Why Tokyo, Seoul And LA Are Setting The Style Agenda This Summer

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Why Tokyo, Seoul And LA Are Setting The Style Agenda This Summer

Words by Mr Chris Elvidge | Photography by Mr William Arcand | Styling by Ms Otter Jezamin Hatchett

31 July 2023

If there’s such a thing as a centre of gravity for the fashion industry, then conventional wisdom would probably locate it somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic. Roughly equidistant between the fashion capitals of Paris and Milan in the east and New York in the west. These three cities are where many of the world’s biggest brands are based, after all, and where the industry’s cast of fashion editors, creative directors, and other trendsetters tend to ply their trade.

What conventional wisdom overlooks in this case, though, is the blossoming menswear scene – or scenes, to be exact – encircling our planet’s other major ocean: the Pacific. While they might be classed as outsiders according to the industry’s Eurocentric worldview, two cities in particular, Tokyo and Los Angeles, are having a growing influence over the way we dress. And their homegrown designer brands setting the pace when it comes to artisanal craftsmanship and cutting-edge, street-inspired style.

While not exactly overlooked, this is an area of the global style map that we certainly think could do with a little more exposure. For the final episode of MR PORTER’s Summer Stories, then, we decided to take a trip to the beach and put a few of those brands in the spotlight for a showcase of some of the very best in contemporary menswear.

Based in Los Angeles, Monitaly is one of a portfolio of brands from the visionary Japanese designer Mr Yuki Matsuda, which also includes the cult artisanal shoe brand Yuketen. A heritage-inspired clothing brand with a strong military influence, Monitaly is known for taking an obsessive approach to fabric: this eye-catching patchwork jacket, finished with a lattice of deadstock fabric strips, is a case in point. It’s worn here with a pair of tropical-print swim shorts from Beams Plus, the menswear brand of the long-established Harajuku department store Beams.

If you think that high-end cashmere only comes in shades of beige, fawn, ecru and other tasteful neutrals, think again. With its wild, anything-goes attitude to colour, Los Angeles brand The Elder Statesman – maker of the sunset-striped cashmere cardigan seen above – embodies the subversive attitude of the West Coast luxury scene. So, too, does ERL, the eponymous brand of fashion designer and super stylist Mr Eli Russell Linnetz, which puts a luxurious spin on the laid-back style of Venice Beach with pieces like this dip-dyed mohair-blend sweater. Sticking with LA, it would be remiss of us to not mention the eyewear, with homegrown brands Oliver Peoples and Jacques Marie Mage providing the sunglasses seen here.

Mr Hiroki Nakamura’s visvim is perhaps the ultimate cult menswear label, its forensic and utterly obsessive approach to material and fabrication inspiring a similarly single-minded devotion in its army of fans. The Tokyo-based brand contributes the patterned camp-collar shirt and crochet-knitted bucket hat seen here, while on the other side of the Pacific, CHERRY LA, the fashion project of childhood friends Messrs Joseph Perez and David Levy – more on them later – provides the embroidered denim.

Summing up the transpacific nature of this campaign is SAINT Mxxxxxx, pronounced “Saint Michael”, a streetwear label founded in 2020 by Tokyo designer Mr Yuta Hosokawa and Los Angeles artist Mr Cali Thornhill DeWitt. DeWitt is a multi-hyphenate creative who has worked on Mr Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo merch, among other projects, while Hosokawa is also known as the man behind Tokyo upcycled streetwear brand READYMADE, which designed the black hockey jersey seen here on the left. SAINT Mxxxxxx, meanwhile, is responsible for the distressed cotton-canvas overalls and the logo-embroidered satin bomber jacket. Finally, don’t miss the wide-legged sweatpants from RRR123, the streetwear brand of musician-turned-designer – and Mr Jerry Lorenzo collaborator – Mr Rivington Starchild.

It may be based in Los Angeles, but CHERRY LA presents something of an outsider’s perspective on American style: the founders, Joseph Perez and David Levy, are from Paris and Montréal, respectively. “Growing up, we were obsessed with the culture and, because we aren’t originally from here, we studied it more than the average,” Perez told MR PORTER last year. The result of their obsession is the reimagined Americana that can be seen on the left of this picture: a cotton-canvas worker trouser and jacket combo printed with a painterly sunset scene.

We’re venturing beyond the Pacific to the Republic of Korea for this cotton-canvas biker jacket, which comes courtesy of the cult Seoul streetwear brand thisisneverthat. Known for its graphics-heavy designs, it was launched by designer trio Messrs Park Inwook, Cho Nadan and Choi Jonkyu in 2010 and spent years as an underground favourite before blowing up in 2016 after Jungkook, star of the K-pop band BTS, wore one of its T-shirts in a music video. The brand features here in a logo-heavy outfit alongside a T-shirt from Neighborhood and a trucker cap from LOCAL AUTHORITY LA.