Japanese fashion is known for being radical, boundary-pushing, and extreme. Tokyo Fashion Week frequently focuses on emerging designers, further cementing the country’s reputation for avant-garde designs. Japan’s bold designers draw inspiration from the East and the West; the traditional and the ultra-modern. From critically-acclaimed legends to imaginative emerging designers, here are 10 Japanese fashion designers you should know.
Limi Feu debuted her label in 2000, presenting her clothes at Tokyo Fashion Week for several consecutive years before making her first appearance at Paris Fashion Week in 2007. Her designs have often been compared to those of her famous father, Yohji Yamamoto, with both designers displaying a similar use of asymmetrical hemming, layering, and dark color palettes. In contrast to her father, however, Feu’s designs exude a punk rock, street-wise edge. While Yamamoto’s designs tend to be more romantic, Feu’s are geared towards women of all types. The designer has been known to feature unconventional runway models, including pregnant women and women with tattoos, consistent with her vision of making all female figures beautiful.
Daughter of legendary designer Jun Ashida, Tae Ashida is poised to inherit her father’s company and has established herself as an exceptionally talented designer in her own right. Ashida’s women’s ready-to-wear lines are contemporary and elegant, favoring fabrics that transition easily from day-to-night. Her designs are slender and graphic yet functional, often incorporating cross-gender materials like tweed. More recently, the designer has also created original items, such as Leather pats® which are accessories made of French stretch leather and made to be worn on the legs or arms
Nicola Formichetti is probably best-known as the former stylist of singer Lady Gaga. Formichetti is also the artistic director of Diesel, fashion director for Uniqlo and Vogue Hommes Japan, as well as a contributing editor to a number of other leading fashion magazines. The designer’s eclectic style is, in part, a result of his diverse upbringing in Japan, Italy, and England, in combination with his background as a stylist. His previous designs for Mugler were reminiscent of Lady Gaga’s style, with plenty of latex and off-beat pointed shoulders; while his work for Diesel is more streetwear-focused, emphasizing leather and denim fabrics.
Born in Kyoto, Akira Isogawa moved to Australia to study fashion at the Sydney Institute of Technology in the 1990s. He opened his first boutique in Sydney in 1993, and has regularly presented at Australian Fashion Week since 1996. Isogawa’s designs pay homage to his Japanese heritage, often modernizing traditional Japanese clothing such as hakamas and kimonos. The designer focuses extensively on textile design, incorporating techniques like printing, embroidery, and hand painting. The result is a distinct style of flowing silhouettes, sheer fabrics, bold pops of color, and layered textures.
Yoshio Kubo spent four years as an assistant designer for Robert Danes in New York before returning to Japan to launch his own eponymous label in 2009. Kubo aims to incorporate social themes into his pieces, encouraging people to think critically about the true meaning of wearing clothing. Some of his earliest collections were inspired by Los Angeles gangland style, featuring sporty bandanas and aquamarine colors. He’s known for presenting his models with unusual hair and makeup designs, such as sturdy helmet-like wigs. His most recent Spring/Summer 2015 Collection has a contemporary marine vibe, featuring camouflage in addition to other bold prints and color combinations.
After studying design in Tokyo, Yu Amatsu moved to New York in 2004 to work as a pattern maker for brands like Marc Jacobs and Jen Kao. Amatsu launched his own brand, A Degree Fahrenheit, in 2010. His collections for the brand have focused on wearable designs featuring creative draping, unusual silhouettes, and intricate details. The designer has recently partnered with renowned Japanese fashion house Hanae Mori to help introduce the well-established brand to a new generation. His first collection for the brand featured butterfly motifs printed on classic shorts, jackets, and shift dresses.
Toshikazu Iwaya has gained a reputation for consistently being ahead of trends with his exotic and glamorous designs. Iwaya is the designer and founder of Dress Camp, a brand that specializes in flamboyant men’s and women’s wear. Iwaya graduated from the Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, after which he began working with At One printing textiles in 1996. With the backing of At One, Iwaya launched Dress Camp in 2002, debuting at Tokyo Fashion Week in 2003. The brand is known for its flair, color, and couture-style details, often drawing on the styles of different past eras of fashion. His 2007 collection featured 1970s-inspired styles, while his more recent work has blended streetwear with intricate tailoring and bold prints.
Yuma Koshino’s designs are unique, on-trend, and extremely wearable. The brand’s concept is described as “spiritual luxury”, aimed at providing comfortable, original clothing for women in their 30s. Daughter of Japanese designer Hiroko Koshino, Koshino graduated from Bunka Fashion College before studying as a trainee of Kenzo Takada in Paris. The designer launched her own brand in 1998, with her pieces showing high attention-to-detail and quality. Her latest collections are feminine, effortless, and whimsical, featuring pastel colors, Eastern culture-inspired motifs, along with a diverse mix of prints from florals to tie-dyes.
Yuki Torii is known for her classic designs that incorporate bold colors. Torii’s philosophy has always been to create clothing that she herself would like to wear, and as such, her collections are imaginative yet practical for everyday wear. Yuki Torii moved to Paris in 1973, launching her first collection two years later in the Paris Collection. Her work often features designs inspired by traditional kimonos, including wide-cut skirts and blouses with flowers and graphic symbols. The designer frequently mixes fabrics and patterns, such as leather paired with gold lamé. In addition to designing for her title brand, Torii creates costumes for plays and movies, as well as jewelry and men’s wear.
Tokyo-born Shigeki Morino ’s unusually-named brand, Patchy Cake Eater, is designed for the sensitive ladies’ man. Launched in 2012, Patchy Cake Eater is playful, colorful, and contemporary. Morino incorporated the word “patchy” into the name as a nod to the mix-and-matching of fabrics in his designs. Morino’s menswear takes the essence of masculine tailoring used for women’s clothing and reinterpretes it for men’s fashion, lending a delicacy to his designs. The designer often draws inspiration from vintage styles, adding a contemporary twist to classic elements. For example, his 2015 Autumn/Winter Tokyo Collection was inspired by the style of Tokyo in 1977 .
By Jessica Dawdy