Japanese Fashion Steps into New York City
by Saho Inoue
In 2006, the Japanese fashion brand, Uniqlo, opened its first New York store in SoHo. Bright lights illuminate the racks of casual clothing that fill the three-story building. A huge showcase is at the front entrance of the store. For now, they are showing new designed summer t-shirts in the showcase.
According to Uniqlo official website, the owners are now considering opening a second store on Fifth Avenue, and planning to open a third store near the Empire State Building.
The success of Uniqlo is a reflective of the popularity of Japanese fashion in New York City. Not only is there the popular Uniqlo store, dozens of smaller boutiques carrying Japanese designs have opened in recent years as well.
“Japanese clothes attract more people because of the quality is better and design is detailed,” said Gerold Mooney, who opened Japanese exotic boutique Callalilai in SoHo two and half years ago. Inside the store, they display Japanese umbrellas and wooden wardrobes that attract customers in exotic atmosphere.
“The attraction to the Japanese clothes is the quality and style,” said Maggie Lim, who works at Heloise et Abelard, an Asian boutique. She said “Princess Style” is romantic and fancy, and uses pink and white in order to express cuteness of girls.
Recently, the Fashion Institution of Technology, known as FIT, showed an exhibition of Japanese clothes, “Japan Fashion Now.” The exhibition was originally scheduled to run from last Sept. 17 to Jan. 8. However, the organizers exhibited, which included hundreds of items of clothing to April 2 after some good reviews.
“Japanese style is new attitude toward the beauty of Impression,” the FIT exhibition pamphlet said.
Visitors to the exhibition got similar impressions of Japanese clothes. Japanese clothes are detailed, high quality and outstanding in designs. Japanese fashion became popular because of its experimentation and appreciation of cultures.
“It’s amazing,” said Veronique Ronet, of France, while visiting the FIT exhibition. “It seems like more for young ages, but the impression is fun and happy.”
She said she saw Japanese fashion as forward, artistic, and colorful.
The FIT pamphlet described Japanese fashion as “Avant-garde.” For example, “Yohji Yamamoto” and “Comme des Garcons” are the Japanese brands, which mainly use the color black. Yamamoto is a Japanese designer, who is also known as a designer of Y-3, a collaboration with Adidas. Shapes of their clothes do not necessary emphasize body line. Their clothes are more eccentric than casual.
Furthermore, Japan has variety of genre of clothes, such as “Lolita,” “Forest girl,” “Kawaii,” “Cosplay,” and “Punk.” These styles are completely different from the casual clothes. For example, “Cosplay” originally means “costume play,” which comes from imitation of animation characters or dressing up the uniforms of occupation such as a nurse or police officer. This genre of clothes is popular among people who love Japanese cultures, especially Animation and Manga. “Forest girl” is the new genre in Japan. The concept of this genre is dressing up like a girl who possibly exists in a forest. They dress loosely, natural, earthy, and use sober color.
As a result, fashion business is a thriving industry in Japan, and each year, fashion industry shows rapid expansion in foreign countries. They produce many genres of clothes it can attract broad groups of consumers today.
Video: Japanese Boutique Tour
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The popularity in Japanese clothes is not only among women, but also among conservative men. Christina Jackson, 22, who works at Japanese fashion store called R by 45rpm, said that the store has been attracting conservative men since they opened the store 10 years ago.
“Because clothes in the store are simple but nicer, it attracts more male customers,” Jackson said. “They want to try something simple but higher quality. Also clothes are fairly cheap and textile focused.”
R by 45rpm sell both men’s and women’s clothes. Compared to stores of mass production such as Uniqlo and H&M, a store like R by 45rpm does not make lots of clothes, but about 10 to 20 for each design. As a result, each design has more value and high quality. In addition, the fact that the most clothes in R by 45rpm are made in Japan, gave good impressions to the customers.
Makoto Watanabe, an owner of Tokio 7, opened a consignment store in East Village, 16 years ago. The store has chosen as the Best of New York in the past. Watanabe said his merchandise focused on quality and uniqueness rather than name values. He said the reasons Japanese clothes attracted people were Japanese artistic senses as well as the high quality of productions.
“Each country has different sense of beauty,” Watanabe said.
Japanese sense of beauty in art and culture are not necessarily symmetry. Culturally, Japanese tend to think imbalance as beauty. For instance, when in a Japanese garden or a flower arrangement, people find beauty in asymmetry. Watanabe said that in Ryukyu, which is a part of Japan and called Okinawa today, their castles’ stairs were structured as diagonally. It is because they consider it as beauty.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://journo.webng.com/japan/fashion/soundslider.swf" width="800" height="600" wmode="transparent" /]Those senses of beauty are also found in Japanese clothes and factors of exotic impression that attract people.
“There are no such things like good or bad designs,” he said. ”Everybody has different sense, but what important for my store is to have clothes that gives excitement and uniqueness.”
At last, Watanabe showed unique clothes, which were made of Japanese materials or were inspired by Japanese themes. One of them was a Paul Smith‘s shirt, which made of a flag of Japanese fishing vessel, “Tairyo-bata.” The other is by Marc Jacobs, which used same texture from “Monpe”, a Japanese style trouser. Not only Japanese clothes attract people, but also Japanese material itself has attraction to some designers.
“The difference in Japanese clothes is the use of colors, styling and characteristic attracts people,” said Cassidy Zachary, a visitor of the exhibition. “For example, baby doll styles, it attracts more people because it is innovative, and Japanese designers are not scared to experiment.”