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Everyday extremes

How Japan's youth cults lead the world in fashion-forward purchasing

Under The Bleeding Edge, the Dazed fashion team, lead by features editor Dean Mayo-Davies, look at the radical end of 21st century fashion, using the collections or shoots in the magazine as a jumping-off point. 

You can go to the most thrilling catwalk show and experience a great artistic moment. But it’s when the most full-on fashion collides with reality on the pavement; glitching, glimmering or in total stranglehold that its merit as creative expression really hits.

Our island, the UK, understands this, as a symbol of celebration and defiance. But in Japan clothes enhance the character like zeitgeist armour with a strong retail framework supporting. Basically, this attitude is nurtured by shopping. There are ‘pieces’ everywhere.

“I think we Japanese people started to understand the creativity of young designers' collections in early 2000s,” says Junsuke Yamasaki, editor alumni of Vogue Hommes Japan and Dazed Japan who helped produce the #Fantasia issue.

“Side By Side, Nicola Formichetti’s multi-brand store in La Foret is the best past example. It carried Meadham Kirchhoff, Gareth Pugh, Martin Andersson, Noki and many more... even Gary Card's graphic t-shirts! Lots of street fashion kids went there and got crazy non-wearable outfits for their daily life, of course mixing them with cheap vintage stuff. And there were more stores like Factory, Cannabis, Loveless, Addition Adelaide, Faline, A, Vacancy Club where they sold young designers. This built the basis of the current ‘young designer’ market here in Japan.”

It is Tokyo’s support of emerging talent that is unparalelled (though, China and Korea should get a shout out – they are admiring the template and beginning to follow). Young Londoners find themselves stocked – and sold – in Japan when often they don’t have a proper point of sale in their home town.

“We Japanese people don't have our own style in fashion, except for traditional clothes, the kimono for example,” Yamasaki continues. “So that's why we are quite flexible and don't hesitate to dress up in new ways. It’s how we can accept extreme runway looks or runway-ish looks in our daily life. Look at Harajuku street fashion: they have millions of colours and shapes in one look, which is sometimes more extreme than a runway look! They usually mix vintage clothes, 2nd-hand catwalk pieces which are available at very reasonable prices, and young designers' pieces.”

The cult of second hand runway garment is strong – there are OCD stores dedicated to designer archives. They’re your best chance of finding that fashion point of fixation, other than the enigma coated Yahoo! Auctions JP. For that you’ll need to invest in an interpreter first.

“Without BEAMS initially and then stores across Asia: GR8, LHP, Restir, Daily Projects, Space Mue, Russell Street, Clozzet, Maria Luisa HK to name just a few (and apologies to the ones I've missed) there wouldn't be a SIBLING brand,” says Cozette McCreery, one third of SIBLING, the London-based knit musketeers. Sid Bryan, Joe Bates and McCreery have experience at Giles, Alexander McQueen, Lanvin and Bella Freud (and that’s just a few) between them, yet it was Japan that took a punt on their wares before anywhere else, despite their gilded CVs and assured reputation within the industry at home. “And it's not a new thing,” McCreery continues. “When I was selling for Bella Freud around 15 years ago Isetan were the ones to push her collections when weirdly it just didn't register with London department stores.”

That is changing, but the fact remains Japan is a kind of pure fashion incubator as much as Central Saint Martins – it allows these visionaries to carry on. Tokyo cements the proposals of our wildest editorial dreams by cracking out the AmEx and living it daily, giving a chance to the fledgling talents til the international mainstream wants to dip their toe, ever so gently, in the pool years later. The cult of the alternative travels far... and these days lightning fast, by fibre optic.

Inspired by a story from the print magazine, Dazed's fashion features editor Dean Mayo Davies will write a column on fashion every month

Photographic assistant Christian Braggrod
Production Junsuke Yamasaki
Casting Nicola Formichetti