Musings on Menswear #2

For many years the fashion industry has been dominated by the influences of Western culture. The four cities known as the fashion capitals of the western world: London, Milan, Paris and New York exclude all other continents like Asia, Africa from mainstream fashion. However, recently influences from other cultures have grown in popularity. Most notably, styles coming out of East Asian countries have started to gain significant real estate in the fashion industry. Rising economies in countries such as China have caused an increase in fashion buying power; giving Asian voices a larger platform in the style world.

One cultural style that’s having a boom in popularity at the moment is the Japanese sartorial taste. Tokyo Fashion Week continues to draw more and more industry names to their shows, and is growing big enough to rival the established occidental fashion week. One way that Japanese style is entering the wider fashion world is through garments that are traditionally part of Japanese, being featured by brands across the world. The kimono has been a key part of Japanese dress for centuries, but has faded in popularity in its home country in recent years due to the globalisation of western fashion. However, the wearing of kimonos has become en vogue recently, mainly in womenswear, but it has started to grow in popularity in menswear as well. Drawing on traditional Japanese styles is a great way to diversify your wardrobe, as their cultural norms on how clothes relate to gender are very different in many Asian cultures. Whereas western male style tends towards naturally following the body’s silhouette, the Japanese kimono builds on top of the body to create a new shape. Also in the past men did not always wear trousers in Japan, another style that is becoming increasingly popular recently.

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Japanese designers bring their nation’s unique perspective on fashion by establishing their own fashion houses, in adition to Western brands featuring Japanese style. One notable Japanese fashion brand is Kenzo. Originally found by Takada Kenzo in 1970, the brand is based in Paris and is known for its merging of European high fashion construction techniques with Japanese style, as well as cultural influences from cultures all around the world. Though now headed by a creative cooperation of two American designers, the brand maintains its signature graphic style and has become internationally known for its tiger sweatshirts.

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Recently Kenzo has made a major move into its future by announcing a collaboration with high street retailer H&M. The collection, Kenzo x H&M, will feature pieces designed by the Kenzo creative team and sold at H&M at more affordable prices. The designers have stated that the collection will pay homage to Takada Kenzo’s unique style across his career and it promises to introduce new and previously unseen silhouettes to the high street fashion experience. My favourite pieces from this collection are the white jumper featuring the jungle/tiger motif, as it encapsulates the brand’s distinctive style perfectly, and the navy blue t-shirt with the tiled tiger graphic style as it perfectly represents the great quality of high fashion design.

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All in all, this recent trend of wider cultural inclusiveness, especially to Asian countries, makes for exciting news in the fashion. By accepting styles not typically seen in western collection individual style has the opportunity to become more varied, and this is especially interesting for menswear as, in my opinion, men’s style unfortunately has the tendency of becoming stagnant far too often.

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-Jonny McKinnell

All photos are from: http://www2.hm.com/en_gb/free-form-campaigns-s03/kenzoxhm.html#intro

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