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Monday, May 19, 2008

Is fashion dying in Japan?


I went for a drink in Tokyo's Ni-Chome last night on my way home, to my favorite bar, Usagi. I sat next to a guy who works in sales of advertising.

The bar was in full swing when I came in, so I spent most of my hour or so there mainly listening. No matter how good my Japanese may have become, all it takes is an unfamiliar word, or a slightly muffled expression, to lose the thread somewhat. But I added the odd comment, and occasionally contributed at some length if given the opportunity.

The conversation was mainly about fashion, especially fashion victims. They were talking about Comme des Garcons and there was mention that it was basically subsidized by the Mitsui-Sumitomo Corporation, a senior executive of which organizes support of it in the name of keeping alive a Japanese cultural institution.

One notable observation by the owner was about how high fashion is being increasingly eschewed by the young, and how the rough, cheap look rules on Ni-Chome. One interesting story he recounted was his overhearing an exchange between a group of young guys in their early 20s the other day in Ni-Chome and a slightly older guy in his early-to-mid 30s.

The younger guys were all casually dressed in Levi's, or the like, and T-shirts, and were giving the older guy the third degree for being dressed osharé, or trendily. "Do you think you're going to get lucky if you dress like that?" and "Does it somehow make you feel special looking like that?" and "Do you think spending on yourself that way has some effect?" etc. etc. – generally giving the guy the third degree.

Subsidized Japanese high street brands and young gay Japanese who scorn anything catwalk? What is Japan coming to?

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1 comment:

  1. Being a gay man myself and having spent a lot of time in Nichome, I can tell you that most gay people in Japan are a LOT more modern and internationally minded than the average Japanese person and are aware of how tacky and corny someone can look wearing expensive designer clothes to a small bar for a drink with friends.
    They're also more willing to "take the piss" where the average Japanese person would avoid any negative comments about another's clothes despite how humorous the comment may be.

    Of course maybe Japanese people are just realising that buying expensive brands is not what fashion is all about and the fact that the men you overheard didn't understand this says more about Japan's fashion than anything else.


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