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Ruling the Runway: Brave, Formula-Free, Unabashed Japanese Style Powerfully Influencing Global Fashion (Fall & Winter 2022/2023)

Japan is undoubtedly a trend-setting hotspot when it comes to forward-thinking, out-of-the-box, and unapologetic fashion. Ever since talented Japanese designers like Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto amazed the international fashion world with their imaginative and unique designs in the 1980s, Japanese brands have been paving new paths across the global fashion spectrum.

From Paris to Milan, New York to LA, these designers have brought experimental layers, non-conformist lines,  oversized proportions, clashing prints, and tactile materials to the international marketplace, changing the world’s perception of fashion forever.

With dynamic and daring fashion constantly appearing on the streets of  Harajuku, it’s no wonder why the world has its collective eyes on Japan for the next big fashion trends.

Proving that fashion doesn’t have to be neat, organized, or gentle, Japanese fashionistas have shown the world that trend-setting styles can be innovative, unabashed, and even a little messy.

Japan’s fashion influencers, then and now 

Born in 1938, fashion designer Issey Miyake debuted his first collection in Tokyo, Japan in 1963, while attending Tama Art University. Earning acclaim for his technology-infused fashion during the mid-eighties, Miyake explored the space between the human body and the cloth that covers it.

His signature origami-like pleating technique was as much a feat of engineering as it was a sartorial statement. Believing in creating items that are not just beautifully made, but comfortable, affordable, and practical enough for everyday use, his design ethos was refreshingly democratic and well ahead of its time.

Defining an era in Japan's modern history, reaching stardom in the 1970s among a generation of designers and artists who defined a Japanese vision that was unique from the West, Miyake, who detested being called a fashion designer, and chose not to identify with what he saw as a frivolous, trend-watching, or conspicuous, broke the mold, blurring the lines between the eastern and western fashion. 

https://time.com/4315311/how-3d-printing-is-revolutionizing-the-fashion-industry/

Again and again, returning to his basic concept of starting with a single piece of cloth, Mikaye’s avant-garde designs transcended gender, size, race, and age (and yes, time.).

With designs as astonishing as they were beautiful (like hooded coats made to replicate the structure of a paper, dresses made from mosquito nets, shell-shaped pullovers made of fishing line, and jackets made out of Japanese paper, traditionally used for umbrellas,)  Mikaye’s unique visions transformed space and time. 

Retiring from the active fashion world in 1997, he continued to oversee the overall direction of his brand until his death in August 2022.   

Today Miyake’s designs are preserved at institutions around the world, including London's Victoria and Albert Museum, New York's Museum of Modern Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, allowing his treasures to live on.

A Rebel Yell

Another trend, initially promoted by Japanese designers like the late Kansai Yamamoto, the exuberant Japanese influencer that designed for celebrities like David Bowie, is combining traditional Japanese adornments with modern elements.

A proponent of fluid dressing and a rejection of rigid societal norms, self-expression through dress was the designer’s rebel yell,  and this year’s Japanese runways are taking inspiration from this pioneer in design.

Four decades later, the world once again cannot keep its eyes off of this colorful country’s unabashed style.  Witnessing a revolution in fashion with testimonials from world-class celebrity designers  like Kayne West, Jay-Z,  and Japan’s own rockstar designer,  Yoshikimono, fashion’s  global focus is fixed on Tokyo  when predicting the next big trend.

Kimono: from Kyoto to Catwalk

When the Victoria & Albert Museum in London presented a retrospective dedicated to  the Kimono, the exhibition turned a spotlight on this emblematic garment from Japanese fashion beginning with the Edo era (1600-1868) to its introduction into western fashion and the contemporary interpretations anchored in pop culture.

In a collaboration with Yoshiki, the legendary frontman of the band X Japan, for an exhibition, “Kimono: from Kyoto to Catwalk,” the museum showcased pieces by Yoshikimono, the musician’s own brand. As guest of honor, Yoshikimono,  who had previously participated in Tokyo’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the Tokyo Amazon Fashion Week, and graced the cover of Vogue Japan, becoming the first Japanese man to ever appear on the magazine’s cover, the designer presented his interpretation of this traditional garb.

Drawing inspiration directly from the ancestral heritage of Japanese savoir-faire through the use of voiles, leathers, and vibrant colors, the brand is rocking the Asian fashion boat.

Japanese fashion designers and their globally inspired counterparts are taking inspiration from both ends of the spectrum. From the loud and proud street style of Harajuku to the minimalist refined looks of Tokyo, Japanese fashion does not follow a formula.

A nation of risk-takers, Japan’s fashion-forward influencers don’t shy away from mixing and matching prints, pairing bold colors that once didn’t make sense, or adorning quirky accessories.

This season’s Japanese fashion is taking inspiration from the looks of everyday Tokyo life and Harajuku street style, mixing clashing prints, brazen colors, oversized proportions, and outlier layers. 

Today, more than ever before, Japanese fashion trends are finding their way onto the runways, fashion mag covers, and city streets across the globe. 

Harayaku street style fashion show

Fall/winter 2022/2023 is bringing trends like plaids on plaids, slouchy trenches, wide bottoms, and unapologetic mixes of patterns and colors to coincide with the new way the world lives today. Blurring the lines that once separated workwear with weekend style, the rule books have been tossed and Japan’s fashion influence is leading the charge. 

While there’s no one tried-and-true “look” that says, “Japanese fashion,” we’ve put together a list of the biggest trends hitting the streets of Tokyo and making their international mark in fall and winter 2022-2023.

Slouchy Outwear

Japanese street style

Say goodbye to the days when outerwear was just something you threw on over your outfit just to keep you warm. These days, outerwear is taking on a style all its own, making a bold statement that completes an outfit – instead of just covering it up.

Super-oversized and slouchy, today’s coats and jackets are meant to add character and depth to a look. With the focus totally off on the pragmatic, today’s toppers are worn in a purposely lethargic manner, meant to spark style and nothing more.

Mad for Plaid on Plaid

Mad for Plaid on Plaid

Leave it up to the fashion-forward fashionistas in Japan to pair-up plaids and prints. And somehow, it works! Mixing plaids might sound a little too crazy, but once you see it, you’ll believe it.

The key to making a plaid-on plaid ensemble work in your favor is to use pieces that are complementary in color, not competing. Inspired by 90s preppy styles, blending different plaids in a single outfit proves there’s no longer such a thing as clashing.

Wide Bottoms

Wide bottoms style

Move over skinny-leg pants and jeggings, free-flowing wide-leg bottoms are flooding the streets of Harajuku (and NYC, for that matter) this season.

Paired with vintage tees, cropped cardigans, and statement coats,  or layered under maxi dresses or skirts, when it comes to wide leg bottoms, there’s no such thing as being oversized, incorrectly used, or “too much!”

Joggers everywhere

joggers everywear style

In keeping with the new way, we live, balancing work life with the home base, athleisure wear mixed with traditional office attire is not going anywhere this year!  The Japanese fashion scene is bringing back joggers, sweat pants, and track pants, (whatever you want to call them) and pairing them with - well, basically anything!

Super comfortable and lightweight, the bottoms traditionally worn for exercise and bumming around the house, sweats are now being repurposed to lend streetwear look to an otherwise corporate (what’s that?)  look.

Fairy Goth

Fairy Goth style

A nod to 80s thrift store grunge, Japan’s “Punk is not fashion but a statement,'” movement, has made fairy goth a seasoned reality. Yes, Halloween is in style on the streets of Tokyo in 2022.

Over-the-top Oversized Hoodies

The trend of baggy clothes started on the streets of Tokyo – later on translating into oversized hoodies, much known as the symbol of the American hip-hop revolution.

Re-unplugged into the stylistic culture by the Japanese street fashion trends, we see the return of oversized hoodies to Japan, this year.

Easy to match with baggy pants, tight-fit dresses, or even muscle-hugging shirts, loose hoodies in bold colors are the way forward right now.

Comfortable, baggy, chunky, relaxed, versatile, and above all, unisex, hyperbolical hoodie silhouettes are here to stay.

E - girl style 

The E-girl aesthetic exists (and it is growing fast) driven by a vibe and style that can’t be mistaken with anything else.

