Vintage Fashion Edge
Anyone who has touched down in Japan long enough
to venture beyond the Arrivals lounge will be familiar with the
mismatch shape of fashion that big designer names have to negotiate
before taking their bows in fashion luvvie circles. This winter
is no exception with European fashion houses, Luis Vuitton, Burberry
and Gucci being wheeled out in circuitous style for winter with
classics like the three quarter belted coat and equine padded jacket
making up the chequered, leather melee.
A trend that allows for the wearing of designer
labels in combination with more affordable garb is what fashionistas
refer to as Vintage and its bigger than ever: a look that
Japan's youth carry off with enviable ease and one that has put
Harajuku in Tokyo and American Village in Osaka firmly on the map.
Meno in Harajuku helped us put together one of
this Winter's key looks for little more than 25,000 yen. It includes
all the main staples for winter which was somewhat less than a similar
outfit that was priced in a well-known department store. Inspired
by this winters catwalk shows in Europe but tempered by Tokyo's
unimitable street cool, Meno tells us that its out with pointed
heels for pretty ladies, and in with rounded flats, calve-length,
and fabric in 60's monochrome prints.
To cut to the quick-stich and without the frill
fram of Marketing terminology, this is quality clothing and big
designer names at affordable prices from a shop near you, thanks
to the latter day tendency towards clustering. Vintage or used clothing
is big business in Japan, generating millions in revenue each month
thanks in part to periodical contributions from some of the hottest
Established designer Kohshin Satoh recently admitted
to taking his Inspiration from the streets of Harajuku but support
from International quarters provides the further assurance that
Tokyo's style conscious crave.
Jean-Paul Gaultier launched a do-it-yourself version
of one of his latest designs last February and made it available
on-line for a fraction of its retail price. The project, which bears
many semblances to the spirit of used clothing, has delighted those
in possession of a bobbin, a set of nimble fingers and a special
love of fashion to compel them.
Keeping the flag-flying for Japan, Shinjuku's
Salvation Army used clothing outlet was recently the location for
some serious rummaging by Dutch designer Harry Putts. Early next
year he will launch a more affordable clothes line stitched together
with cast-offs donated by the shop that was famously frequented
by Vivien Westward in the early 90s.
Increasingly regarded as a veritable hunting
ground for desirable one-offs, global shoppers like Chris Sumner
makes regular visits to Japan on behalf of rich clients for the
dubious pleasure of being able to demand a "non-negotiable
fee including all expenses."
So big is the used clothing trend here that its
many off-shoots require some effort to untangle and re-classify.
Firstly there are the clear, for-profit shops wherein a veiled armoury
of cynicism should be worn to protect the rummager from impulsive
buys of what is effectively dime-a-dozen American surplus. Old yes,
antiquated it is not.
Then there are the Consignment shops. The individual
can sell unwanted clothes to the shop after agreeing to a price
tag that is returnable when and if the clothes are bought. Everybody,
a shop in affluent Azabu-jyuban is a veritable treasure trove overflowing
with Paul Smiths, Sonia Rykiels and Chanel numbers so evidently
it pays to hunt on rich but not necessarily fashionable ground too.
While high street retailers continue to sacrifice
quality in their haste to get the next product out, Used clothing
can be relied on for the very thing that delivers its aged but unmarked
goods into the hands of the wearer. A reputation for dying young
ensures that vintage denim remains high on the wish list of some
notable celebs such as Winona Ryder and Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot
Chilli Peppers fame.
The exchange of a few thousand dollars for a pair
of denims, previous owners unknown, is not uncommon in the glitzy
A clue as to why the longevity of perish-able things is prized so
highly in certain circles is to be found in the apparently flippant
way it is regarded in others.
Take Japanese gomi for instance. An untrained
eye beholds a collection of still viable goods but to the majority
of Japanese its simply a necessary part of renewal. Vintage fashion
didn't puncture the Japanese consciousness here until the 1980s
but it had been wearing its kitschy crown in America since the 1970s.
Weary of formulaic designs churned out by mass producers, style-makers
began to assemble looks that the past threw out, in sequined, leather,
or worn denim separates. Choosing a bag to match your shoes became
gradually superceded by the notion that it should match your mood
US Retro Secretary Anson Williams (Potsie from
the US Sitcom Happy Days) however, has got some well-founded worries
about our latter day love affair for all that's sepia and pearl,
warning that it will lead to what he terms "retro-burnout."
In effect time will catch up with itself which means that we will
literally run out of the old stuff and be left to purloin our more
recent effects with a much finer pearl-toothed comb than before.
There's some disagree-ment too, about how far
back we have to go before we can judge a garment as vintage, with
most authorities agreeing the mid-eighties as the finishing point.
Kansai, however, seems to be in agreement with its neighbouring
region Kanto in letting colour fight it out, which makes the 60s,
80s clear favourites on an otherwise dull winters day.
2-18-6, 4F Nishi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-Ku, Osaka
2-18-33, 4F Nishi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-Ku, Osaka
3-21-22 Jingumae, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo