Even before I became infatuated with Japan and Japanese culture, I was already obsessed with Japanese fashion brands. Regardless of whether or not you’re into fashion or the country, you’re bound to have heard big names in passing. I mean, can anyone deny knowing what Uniqlo is?
Japanese fashion brands have conquered every aspect of the industry, from high street to streetwear, and they have earned their spots fair and square.
Why Japanese Clothing Brands?
I think it’s a pretty safe bet that every one of us has at least one piece of American made clothing in our closet – the same goes for European brands. These continents are pretty much where most of the popular and famous names come from. It’s only recently that Japanese brands are reaching the same amount of hype.
So the question is: what differentiates Japanese clothing brands from the rest? Why should anyone pay attention to them? Let’s face it, if it’s not a fast fashion brand, we have to fork out a few extra bucks – what makes it worth it to a consumer to do that?
It’s simple: Japanese clothing brands guarantee quality and longevity in terms of both durability and design. Most Japanese brands’ concepts have deep roots in their culture, and the basic gist of the Japanese aesthetics – which is a whole separate write-up altogether – is classic and simple. So rest assured that whatever you buy in 2021 from a Japanese clothing brand, you can still wear it in 2031 at least.
When it comes to quality, I’m pretty sure that the world already knows how reliable the workmanship of the Japanese is. If they’re not manufactured and sourced domestically, they’re outsourcing them to reliable manufacturing companies. Most, if not all of my clothes bought from Japanese clothing brands have endured cold washes and tumble dries, and still not a tear or stretch.
Now that you’re still reading, I’ve sold you on the idea of Japanese clothing brands. We’re going to look at the top names of a few categories of Japanese clothing brands: fast fashion, streetwear, luxury, and denim.
Japanese Fast Fashion Clothing Brands
First off, we’ll take a look at Japanese fast fashion brands. I bet a few of them are familiar to some of you – they’ve made an international name for themselves. The others are on the same level as them, and here we have five.
Who doesn’t know Uniqlo? They’re the best place to go to for your everyday essentials. Started in 1984, this fast fashion retail has blown up to be an international staple in every fashion enthusiast’s shopping spree. The brand has successfully managed to produce high-quality products offered at an affordable price.
Over the years, Uniqlo has proved to be a fast-forward fashion label – you can expect collaboration after collaboration with famous artists, anime characters, and even other fashion brands. Not to mention their usage of the latest technology in lines like Airism and Heattech to combat the extreme heat and extreme cold.
Regardless of whether you’re looking for cooling summer pieces or durable winter statements, this Japanese fast fashion brand has got you covered all year round.
If you think Uniqlo is still slightly above your price range and would prefer something even cheaper, GU is your best bet. They’re basically the same thing since they’re both owned by Fast Retailing. The difference between them, I would personally say, is that Uniqlo focuses on minimalism and classics while still catering to the latest trends, while GU has more freedom to explore trendy styles.
With the concept of “fashion should be worn freely”, GU is best known to be the shop to go to when you’re in the mood to be more experimental with various styles without breaking the bank.
This next Japanese fast fashion brand is one that I stumbled upon on my first visit to Japan, and I fell in love! Started in 1976 in Harajuku, Japan’s pioneering fashion neighborhood, BEAMS prides itself on offering both classic and contemporary pieces following their concept of “basic and exciting”.
While this brand is slightly pricier than the first two mentioned, there’s nothing quite like BEAMS to scream affordable Harajuku fashion without sticking out too much. On top of that, BEAMS stocks a few other brands in stores, so you can not only mix and match styles but also discover brands you’ve never heard of before.
Similar to BEAMS, this next Japanese fast fashion brand also carries pieces from other brands. The difference is that United Arrows makes it a point to fuse the local traditional aesthetics with the Western modern ones.
Their brand concept is “luxury and refinement” and you can definitely see how well they stick to their theme in their stores. For those who are looking to experiment with their style and be more expressive like the Harajuku style but still a bit conservative about it all, start with shopping at United Arrows – they’re one of the best middle grounds.
