I love Japanese the Japanese minimalism generally. So it is no surprise that I’ve always been drawn to Japanese minimalist fashion too.
Though Japanese trends have veered far and wide, from bright colours and wild designs exhibiting all the influences of popular trends from Western Cultures, there has been a persistent strand of minimalist design. Influenced by the long history of Zen philosophy, the Japanese minimalist wardrobe continues to return to the world of neutral tones, simple silhouettes focusing on essential quality.
Here I present some of my absolute favourite examples of Japanese minimalist clothing.
1. COMME DES GARÇONS
Comme des Garçons is one of the biggest, and longest lasting, names in Japanese high end fashion. Helmed by venerable Junya Watanabe, the fashion powerhouse started by Rei Kawakubo in 1969. Known for being able to bring unexpected twists to everyday design, the brand makes everything from workwear that looks like fashion, to wardrobe feature items that you could still wear to the supermarket.
Their fashion is diverse and spans everything from high fashion, to street designs famously worn by the likes of Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. Kanye even gave a shout out to Junya Watanabe on his wrist on his Donda album.
Needles is long-time industry leader Keizo Shimizu’s signature label. Creating pieces that vary from stripped down and minimal, all the way to statement pattern items, this is one Japanese band that isn’t afraid to try different things. Whatever Shimizu turns his hand to, the clothing manages to retain a sense of refinement and sophistication.
Undercover, by Jun Takahashi manages to combine the aesthetic language of the street with the style of the fashion house. It manages to meld seemingly contradictory elements into strange constructions of harmony. Undercover holds the seed of Takahashi’s punk-attitude that his designs started out with back when he founded the label in 1993. This is clothing for rebels who have grown up.
Visvim manages to combine Americana and Yamato-damashii to create clothing that is at once exotic and familiar. Hiroki Nakamura chose the name for his brand by combining latin words for strength and speed. Like the name, the apparel in Visvim ranges has a sense of dynamism, as well as a robustness. Quality is the brand’s very mantra, as evidenced by their crafting of fine cordovan and denim that is hard to find anywhere else.
5. Yohji Yamamoto
If there is one name that sums up Japanese Minimalist fashion, it would have to be Yohji Yamamoto. Yamamoto even prefers the unadorned title of “dressmaker” over more graniouse terms such as “fashion designer” or “auteur”. The original idea for his brand came in 1976 when he started crafting “men’s” coats that could be worn by a “woman”. You can still see some strands of this androgenous aesthetic in the clothing to this day. Another constant is the dedication to the use of long, flowing fabrics that suggest luxury and ease.
6. Wacko Maria
Generally speaking, Wacko Maria is probably about as far away from what you might consider “minimal” as you could get. Words like “playful”, irreverent and “pop culture” would be more commonly associated with the brand. That said, within Atsuhiko Mori’s designs are some bold planes of color that could be considered a kind of “vibrant minimalism”. So we include it here.
Neighborhood’s aesthetic springs out of founder Shinsuke Takizawa’s love of biker, street and road culture. As with many Japanese brands, it mixes a love of Americana with a uniquely Japanese feel. You can expect to find denim, army prints, outdoor wear. But there is also an understated side to the brand that makes it a good candidate for inclusion here.
After working with the minimalist fashion master Yohji Yamamoto, Masaaki Homma struck out on his own to form Mastermind in 1997, making it actually one of the Japanese fashion labels on the list. Homma takes a much more punk infused take on Yamamoto’s free flowing clothes, and brings it closer to the street. The brand is recognized most distinctively by it’s skull and crossbones motif that seems so bad-boy cliched it comes full circle to be good again. Masaaki never really veered completely away from his roots working for minimalist maestro though as evidenced by the pieces below.
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Who is behind this site?
I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1). I’ve written songs in Japanese and have released several albums through Tokyo label Majikick Records. You can hear my music at my bandcamp page: