Japan’s Influence on American Youth Pushes Street Fashion to New Heights
Japanese culture is spectacular in many ways: The vast number of people living, working, and playing in limited space accounts for trends morphing into one another quickly, making this culture an epicenter for designer inspiration—from fashion to technology.
Label Networks’ Japan Youth Culture Research Study 02004 completed last month was the 1st consumer-based research study ever conducted about this elusive and influential demographic. In measuring this demographic, one can also see the ripple effect Japanese youth have as they adopt new trends and push progression, especially in technology, communication, and fashion, which act as a springboard throughout other parts of Asia, including the new middle class of China, and designers in America.
What’s clear in the results and commonly known among fashion designers, is that styles in Japan change more quickly than more any other youth culture marketplace. Traditionally, Japan style resembled one’s station in life, even where they lived within the city, and what they did for work—including a Samurai, commercial merchant, royalty, Geisha, courtesan, or even missionary. Combined with today’s fascination of new trends and ideas, the concept that the clothing Fits My Lifestyle is indicative of a combination of cultural traditions and adaptations to fashionable trends.
When asked recently by a client whether we thought that new trends among American youth were inspired more from Europe or Japan, we quickly answered Japan. Why? While it’s clear to us based on results in our Japan Youth Culture Study 2004, another source backs up our opinion--street couture writer and photographer Rickey Kim--in an article in Agenda Magazine, titled, “Street Couture is Neat:”
“…And while Japan might lay claim to head of class within the arenas of technology, what is impressive today is the gradual undertaking of becoming a cultural leader as well. Whereby only 20 years ago, imports of Western tokens such as Levi Jeans, Hollywood films, and American pop music became mainstays with Japanese youth; today the tables are turned as urban culture too has found itself re-appropriated where narrow lanes of Tokyo are peppered with an eclectic crowd from pink haired punk girls in Adidas shell toes, to dread-locked goateed hip hop cats, to the occasional ‘70’s inspired vintage mod-types strolling the streets unaware of the fashion police as here in these urban streets, fashion is innovative and individualism is embraced. A recent surge of Japanese imports of such clothing and lifestyle have become hot commodities within the rising urban haute couture of America.” According to Tom Wallace, Label Networks President, “While young people in general deal with identity issues, it’s even more apparent in Japan where an entire generation is breaking out of a naiveté and developing a culture that’s unique and almost foreign in a futuristic way. Japan’s mercurial adaptation of new trends comes from a long history of their fascination with new things, even dating back to the Kabuki stage actors in the 18th century. Combined with a great number of people living within limited space, new ideas morph quickly into one another.”
The results among Japanese youth are that new trends are pushed to incredible extremes—which have provided inspiration for global designers, technologists, and even hair stylists, for several years. But while the culture of Japan is steeped in poetic rituals and tradition, it is also living in a neon, fashion-heightened, technology rich society, which results in a living oxymoron. Seismic shifts in the youth market are apparent in the results of the Japan Youth Culture Study, which are both incredibly exciting and very telling about where certain opportunities exist and why.
“When comparing the youth market of Japan with North America and Europe, it becomes even more clear just how compulsive this society is and their reaction to the historical emphasis on conformity,” continues Wallace.