The last in this category of Japanese fast fashion brands is nano universe. For those of you who prioritize quality and simplicity over the rest, this one’s for you. This brand strips down the fancy and redundant to just a stylish basic.
Nano universe strives on expressing one’s unique worldview, and they do that by not relying on trendy styles and focus more on functionality and detailing.
Japanese Street Clothing Brands
Moving on, we’re going to look at Japanese street clothing brands. Streetwear is huge worldwide, and it’s especially popular in Japan. Harajuku is basically where Japanese streetwear was born – if you’re interested in it, we have a whole article dedicated to Japanese streetwear.
For the streetwear enthusiasts out there, you might recognize a few names down here, and also a few new ones to discover. Here are the top 5 Japanese street clothing brands you should check out!
If you’re just starting out with Japanese streetwear or those looking to experiment with the style, head over to WEGO. This brand offers affordable Harajuku fashion and keeping up with the latest trends. You can’t miss the stores – they’re probably one of the most colorful, popping ones on the street.
Everything from statement t-shirts and pullovers, to dramatic prints and elaborate silhouettes, you’re bound to be able to go crazy and find a Japanese streetwear style that suits you at WEGO.
A Bathing Ape
One of the most popular Japanese street fashion clothing brands is A Bathing Ape. If you think you don’t know it, just think of that ape logo you see plastered all over the place – yup, that’s it. Even big names like Soulja Boy and Pharell Williams are huge supporters of this brand.
This street clothing brand started off selling printed shirts and hoodies before expanding to include jeans, sneakers, and toys, among others. Today, you won’t go a day in a fashion area anywhere in the world without seeing A Bathing Ape’s signature shark hoodie or cloud camo pattern.
Part of the original Harajuku streetwear scene when it started out in the early 1990s, NEIGHBORHOOD is the OGs of Japanese streetwear. Why wouldn’t you get on this brand if you’re a huge fan of the streetwear style?
This brand’s founder, Shin, is extremely passionate about motorcycle subculture styles, so its influence is quite prominent in NEIGHBORHOOD’s designs. Leathers and naturally distressed denim are signatures of the brand. Through collaborations, NEIGHBORHOOD has expanded to include military, prep, and other Western-influenced styles.
If you know UNDERCOVER, you know that their motto is “we make noise, not clothes”, and that says a lot about the brand. This Japanese street clothing brand sticks true to its concept – the past 30 years, UNDERCOVER has incorporated various fashion details into their designs including goth, pop culture, and punk.
They’re all about disruption and rebellion – the very definition of contemporary fashion. This Japanese street clothing brand is one of the most consistent and popular ones out there, so it’s a definite must for streetwear enthusiasts out there.
Another famous contemporary fashion brand out there and last on our list of Japanese street clothing brands is visvim. Also born in the Harajuku neighborhood, this brand has been exploding on the scenes thanks to names like Rihanna and Drake.
Visvim focuses on combining traditional and contemporary – both styles and techniques. One of their signature techniques is traditionally dying using indigo.
Japanese Luxury Clothing Brands
Our next category brings it up a notch again – we’ll look at Japanese luxury clothing brands. If you’ve read our article on Japanese fashion designers, then you probably will recognize a few below.
If not, we’re here to introduce to you the top 5 Japanese luxury clothing brands that you shouldn’t miss out on.
First off, we have Yohji Yamamoto – anyone who’s interested in Japan or fashion would probably have heard of this designer. To me, he is the very definition of Japanese aesthetics. Everything he creates is classic yet makes a statement, minimal yet dramatic.
Focusing on asymmetry and the color black, Yamamoto has created quite a signature aesthetic for himself. You can expect layering, drapes, and an overall androgynous vibe. While his main line focuses on luxury pieces, you can give his collaboration brand with Adidas, Y-3, a shot if you’re more into streetwear and athleisure.
COMME des GARÇONS
On the same level as Yohji Yamamoto, or some might argue that this brand even surpasses the former, is COMME des GARÇONS. Quite possibly one of Japan’s most famous fashion brands, founded by Rei Kawakubo, CDG is all about avant-garde and exaggeration. Say goodbye to simplicity and mundane; hello to the flair and dramatics.
