The History of Japanese Street Fashion

The History of Japanese Street Fashion

Streetwear gained its popularity in the early 90’s and has been steadily working its way into mainstream fashion ever since then. While many popular brands such as Stussy and HEF were popular in the West amongst the surf and skate cultures, streetwear was also making waves in Japan with an entirely different twist.

It was in a small four-square block area in Tokyo that Japanese streetwear really got it’s spark and soon caught fire to the rest of the nation. If you’re at all familiar with the fashion and streetwear scene, then you’ve probably heard of Ura-Harajuku or Urahara fashion district in Japan. This small four-square block marked the origin story of many of the famous Japanese fashion brands we have today including COMME des GARĆONS, NEIGHBORHOOD, NOWHERE, and even Wacko Maria which we talk about more in depth on Classy Lifestyle’s Fashion Guide.

What made this small Tokyo backroad so popular in its early days was that it was dotted with unknown and sometimes even unnamed clothing shops. Some of which were even out of visible site to the public. One of the earliest examples of this is with the designer store NOWHERE. NOWHERE truly lived up to the reputation as the store was completely unmarked and many walked right by it during their first attempts to visit the store. But, thanks to its founders Jun Takahashi and Tomoaki Nagao, the pair sparked a trend they never saw coming.

Eventually, the two business partners decided to split the store into two, with one side of the store serving exclusively graphic t-shirts. The t-shirt company was named A Bathing Ape or BAPE, and is now the dominating brand in streetwear fashion. In fact, many argue that it was this brand in particular that really sparked the street fashion movement in Tokyo.

Because of their completely bizarre and fashion forward designs, NOWHERE was soon on the map. Japanese street fashion was catching fire thanks to the popularity of the store, and many aspiring designers and fashion enthusiasts everywhere were making their way to the Urahara fashion district to take part in the movement.

By 1996, Urahara was in full swing. In just a few short years, this small area had built quite the giant reputation for themselves. With different lifestyles, cultures, and fashion experts flooding the area with their designs and influences, putting their own spin on Americana and European runway fashion. But what really made the world turn their heads was the rise of Supreme.

Supreme is a popular streetwear brand that first started stateside. As the designer store became the monopoly in fashion, they decided to expand their next location to Daikanyama in 1998. It wasn’t long after that Japan boasted of having the most Supreme stores of any country in the world, with six different locations spanning their country. Every store location was almost instantly sold out as soon as a new drop came, and it was thanks to the success of Supreme that lead to the popularity of many other designers and brands.

It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that Urahara go the attention it so deserved. By this time, the Japanese streetwear scene had found its way to a worldwide audience. Now, many new designers and dreamers are finding hope in Urahara as they attempt to produce the next big fashion trend. Thanks to this exciting movement in Japanese fashion, inspiration was born.