The Japan Edit: Top Picks From Our Exclusive Collection
Get the lowdown on our capsule featuring some of the country’s best menswear designers
It’s the end of an era in Japan. As we watched Emperor Akihito’s historic abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne, we began to think about about how our perception of the country has changed over the years. Viewed through the lens of its stylish exports, Japan appears a nation transformed. Once strictly defined by homegrown traditions and then, in the 1960s, by a sort of American essentialism derived from the collegiate Ivy League look, it’s since developed an identity all of its own; one that’s rooted in craftsmanship and heritage, but is, at its core, innovative and, in some cases, really quite out there. Start a discussion on the topic of Japanese style with someone these days and there’s every chance it might cover the country’s immaculate tailoring as much as the latest bondage-inspired Tokyo streetwear brand. And it’s this vast and varied sartorial landscape that’s served as the starting point for our latest project: The Japan Edit, a first-of-its-kind capsule collection made just for us with the help of some of our favourite Japanese brands. Here’s everything you need to know.
Verbal and Yoon, the twosome behind AMBUSH®, are well on their way to iconic status. The former is one of hip-hop’s rising stars, while the latter’s experimental jewellery collection has recently earned her a top design job at Dior. Together, they’re fashion’s new favourite power couple with a fast-expanding fan base that includes A$AP Rocky, Rihanna and Mr Kanye West. With a string of high-profile collaborations under their belt, how they found time to expand into clothing is anyone’s guess. We’re just very glad they did. The exclusive pieces in The Japan Edit include hype-worthy tees, a new version of the label’s lighter necklace and, continuing the theme, sterling silver-trimmed trousers and hoodies.
One of five new brands to join MR PORTER, Auralee’s designs at first look understated. But look a little closer or, better still, try the stuff on for yourself, and you’ll notice an uncommon attention to detail. The considered fabrics (think silk, wool and a type of fine crepe called georgette) are all sourced from the finest mills around the world and the off-kilter yet perfectly tailored fit of every piece is really something special. It’s subtle, but no less likely to capture your attention.
Anyone with even a fleeting interest in modern Japanese style will know that the US played a definitive role in shaping it. Released in 1965, Mr Teruyoshi Hayashida’s fashion photography book Take Ivy became a style bible for many a Japanese boomer and is recognised, to this day, as an established part of the country’s sartorial canon. Emulating the sort of East Coast collegiate prep depicted in the book is certainly how the Beams brand got its start back in 1976. The relationship, however, is not quite as one-sided as it might seem. According to Mr W David Marx, author of Ametora, the Ivy League look’s protracted tenure owes a substantial debt to the Japanese way of doing things. Take the Beams Plus collection for MR PORTER; the chino shorts, unstructured windbreaker and logo sweats are a lesson in how fresh collegiate fashions can still feel fresh almost 60 years after they were first seen on college campuses.
The staple “pick one thing and do it well” business advice appears to have really rubbed off on Messrs Yujiro Komatsu, Masatomo Ariga and Takatomo Ariga. The founders of Tokyo outfit Blackmeans specialise in leather of the “go hell for” variety. And, boy, do they do it well. Among the biker jackets they’ve created for The Japan Edit, the standout is this liberally embellished two-of-a-kind moto piece which is painstakingly studded entirely by hand. Which explains why the sum you’ll have to part with if you want to call it your own is roughly equivalent to that of a mid-range motorcycle, but hey, those things are death traps anyway.
BLUE BLUE JAPAN
Blue Blue Japan is so-named for its signature use of indigo dyes, a time-honoured textile tradition in its country. Key to its ethos is the idea that clothes should be made to last and get better with age, which often results in longer-than-average production times – the dyeing process alone often takes months, not to mention the countless other handmade aspects. Of course, this delayed gratification has simply increased demand for the label’s wares, resulting in a something akin to a frenzy when the samples created for The Japan Edit capsule arrived in MR PORTER’s London HQ. And, when it looks as good as this, who can blame us?
A relatively recent addition to Tokyo’s streetwear scene, Flagstuff was founded in 2014 by Mr Nobuyuki Murayama. The clothes are precisely what you’d expect from someone who spent his formative years working for vintage stores: the designs for MR PORTER’s exclusive collection display an encyclopaedic knowledge of mid-century Americana and 1990s sportswear, albeit seen from a distinctively Japanese perspective. The Hawaiian shirt printed with strings of lanterns and kanji characters with matching shorts currently hold the top spot on our holiday packing shortlist.
Like many of its compatriots, Hender Scheme shuns fast fashion. Founder Mr Ryo Kashiwazaki began the brand as a response to what he perceived as lazy manufacturing methods and, instead, has made preserving traditional craftsmanship his mission. Regular visitors to MR PORTER’s What’s New pages may have spotted the label’s vegetable-tanned leather footwear, noticeable for their uniformly peachy colour and uncannily familiar silhouettes, which are inspired by iconic sneakers such as the Nike Air Force 1. As part of The Japan Edit, MR PORTER will stock the label’s minimal accessories and homeware line for the first time. Expect streamlined bags, wallets and a house-shaped money box, all made from smooth, black leather, a new direction for the brand.
Human Made is one of the projects of A Bathing Ape’s seemingly tireless founder Nigo, whose latest ventures includes popular Tokyo eatery, Curry Up, which has featured extensively in his latest collections. In the line for MR PORTER, the relationship between fashion and food is front and centre again with a buffet of delightfully kitsch tees, shirts and other summery staples emblazoned with caricature bowls of ramen. Mr Pharrell Williams is a big fan – he’s already been snapped in the sweatshirt. Dig in.
Historically, one of the major driving forces behind the popularity of Japanese labels in the West has been scarcity. Small-batch production, and a dearth of wholesale outlets all made getting your hands on the best stuff quite a feat, which, of course, rendered it all the more covetable. About 15 years ago, for example, Kapital (named for Kojima, the epicentre of Japan’s fabled denim trade) released a trucker-style jacket made from a quirky patchwork of vintage bandanas, which, naturally, flew off the shelves. So, if you missed out a decade and a half ago (and are still a little sore about it), you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve bagged the re-release in two new colours, both of them exclusive to The Japan Edit.
We’ve been tracking the utility trend for a while and are confident when we say that it’s entering an especially exciting phase. Instead of pieces that simply pay lip service to functionality, there’s been an influx of what we like to call “properly practical” stuff coming our way lately. It’s no coincidence then that, hot on the heels of the trail sneaker’s ascent, we’re welcoming Mizuno onto MR PORTER. The sportswear expert specialises in high-performance runners utilising its “Wave” technology, a uniquely sturdy sole structure that makes the compromise between stability and cushioning a thing of the past. Plus, the space-age Prophecy model, pictured above, and stealthy-looking Creation pairs – both part of our capsule – get extra points for good looks, too.
Like people, there are some brands that you’re instantly charmed by. One of them is Needles, a Tokyo outfit founded by Mr Keizo Shimizu in 1997 as the in-house line for streetwear emporium Nepenthes. The label had us at “glitter-striped shell suit”, a dazzlingly retro take on a classic sportswear staple that is well on its way to signature status. Several exclusive iterations feature in our capsule – in black, fuchsia and violet – but if the sparkly stuff isn’t your bag, there’s plenty in the way of gruffly grungy wares, too. See the sun-faded tie-dye T-shirts or paint-splattered flannel, above.
Remi Relief replicates and reimagines vintage pieces but takes a rather less comprehensive approach than other similarly retro-inspired brands. Founder Mr Yutaka Goto has honed his efforts on one era and locale in particular: a California beach, circa 1960. Authenticity is also dear to the designer’s heart; each piece is thoughtfully faded, gently washed or lightly distressed so it has an aesthetic identity is akin to one of legendary surf photographer Mr LeRoy Grannis’ pictures. Highlights in the MR PORTER collection include sun-bleached tees and a rather ingenious pair of reversible trousers, seen above, that are every bit as comfortable as they look. Anyone currently rationing space in their holiday suitcase should be pleased to learn they come as shorts, too.
If you know anyone who considers fashion one of the more frivolous design disciplines, give them a gentle nudge in the direction of Mr Takahiro Miyashita, widely considered to be one of the most innovative designers of his generation. Since 2010, his eponymous brand has been subverting expectations, challenging perceptions and generally making fantastic clothes for a fervent fanbase. Like all great art, we feel a little humbled in the presence of this one-of-a-kind star-spangled flight jacket; it’s handmade from a patchwork of vintage American flags, which (sadly) means there are just three of them up for grabs. Mr Miyashita, we salute you.
Wacko Maria’s closest designer relative is probably SAINT LAURENT – it’s one of those irreverent brands that deftly toes the line between smart and street and, quite frankly, it’s all a bit sexy. Our capsule includes lots of printed camp-collar shirts as well as slim-fitting, leopard-print lined tailoring. Competing for grail status though, are the printed T-shirts and hoodies, which form part of a collab-within-a-collab with Mr Hiroshi Fujiwara’s Fragment label, another brand whose stuff is notoriously difficult to get your hands on.