A common ground is seemingly present among top brands and up-and-coming designers in Japan: overseas is the next step to a breakout career.
Many designers in Japan, however, view the generally nonconformist Western World as conservative when it comes to fashion. Asked in a press conference before Tokyo Runway about the challenges Japanese designers face expanding overseas, designer Toshikazu Iwaya of DRESSCAMP says his focus now is on other Asian countries as he believes his brand might be too wild for the more moderate dressers in the US.
However, Editor-in-Chief, Christene Barberich, and Senior Global Editor, Connie Wang, of one of New York’s most popular sites, Refinery29, have a different point of view. “Japanese fashion has already started to become extremely popular,” Wang says. “Designers in the states are borrowing inspiration from Japanese designers this season with very tomboyish, baggy, peasant looks and avant-garde style and prints.” “There’s a market for it [in the US]. There’s a novelty to it, something very characteristic that I think fashion in general is moving towards. It’s unique… people don’t want to look like everyone else. They want to look individual,” Barberich says. “I think that’s something these Japanese designers help to promote—individualism—which is what our audience really loves and gets excited about.”
Wang believes fashion in Japan goes two ways. “One is very experimental and avant-garde and the other side is very classic, utilitarian, and functional. The US audience already knows about that classic side of Japanese fashion (with brands like Uniqlo) but they are hungry for that avant-garde side. There is an entertainment piece to it that is really appealing.”
When it comes to the future of fashion, there is a special balance of tradition and innovation that young designers aspire to achieve. Kunihiko Morinaga, the designer of the brand Anrealage, says that the strength of his generation of young designers is their ability to express their uniqueness and creativity.
The latest venture for Morinaga and his brand is combining technology with fashion. For his past two collections, he developed innovative designs, starting with his autumn/winter 2013 photochromic colors collection. Made in collaboration with a coloring specialist from Kyoto, his photochromic clothes change colors when exposed to sunlight.
In his spring/summer 2014, Morinaga integrates a dial into his pieces that can make the fabric shrink or expand. Inspired by the concept of Japan’s four distinct seasons and the need to maintain comfort indoors and outdoors, his designs let the wearer adjust their clothing accordingly—for example, allowing a traditional shirt to transform into a long dress.
In a culture where following the rules and conforming to society is typically seen as the standard, it was refreshing to be able to experience fashion as one of the most colorful forms of individual expression in Japan.
Check out the shrinking dresses at 9:30