Vintage fashion in Japan

Although more commonly associated with all things new and innovative, Tokyo’s cool kids are looking to the past for their latest fashion fix.

Vintage fashion has taken Tokyo by storm over the past couple of years, and it’s showing no signs of stopping just yet. Where once fast fashion ruled the streets, you’re now just as likely to see a fan of antique and retro styles making their way towards a tiny vintage boutique, DIY decorated tote bag in hand and eyes on the latest find.

photo by Tokyo Telephone

Part of the reason for vintage’s unparalleled success of late is the boutiques themselves. In Tokyo, where space is at a premium and anything can be the next fad, these tiny vintage emporiums have a cult following among fashionistas and have the power to create new street fashion trends overnight. Where else but in Tokyo could curtain tassels become the latest must-have necklaces?

Part of the reason for the boutiques popularity is the incredibly specialised aesthetic they create for shop staff, decoration and customers alike; rooms filled to the brim with tiny Victorian children’s toys, pop memorabilia from the 1980s, genuine 50s era motorcycle helmets and clothing ranging across decades, even centuries, and from all corners of the globe. It’s this narrow focus that allows customers to become part of the elite, the special group who reject modern modes of dress and appreciate the charm of all things antique and a little worse for wear.

Vintage fashion in Japan can be found in a variety of guises, including:

Dolly key / Cult Party key

On the forefront of bringing vintage fashion into focus in Tokyo, boutiques such as Cult Party, Hypnotique, Grimoire and new addition Grimoire Almadel, centre on an image of Baroque opulence using rich dark colours, plush accessories and a touch of religious iconography.

Fairy kei / Spank! kei

Spank!’s Tavuchi-san is credited with popularising this cute and colourful style from her very own vintage emporium. Now a must-see for any fan of retro fashion in Koenji, Spank!’s own brand of fairy kei blends 80s pop trends with pastels, neon and sweet plastic jewellery. This is junk shop chic at it’s very cutest.

Vintage boys

Don’t worry about feeling left out, Tokyo’s fashionable men have jumped head first into vintage too. From studded biker jackets that the crustiest punk would be proud to wear to earthy and natural styles from Europe, there’s just as much out there for even the most picky of male dressers.

What’s particularly interesting about vintage fashion in Japan is that it’s quite often the re-appropriation of Western clothing that’s coordinated in a very Japanese way, rendering it outside the original context. What do you think of vintage fashion in Japan? is it just a fad, or is it here to say? Would you wear this style?