Even a few years back, Japanese clothing could be labeled as one of the best-kept secrets in international fashion. Today, however, it has firmly claimed its place not only on the runways at fashion weeks but also in shopping malls across the world.
The world is now well aware of the wealth of fashion identities in the Land of the Rising Sun. And every day, there is more and more to discover.
This is why today we are looking at the best Japanese fashion brands. Some you may already know, but others may be a new and very welcome introduction. Let’s get started.
So what are the most popular Japanese clothing brands? Well, this depends on who you ask.
Japan is home to a myriad of styles, designers and brands, with each of them bringing something unique and special to the great fashion melting pot.
From streetwear and punk wear to timeless classics and fast fashion, Japan has it all. In today’s post, we will just be looking at a very small part of it.
Neighborhood was founded by Shinsuke Takizawa in 1994 and is one of the biggest names in Japanese streetwear. The brand was part of Harajuku’s original streetwear scene in the early ’90s together with labels like Bape, Undercover and others. The brand draws its inspiration from the motorcycle culture and creates classic American clothing, including sweats, flannels, leathers, and more.
The label is probably best known for its authentic denim crafted according to traditional specifications and then customized with intricate details. The Savage series remains Neighborhood’s most popular collection of industrial workwear.
Undercover by Jun Takahashi is a true icon of Japanese streetwear. The label has been a major influence in Japan’s fashion for over 30 years, and the company’s early designs remain some of the most in-demand collection pieces to this day.
The company’s motto speaks volumes when it comes to their approach to fashion. It says, “We make noise, not clothes”. Undercover is all about rebellion, punk, bondage, goth, and the complexity of post-modern aesthetics.
Wacko Maria has a truly fascinating backstory. The brand was founded by two J-league professional footballers Nobuhiro Mori and Keiji Ishizuka. The company started out as the Rock Steady bar in Tokyo and then evolved into a menswear brand called Wacko Maria.
The brand is best known for their shirts and outerwear easily recognizable by their elaborate decoration and embroidery. Mixing traditional religious iconography with classically American oversized slogans, the brand occupies a special niche in the fashion world — and has gained a good number of loyal fans.
The latest season saw the brand collaborate with famous graffiti artist Neck Face for a unique capsule collection.
Visvim is one of the most well-known modern Japanese clothing brands. The label was founded by Hiroki Nakamura in 2000 after the designer left his post at Burton Snowboards.
The designer’s pieces incorporate technical elements that were a big part of his previous job and blend them with the traditional crafts from across the globe. The brand’s manufacturing process is remarkable. The clothing dyes are made from indigo, mud and cochineal beetles. They are then applied to intricate textiles like linen, hemp and silk. The fabrics are then treated with modern technologies, like Gore-Tex.
As a result, we see pieces that are truly unique in their design and make-up — like the FBT, a modern take on the Native American moccasin. Blending natural leather construction and a solid Vibram® outsole, the FBT is one of the most sought-after footwear designs of the 21st century.
Junya Watanabe is one of the most respected menswear designers of today — both locally and globally. Before launching his own label, the designer worked at Comme des Garçons.
Watanabe focuses on interesting cuts and plays with textiles and forms to create bold takes on classic menswear designs.
The brand’s latest collections are characterized by the use of multiple fabrics in patchwork design. The company also has ongoing collaborations with Levi’s and constantly explores new styles and the way they are personalized by the wearer.
Yohji Yamamoto is one of the most famous designers in Japan. And his brand has continuously put forward stunning fashion pieces for over 35 years.
What makes the brand stand out is the influence it has had on the fashion world. The label’s signature elements - famous extended silhouettes, asymmetric designs and draped, layered styles, can be seen in collections from across the globe.
With that, there seems to be only one never-changing constant in Yamamoto’s work — and that is the color black.
When Evisu was first launched by Hidehiko Yamane in 1991, the company’s manufacturing could support no more than 14 pairs of jeans.
Today, the company’s seagull logo is iconic and widely recognized across the world. And there is an interesting connection between Evisu and Levi’s that this very logo reflects. Levi’s was not allowed to stitch their own seagull-shaped logo on the back of their jeans because of conservation and rationing during World War II. Evisu continue to paint their seagull logo to this day as an homage to Levi’s.
Today, the company makes remarkable casual pieces with bright and memorable prints. And, of course, there is a lot of denim.
Eiichiro Homma founded the nanamica brand in 2003 and started out by crafting pieces that blended technical elements with natural aesthetics.
nanamica’s pieces don’t look as if they’ve been crafted using the latest technologies — but they have been, and this seemingly minor “cover-up” makes all the difference. At the end of the day, you are wearing a uniquely stylish piece with a hidden high-tech edge that makes it last through weather and time.
The brand is also in charge of North Face’s highly popular Japanese sub-label, The North Face Purple Label, a true icon of the country’s streetwear.
Issey Miyake is a fashion rebel, just like many of his contemporaries. However, in the case of Issey Miyake, the revolution was more of an industrial one. To develop his unique style, Miyake harnessed the power of technology.
He created pleated garments that reapplied their own pleats after washes, crafted the iconic prism handbag decorated with geometric panels that folded and fluctuated, and more.
Miyake takes a functional approach to design, with its purpose being to improve the quality of the life of the wearer. It could be why Issey Miyake was one of Steve Jobs’ preferred brands — and this is exactly where dozens of his famous turtleneck sweaters came from.
It’s probably impossible to conclude the list of the top 10 online Japanese clothing stores without mentioning Uniqlo.
In recent years, the company has made itself easily accessible via shopping malls in all major American and European cities. The brand is known for its quality fabrics, comfortable designs and simple yet distinguished cuts.
It may seem like things have always been this way, but when Uniqlo made its first steps into Western markets, it caused quite a stir.
The company was founded back in the early 1980s and was actually named “Unique Clothing Warehouse”. However, as a result of an administrative error, the brand ended up being registered as Uni-qlo.
What makes the brand stand out from other popular mass-market fashion labels is the perfect balance of simple classic pieces and quirky, peculiar designs.
The company has also raised the bar for quality among both mass-market brands and high fashion labels. Making affordable pieces of great quality and design for everyday wear, Uniqlo has justly earned its spot in today’s list as one of the world’s most popular daily wear makers.
Medicom Toy is a brand that has deeply influenced Japanese streetwear and general fashion. And it may seem a bit strange as Medicom Toy is, primarily, a toy company. However, their iconic replica dolls of Andy Warhol and the Sex Pistols and reproductions of street culture characters like Futura 2000’s Pointman and A Bathing Ape’s Baby Milo have taken the company beyond play and straight into fashion.
ASICS was founded in 1949 by Kihachiro Onitsuka and is now one of the world’s leading companies in sportswear — and especially athletic footwear. The company’s name is actually an acronym for a Latin phrase translated as “a healthy soul in a healthy body”.
Our list would not be complete without a mention of Comme des Garçons. The company was opened back in 1969 by Rei Kawakubo and quickly gained popularity through the 70s. The brand had its high fashion debut in Paris in 1981 and has since become a household name in Japanese fashion.
This concludes our list for today. There are lots of great designers and labels that we have had no space to mention. But if we’ve caught your interest and you would love to keep exploring the intricacies and wonders of the Japanese fashion world, here are a few more fashion houses to look into: WTAPS, Takahiromiyashita, The Soloist, mastermind JAPAN, Needles, Cav Empt, White Mountaineering, Fragment Design, Suicoke, Human Made, Wander, Mountain Research, South2 West8, Kapital, Blue Blue Japan, and others.