Japanese designers always seem to be that little bit more daring, whether we’re talking catwalk collections from Issey Miyake or streetwear from the likes of Cav Empt. They certainly have a love for denim and a knack for mashing up classic American and European designs into something altogether more outlandish – something unmistakeably Oriental.
There’s something undeniably special about Japanese style. There are certain heavyweight nations that are always discussed when it comes to menswear, but Japan often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. We know in theory that it’s a nation filled with cutting-edge designs, but it’s a world that feels difficult to navigate if you’re not already on the inside. It’s time for that to change, so we’ve put together an introductory guide to some of the most iconic and interesting Japanese menswear brands in the game.
Japanese designers always seem to be that little bit more daring, whether we’re talking catwalk collections from Issey Miyake or streetwear from the likes of Cav Empt. They certainly have a love for denim and a knack for mashing up classic American menswear and European designs, into something altogether more outlandish – something unmistakeably Oriental. So if you’re wondering which brands the most fashionable men on the planet frequently wear to stay looking fresh – from fashion houses you need to know about – fear not. The following guide has been made to keep you in the loop, because, after all, if you’re not clued up about your Japanese threads, you haven’t really entered the game.\
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The brand has grabbed the attention of all the clothing nerds on menswear blogs, but more interestingly, it has also created unlikely fans in celebrity circles, like Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Kanye West and A$AP Rocky. Fun fact: the name means nothing, Nakamura just liked the way “vis” and “vim” looked next to each other.
Designer Masaaki Honma often produced no more than 3 of each item, which frequently featured punk-inspired graphics, unique use of raw materials and the label’s iconic skull and crossbones logo. Mastermind Japan made a special limited comeback earlier this year via the Origami commerce platform, so perhaps there’s a future for it yet.
His achingly cool streetwear combines elements of urban style with high fashion sophistication. The garments are inspired by youth and rebellion – they’re deconstructed, slashed, reconstituted and emblazoned with powerful graphics that make a totally punk, anti-fashion statement. Undercover is Japanese menswear at its very best.
The result is a collection that includes denim, leather jackets, motorcycle goods, eyewear, interior items and more. There’s even a children’s line called Neighborhood One Third, based on the idea of making Neighborhood items at 1/3 the normal size. 2009 saw the introduction of the Luker By Neighborhood line, which adds a British influence into the mix.
Nonnative’s underlying philosophy is that quality should be experienced first-hand to be fully appreciated, so expect meticulously sourced materials as standard. The aesthetic is clean, casual and functional, in a subdued colour palette of black, white, khaki, olive and navy. The collections are timeless and durable, mixed with new fabrics and inventive details to balance practicality with aesthetics.
They’re also renowned for using heritage fabrics and crafting techniques to create their garments, looking to age-old production methods from around the world to keep their creations unique.
His cuts are more often than not large without being baggy, with a workwear style is inspired by both eastern and western heritage designs.
Goto also uses soft cotton that not only elevates the aged style he is looking for but provides unbelievable comfort. Remi Relief is vintage California soul straight from Japan.
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They produce unique, modern pieces more in tune with somewhere like Berlin, for those who like to walk that line between smart casual and casual evening. The fashion house also produces patchwork stylings that appear on select pieces, becoming something of a signature for the brand’s style.
From shell suite jackets and hoodies to bottoms and the classic Torsion sneaker, it seems there’s not a lot that Yamamoto can’t transform into a thing of beauty. But don’t be expecting a normal Adidas mark-up - these pieces come at a designer price.
He’s also collaborated with the likes of Barbour and Adidas (Original). White Mountaineering is the perfect example of how the Japanese take something we seem to know so well and turn it completely on its head - with eye-catching results.
Their minimalist ethos is very much in line with modern trends and design-wise their clothing is good value. But like many high-street stores, their garments are made for more of a quick fix than longevity.
Even though WTAPS clothing is closer to a streetwear brand, there is something truly elegant and sophisticated about their garments, something that instantly gives the wearer higher esteem in the eyes of others.
He seems to have the Midas touch with his creations, which go from absurd Avant guard to streetwear collaborations with converse. Miyashita has created a fashion world of his own and creates collections that could well be considered works of contemporary art.
Their graphics and colourways are eyecatching and represent a culture clash, much like an old Mo’Wax 12 inch. Whether you’re looking for a subtle addition to your wardrobe or a statement piece, you’ll find something in their collection to suit you. Made for the real street culture vulture.