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 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.
If you’re new to the Visvim brand, the clothes probably look like something that would be worn by a farmer from the future. In reality, the brand was founded in 2001 by designer Hiroki Nakamura and has become famous for its vintage-inspired, rustic aesthetic (and the luxury price point it’s available for). 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.
Mastermind Japan is responsible for an endless list of interesting collaborations, from Carhartt, to adidas, to Moncler, to Stussy. Sadly, the brand retired just after the Spring/Summer 2013 season, but that makes it no less influential. Exclusivity reigned supreme at this Japanese menswear house. 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.
When we talk about names that put Japanese style on the map, we have to mention Jun Takahashi. The legendary designer founded his label, Undercover, in 1991 while still at school and has been a fashion world favourite ever since his first runway show in 1994. 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.
Designer Shinsuke Takizawa was heavily involved in motorcycles and the surrounding counterculture when he started the Neighbourhood brand in Tokyo in 1994. The concept was to craft basic clothing inspired by unique interpretations of elements from motorcycles, the military and the outdoors. 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.