Fashion Lessons I learned in Japan

“Let’s never come here again, cause it would never be as much fun.”

During my eleven hours flight to Tokyo last year, I deliberately watched Lost in Translation and could not help but feel Sofia Coppola got it right ‒ it is not about the inexpensive sushi or the massive LCD screens displaying music videos in Shinjuku, it is all about your memories.

Like most tourists, I brought a full case of souvenirs back from my trip.

Withal and as much as I enjoyed shopping around Asakusa area for traditional items with an authenticity flavour, I found out the best keepsakes were insubstantial ‒ playing a flâneur during the peak hour at Shibuya, the occasional matcha cup on a softly enlightened coffee shop, small talk with my sister while window shopping at Omotesandō, the beauty of a dusty pink kimono sight in the golden hour… Life, like a dragonfly, crystallized on amber.

As a millennial, there is no need to say I grew up loving all things Japanese.

I belong to the generation which raised Sailor Moon to the modern mythological category.

When I was a teenager, pop culture news from Japan arrived slowly and to us (poor Western children!) fell like rain in the desert. Street Fashion? J-Pop? Manga? You could burn down the cathedrals, we had our own religion. Even after many, many years, the serious woman with a nine to five office position who was boarding an overpriced flight noticed a shiver of the purest childish emotion: there I was, after all this time, finally visiting the oasis of my teenage dreams. Then my sister, a talented artist living in Tokyo, greeted me at the airport and that was the beginning of our best adventure up to today.

Do not get me wrong, I would gladly return to Japan tomorrow morning but a small part of me knows the experience would be completely different. Maybe a bit more tangible. Maybe a bit less surreal. After all, you cannot see things for the first time twice, can you? The process of discovering a new country resembles childhood, somehow. Every little detail catches your attention and remains there forever, floating like the scent of good perfume.

To me, it was about everyday beauty ‒ a moment of perfection shinning in the ugliness of a pavement metropolis. I can close my eyes and still see that old lady on gold and black furisode, standing on a crowded train wagon. I can smell the freshly baked taiyaki on a cold morning.

Tokyo outfit

Style in Japan

Unlike the characters of Coppola’s film, I did not experience a moment of enlightenment.

However, after intensive exposure to Japanese Street Fashion during our walks through Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ginza, I learned a bit of style wisdom I would like to share here. Japanese ladies are some of the more stylish on the planet, although their achievements are frequently underrated and I find it truly unfair. So in order to honour them, these are the fashion lessons I learned in Japan.

  1. Statement coats are a MUST

Winter might make nearly impossible to show up that gorgeous outfit you have been planning for hours but Japanese ladies do not care about it. Instead, they pay much more attention to their coats than we European ladies do. A statement piece, you see, can make all the difference when it comes to transforming meh into yay. Their usual cold weather day look usually includes an awesome colourful coat paired with some nice shoes/boots and a designer bag. Following their example, I purchased the coat I am wearing in these pictures on a well-known Takeshita Dori vintage shop. Price was awesome for the quality and design, and I do not regret a thing to this day.

2. Everything can be accessorized

Maybe you think Western women know a thing or two about accessories, right? Forget about it! In Tokyo, fashionistas take the game to the next level. During one of my day trips to Ginza department stores, I fell in love with the newest trend consisting in adding wild silk and organza flowers to your plain boring coat buttons. Genius! By such a simple trick outwear looks instantly chic. This is just an example of how creative you can be, so do not be scared. Sometimes less is not more.

3. Experiment more

Pink hair? Neon pants? Transparent mini bag packs? Welcome to Tokyo. Japanese Street Fashion is well-known for a reason ‒ people are all but scared to experiment. Some of their trends are frequently discovered and imported to the Western market, via haute couture. My piece of advice is to follow their example and experiment a bit. Do you like it? Then own it, babe.

4. Invest in some quality pieces

I have recently written about how consumerism has become a tidal wave in Japan.

However, the main Japanese immanent style accomplishment to me is the ability to wear an investment piece as a part of an everyday outfit and make it look natural. Personally, I have always been a bit hesitant about wearing my best pieces on a daily basis. After my trip, though, I understood that you can only justify the price tag by actually wearing it. You know it makes sense.

5. Above all, always be you

Fashion is all well and good but sometimes we forget about our better judgement in its favour. Style should all be about finding what YOU like. Style shifting every season like a snake changes its skin can be kind of exhausting (not to mention expensive). Tokyo fashionistas discovered this fact many years ago and they tend to develop their own signature style. It is completely inspirational to me and a rule to swear by.

But the most important lesson I learned was style is a universal language. You cannot get lost in translation.


japanesecoat

wearing

Coat: Juliette et Justine (vintage).

Necklace: Vivienne Westwood (similar here)

Dress: Stradivarius/ Jumper: Zara / Boots and Bag: Deichmann

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11 thoughts on “Fashion Lessons I learned in Japan

    1. Hello, Julia! Be very welcome.
      I agree with you about their experimental capacity and skills. Everything from street fashion to high end is truly ellaborated.

      I am happy to hear you are embracing your own personal style too. Fun and self discovery are, after all, the real purpose fashion should pursue.

  1. We grew up at the same generation i guess. Sailor moon was at the peak of their popularity during my
    childhood days as well. I agree with experimenting in fashion, you would not find your own style if you don’t experiment and always stay on trend like the others. Express yourself and be confident in what you wear and who you are. Great post.

    Kaye | http://amalog.co

  2. I agree with all you said. We frequently forget it should be all about fun and self-expression. And then we get trapped in an eternal cycle of consumerism every season.

  3. That coat is stunning! I didn’t really had that japanese pop-culture influence when I was a teenager, but what really made me interested in Japan was books about geishas. I was fascinated by how powerful these women could be. I would love to visit Japan and hope you will do it again as well. Maybe going back will give you some other new perspective, which can be really exciting.

    1. I have been fascinated by the whole geiko/maiko culture for years now too! I believe it is truly interesting their social relevance as artists and the fact they acted like cultural representatives from their neighbourhoods, increasing its status. Next time I visit, I would love to spend some time in Kyoto too and see that with my own eyes.

      Also, if you ever have the opportunity, please go to Japan. You will love it there.

      1. Literally, I remember seeing a small traditional house around the Sky Tree quarters. Just a small house surrounded by skyscrapers – I was so in shock! 😊 I truly loved it there.

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