[fashion] 5 more Japanese brands you should know

via mrporter

There are moments when one city will punch above its weight when it comes to style. Recall the buzz around the “Antwerp Six” in the mid-1980s, or those two Bronx upstarts with the surnames Klein and Lauren who emerged from New York a decade earlier. Right now, though, it’s Tokyo turn – and what’s inspiring is that there isn’t just one trend. Look to the achingly hip streetwear of Neighborhood, whose Americana with attitude is so well crafted it would look at home in an Indian Motorcycle poster from the 1950s; the beautifully indigo-dyed farm wear of Blue Blue Japan, whose shirts, jackets and jeans are re-engineered for city life and will look better every day you wear them; or the surf-inspired classics of Remi Relief, whose hoodies and washed-out tees, updated with modern fits, have a vintage feel so authentic you’d think they were dug out of a Malibu attic. Today, Tokyo’s designers are reinventing multiple menswear archetypes (the outdoorsmen, the Ivy Leaguer, the surfer dude) – and their near-fetishistic attention to detail reminds us why we loved them the first time around.

There’s something uniquely Japanese about how the men we met on our recent trip to the Japanese capital remain as forward thinking as they are respectful of heritage – and this has a great deal to do with the Zen koan that is Tokyo itself. With 35.8 million people it is the world’s most populated metropolitan area – yet arguably its most tranquil. The immediacy, the mass consumption and the chaotic neon signs can overwhelm you, but you’d struggle to think of another city that takes as much time to quietly contemplate the turning of the four seasons. It is arguably more Westernised than the West, yet resolutely holds on to its Eastern traditions – with ancient cedarwood shrines standing shoulder to shoulder with the austere, concrete masterpieces of Mr Tadao Ando and co.

So, what did the men we met have to say about life in the city? That family matters, that no commute is ever too long, that a brand is much more than the sum of its parts – and that the surf’s always up come Saturday…

White Mountaineering

The Outdoorman’s Outfitter

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Mr Aizawa in the White Mountaineering office, Daikanyama

After graduating from Tama Art University in 2001, Mr Yosuke Aizawa, 37, worked as an assistant to Mr Junya Watanabe. A lifelong passion for outdoor pursuits including mountain climbing, snowboarding and fishing led him to create White Mountaineering in 2006. The brand’s use of heritage and technical materials, from corduroy and tweed to Gore-Tex and Windstopper fabrics, soon established Mr Aizawa as one of Japan’s new fashion innovators – his streetwear creations being as wearable in the city as they are in much harsher environments. “A fusion of outdoor style and fashion is what I aim to express,” he says.

Beams

The Ivy League Made Cool

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Mr Nakada relaxes at the Beams Plus store, Jingumae

Beams, founded in 1976 in Tokyo’s Harajuku district, is one of Japan’s most successful and respected fashion empires with around 140 stores spread right across the country. The Beams Plus line was started in 1999 as a purveyor of American heritage clothes, producing both rugged workwear and Ivy League-style classics. Mr Shinsuke Nakada, 37, started out part-time on the Beams shop floor in 2000, and in less than 15 years worked his way up to the Beams Plus director and Beams chief buyer positions. “The Beams Plus line specialises in American casualwear from the 1940s to the mid-1960s, which [in style terms] was America’s golden era,” he says. “Since I started working for Beams Plus my everyday life has been influenced by American culture. One of the reasons I chose to live in Kamakura is for the surfing, and I also collect American mid-century furniture and home wares.”

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