Introduced in the 2000s fashion, the current E-girl concept reflects the modern lifestyle of the early ‘electronic girls,’ but through the lens of K-Pop fashion and rave cultures.

E-girl outfits are a unique blend of doll-like anime looks mixed with gothic, grunge, vaporwave, and skater styles.

The diversity allows the aesthetic to be interpreted in various ways and adjusted to suit the most distinctive brands of electronic cool.

Laud Prints 

Another big trend, initially promoted by the Japanese fashion magazines at the end of 2021 and early 2022, is the printed shirt with a twist.

In the past, Japanese designers adorned shirts with boho-chic florals and traditional elements, such as snakes, dragons, cherry trees, and bamboo sticks. But 2022 Japanese shirts are all about a mix of western culture patterns and traditional elements.

Anything but subtle, the louder, the better– this is a year of vibrant prints, crazy patterns, and solid statement pieces.

Metallics

Making its way back from the 80s and influenced by the retro-futurist aesthetic, metallic and silver (materials and colors) is a fast-rising Japanese fashion trend right now.

The aim is to create a futuristic and powerful look that’s both sophisticated and sexy.

Color Block Pops of Color

Inspired by the androgynous and gender-free movement, Japanese fashion trends are bathing in rainbow hues and shades.

Pair your classic pants or e-girl pencil skirts with shades at the opposite segment of the color wheel.

Camo Come-back

Camo style

Camo again? You bet!

Hailed as one of the trendiest styles of the past few years, camo has finally reached Japan’s high fashion streets. From boots to hats, sweats to skirts, camo is everywhere.

Military-based camo hues from olive drab to bright orange showcase flamboyant silhouettes that jazz up any look.

Decon Denim

Denim style

Timeless and practical, denim jackets have been a staple in every closet from the 60s to the 20s..

And this year, fashionistas on the streets of Tokyo have found ways to reinvent the ever-so-American classic.

Pulled apart and put back together, shredded, frayed, and upcycled for days,  supersized elements and logos over logos, deconstructed denim is this year’s “it” factor.

From patchwork sleeves to studded necklines, snipped off shoulders, and multiplied flaps, there’s nothing denim can’t do.

Maximum Minimalism

maximum minimalism style

Minimalism is all about stripping back the unnecessary and leaving just the joy. 

The antithesis of the modern consumerist narrative, inspired by the zero waste movement, minimalism is a bold statement in the less is more fashion philosophy.

Haute  Headwear

 

Topping off the season’s hottest looks, Japanese fashion is coming to a head this season. No longer a winter weather necessity, the hat is the daring statement piece that can’t be overlooked. 

Zero waste designers are trading trash for treasured accessories, using scraps, leftovers, and unwanted fabric to create headwear that screams sustainability. Mixing prints, fabrics, faux fur, vegan leathers, and chunky knits in wildly clashing colors, there’s no easier way to make any outfit come to life than with a great one-of-a-kind cap.

In the Trenches

The oversized, over-the-top trench coat style is very Japanese right now.

Created for military purposes back in 1912, the appeal of trench coats has lasted through decades of dress codes.

Versatile, practical, and lightweight, trench coats are transitional fashion heroes, suitable for every situation and season. Thrown over everything, from jeans to joggers,  trench coats have a unique level of dual-functionality that translates to effortlessness.

Tradition with a Twist

 tradition with a twist Japan style

Recycling and upcycling massive amounts of traditional Japanese clothing, the Kimono-inspired coat is making a return to the Japanese fashion scene.

Fashion-forward Japanese designers are reviving materials in androgynous-inspired clothing and gender-neutral looks.

Opposite to the edgy vibe that Japanese fashion culture tends to draw at international fashion weeks, you’ll see Japanese girls parading a blend of Japanese attire and cute dresses in pastel colors made from traditional materials on the streets of Tokyo.

Today’s Japanese No-Formula Fashion is all about a mix of western patterns and traditional elements. Anything but subtle or simple, it’s an “it’s a louder the better” year of vibrant prints, crazy patterns, and outlier statement pieces.

With dynamic and daring fashion constantly appearing on the streets of  Harajuku, it’s no wonder why the world has its collective eyes on Japan for the next big fashion trends. 

Author: Eileen Honey Strauss