed with reasonably priced garments. Western consumerism has taken on a sort of bargain chic in Japan as global economic change alters how many fashion-forward Asians shop. The influx of American stores into Japan is a new way of blending eastern and western styles.

Tadashi Yanai is one local businessman capitalizing on the economic downturn and its influence on Japanese clothing tastes, especially among the young. His company, Fast Retailing has made him, according to Forbes Magazine, the richest man in the country. Yanai epitomizes the changing tide of Japanese fashion from luxury design with traditional influences to fun, youthful and affordable.

Japanese Influence on American Design

Japanese influence into American consumer culture has not occurred overnight. For several years, Japanese animation, cinema, cars, technology, martial arts, cell phones, toys and video games have become a growing part of mainstream American culture. As an article in Kansas State Collegian explains, a shift towards global fusion is being seen in America's young fashion designers; perhaps due in part to the global reach of mass consumerism. This global consumerism is demonstrated in the mixing of Asian and western products and innovations.

The American fashion scene has noticed a rise in Asian-American designers who bring a natural global fusion to their designs. As young Japanese designers intern at America's great fashion houses such as Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs, the influence of Asian design will continue to spread into American popular culture.

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