5 under-the-radar Japanese menswear names you need to know
Ones deserving of a spot in your virtual shopping cart, or a major hunt on your next trip to Tokyo
It's evident that the buzz is all about Korea in recent years. This wasn't always the case. In the '80s, the rise and rise of Comme des Garçons' Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake prompted the world to cast its lens on Japanese designers, earning the country its reputation as the kingpin of Asian fashion.
Although Japan has now taken a backseat on the global stage — with the spotlight very much trained on Seoul's trend-led designers and the allure and influence of their local stars and faces — it hardly means the Land of the Rising Sun is lacking in craft know-how or talent.
Here, discover five lesser known Japanese menswear names that would belong in any curated closet.
Need to know:Previously a pattern maker for seven years at Yohji Yamamoto, designer Teppei Fujita stepped out on his own in 2014 to coin his own label Sulvam — a Latin word for 'improvisation'. Fujita's louche approach to menswear landed him a spot on 2017's shortlist of the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers. Interesting fact: Fujita did not study fashion. He learnt on the job at Yohji Yamamoto. Great for:The dapper yet experimental man.
Need to know: Born out of Kyoto and a Central Saint Martins graduate, Shinya Kozuka launched the brand with co-founder Saki Yukimoto. The duo present at Paris Fashion Week and are on the pulse with the menswear climate, offering of-the-moment silhouettes with a focus on construction techniques. Interesting fact: The label prides itself on craft and incorporates handpainted elements in their designs. Great for: Those who enjoy dabbling in trends, but prefer something more special than cookie-cutter interpretations.
Need to know: Meet Kozaburo Akasaka. The New York-based designer honed his craft at Central Saint Martins and counts experience at Thom Browne as part of his learning curve. The Tokyo-born 32-year-old's graduate collection was picked up by Dover Street Market, and like Sulvam, Kozaburo was shortlisted for the LVMH Prize in 2017.
Interesting fact: Akasaka favours designing with recycled fabric; his standout upcycled garments are predominantly jeans.
Great for: The denim-head.
Shop Kozaburo in-store at Dover Street Market New York and London.
Need to know: Co-led by Hiroshi Fujiwara — of Fragment Design, which has earned the designer the moniker the 'godfather of streetwear' — Uniform Experiment is Fujiwara and partner Hirofumi Kiyonaga of SophNet's licence to push the envelope, just as its name suggests. Interesting fact: While Uniform Experiment is known for hybridisation of prints and slogans, the cuts and silhouettes of their clothing are extremely wearable. Great for: Those who err on the safe side and favour a streetwear edge.
Need to know: Like Delpozo's designer Josep Font, the background of Sasquatchfabrix's Daisuke Yokoyama is in architecture. After developing an interest in graphic design, Yokoyama began with printed T-shirts, before expanding to ready-to-wear full fledged. The designer often incorporates Japanese tailoring in his collections with a contemporary spin. Interesting fact: Sasquatchfabrix has collaborated with Supreme and Uniqlo in the past. The label's clothing is in line with Japan's 'Genderless Kei' subculture (where gender norms do not dictate an individual's fashion and beauty preferences) and has clothing for women with a similar aesthetic. Great for: The adventurous fashion enthusiast.