One thing that is similar to Yamamoto is the extreme usage of the color black, but otherwise the two brands are quite different. The independent female image and free attitude have inspired many others worldwide to follow in CDG’s footsteps.
Another contemporary luxury Japanese fashion brand is Issey Miyake, dedicated to the concept of “one piece of cloth”. The founding designer, with the same name as the brand, has a unique approach to clothes – he is intrigued by the relationship between the human body and clothes.
On top of the signature pleat styling feature in his designs, Issey Miyake is known for experimenting with technology in his brand and is known to be at the forefront of it.
Moving on from the avant-garde luxury, we have Hanae Mori. This Japanese luxury clothing brand oozes an elegant and feminine ambiance as soon as you lay eyes on it. Expect florals and bright colors in the forms of dresses and accessories.
From everyday essentials to formal workwear, this brand has you covered. Hanae Mori also offers menswear, though, so don’t think it’s just for the ladies!
Last but not least, Junya Watanabe is one of the most respected contemporary menswear brands in the world. Previously working under Rei Kawakubo of CDG, the designer of the same name as the brand launched his own label in the early ‘90s.
Watanabe is known for its usage of patchwork, redefining clothing styles, and collaborations with other brands like Levis. You ought to want to experiment with this brand if you’re a fan of Japanese luxury streetwear.
Japanese Denim Clothing Brands
Our last category looks at Japanese denim clothing brands. If you don’t already know, Japan is one of the top manufacturers of denim in the world! Everything from dyeing processes to textile quality, Japanese denim clothing brands are the top in the game.
Here are 5 to get you started on your Japanese denim journey.
The first on the list is KURO. If you know a bit of Japanese, you would then get that the name of the brand translates to “black”. That’s because this brand plays around with black hues in their denim.
Even though they’re one of the newest in their market, established in 2010, they’re not behind their competitors by any means. 100% locally sourced and manufactured, KURO even outperforms their competitors with their unique designs and contemporary yet classic style.
Combining local traditional techniques with modern-day innovations, Japan Blue is dedicated to creating the best denim products. From growing and harvesting cotton by hand to dyeing with genuine dyes to ensure the highest quality, Japan Blue is one of the leading denim brands worldwide.
What I like most about this brand is that you can find everything from classic pieces to trendy ones without losing its styling and quality durability – all constructed the most Japanese-y way possible.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to buy samurai-like trousers from this brand. Despite the name, Samurai Jeans offers modern as well as classic jean designs. Founded in 1997, this brand doesn’t compromise quality in every step of its processes. Any and every pair of jeans you get from here is guaranteed to be of the highest quality.
Their signature style is the “faded” look – to this day, it’s loved by many old and new customers. From the cotton processing to the dyeing methods, Samurai Jeans is one of the top in the game of denim processes.
If you’re looking for a pioneering Japanese denim clothing brand, look no further. EDWIN started in 1947 and is highly regarded by locals and international customers alike. With a play of letters in the brand name, you’ll realize that it actually comes from the word “DENIM”.
Anyway, EDWIN originally started off as a wholesale of disposed of US military clothing but evolved to become the legendary denim brand it is today.
If you noticed with your previous jeans, they tend to fade away with every wash. That’s what happens with 100% natural fibre. With Momotaro Jeans, they have dedicated their efforts to make sure that their jeans don’t lose the colors dramatically.
Momotaro Jeans uses a dark dye to create a deep shade that withstands wash-offs, regardless if it is indigo or cargo in color. Oh, and all their dyes are 100% natural and genuine – like real indigo for dyes.
What Japanese clothing brand do you like best? Japan’s fashion scene is quite diverse and there’s something for everyone – from avant-garde and unconventional to basic and essentials. Whether you’re waiting for COVID travel bans to lift to fly to Japan to shop in person or just browsing online and checking out the catalogs, check out these above brands and get shopping!