Japan has always been recognized as a source of creative inspiration, and its fashion industry is no different, generating a rich tapestry of fashion designers, each with their distinct style, influence, and impact on global fashion.
But probably the most intriguing aspect of Japan’s fashion landscape is the recent resurrection of traditional Japanese garment patterns, particularly the kimono.
Japanese designers are increasingly looking to their cultural roots for inspiration, resulting in a revived interest in the kimono and its particular craftsmanship.
We look at the most inspiring Japanese fashion designers, from global icons like Yohji Yamamoto to inventive designers like Hiromi Asai and Jotaro Saito who are leading the way in the rebirth of traditional Japanese clothing designs.
Listing the 18 Best Japanese Fashion Designers to Get Inspired Right Now!
1. Yohji Yamamoto
The Yohji Yamamoto designer earned the Soen and Endo honors while studying fashion at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, which brought him to Paris. The designer is noted for his use of the color black, which is thought to be avant-garde and unconventional.
“I’m not bothering you—you’re not bothering me.” This is the color’s motto, he explains. A Yamamoto garment may appear formless when compared to mainstream and contemporary fashion trends, but this is on purpose.
“It meant something to me, the idea of a coat guarding and concealing a woman’s body.” “I wanted to protect the woman’s body from something – maybe men’s eyes or a cold wind,” Yamamoto explained in an interview with the New York Times in 1983.
2. Rei Kawakubo
Rei Kawakubo, a world-renowned fashion designer, founded Comme des Garçons. Based in Tokyo and Paris, the designer began as a freelancer before launching her own store in Tokyo in 1973.
Kawakubo is known for questioning fashion, society, and herself, resulting in a one-of-a-kind design that sometimes deconstructs itself.
Many consider the high fashion designer to be a fashion icon, but he argues otherwise. Her clothes were created to provide a bold interpretation of comfort, particularly for women; the subtext being that her designs did not seek the masculine gaze or approval.
3. Kenzo Takada
Kenzo Takada, the founder of the global luxury brand Kenzo, was one of the first men to be admitted to Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion College in 1958. Drawn to Paris, the designer relocated there, where he began his path to creating numerous daring fashion trends.
Though he only intended to stay in Paris for six months, he ended up staying for 56 years, passing away in the middle of Paris Fashion Week in 2020 at the age of eight.
Kenzo employed vibrant and wild designs, and kimono fabric, and began by creating sizes that emancipated the body rather than restricted it.
4. Hanae Mori
Hanae Mori’s career spans 70 years. Her first studio, Hiyoshia, debuted in 1951, and she began designing costumes for numerous Japanese films. This was the golden age of Japanese cinema.
On a trip to New York City in 1961, the designer was appalled to witness sandals being worn on tatami mats at a performance of Madame Butterfly.
Mori was inspired by his ignorance to teach the Western world what Japan and Japanese aesthetics were truly made of. She became well-known for her choice of motifs, such as the butterfly pattern, and her use of kimono.
5. Tae Ashida
“The concept of Japanese fashion and what people wear differs. “Many are actually quite conservative,” Tae Ashida told Vogue in 2017. Tae is the daughter of Jun Ashida, the personal designer to Empress Michiko.
She has worked hard to make a reputation for herself, but she is naturally very proud of her father’s legacy.
“Design is personal,” she noted in an interview with Tatler Asia. Tae’s designs are exquisite and sophisticated, decorating runways and track fields—as seen in her most recent Spring/Summer 2023 collection, which debuted just three months ago.
6. Hiromi Asai
Hiromi Asai is a kimono and apparel designer who only utilizes Japanese textiles. The designer is concerned with keeping the vibrancy of the kimono, which has a lengthy history.
Asai cultivates fashion lines employing kimono fabric and kimono aesthetics while supporting the continuation of the kimono itself and reinserting it into the minds of designers and fashion customers. Her ambition is to maintain the kimono at the forefront of high fashion.
7. Jun Takahashi
Jun Takahashi is well-known for his important contribution to fashion in Tokyo, Paris, and beyond. Takahashi is the founder and originator of the international brand Undercover, best known for its cooperation with Dr. Martens.
In addition to Undercover, Takahashi opened Nowhere Ltd in Harajuku, a district famed for its trendy hidden jewels.
Takahashi’s early collections have punk elements, such as shredded shirts and leather jackets. The designer is not only radical, energetic, and intriguing, but also… totally practical. His outerwear can be worn in frigid weather.
8. Tsumori Chisato
Tsumori Chisato, like her charmingly interactive website, is a one-of-a-kind and vibrant high fashion designer. Tsumori began her career with Issey Miyake after graduating from Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo.
Originally known as the Issey Sports Line, the collection was later renamed I.S. Chisato Tsumori Designs.
Her style, now that she has launched her own label, is an eclectic blend of patterns, manga, bohemian, and cutesy. Her studio, TC HOUSE OMOTESANDO, is located in Shibuya, Tokyo.
9. Kozaburo Akasaka
Kozaburo Akasaka is a Japanese-born, New York-based designer who has made a name for himself with his unique designs and rigorous attention to detail. He is noted for his particular style, which combines traditional Japanese design elements with current Western aesthetics.
His collections frequently use traditional Japanese fabrics and techniques such as shibori dyeing and sashiko stitching, and he has a distinct approach to fabric manipulation that results in sculptural, almost architectural clothes.
10. Tadashi Shoji
Tadashi Shoji makes beautiful evening apparel. The designer believes that all women, regardless of size or form, should feel confident in their own skin.
His creations make its users feel wonderful by incorporating draping and ruching methods, as well as lots of tulle and stretch jerseys.
Shoji’s evening and bridal collections can be seen in over 700 boutiques across the world, and he has created for New York Fashion Week as well as celebrities such as Michelle Obama and Kate Hudson.
11. Jotaro Saito
Jotaro Saito is a kimono designer who attempts to introduce the kimono into everyday life. Born into an artistic family, Saito was most likely influenced by his father, a modern kimono designer, and grandpa, a kimono dyeing specialist.
Unlike most kimono craftsmen, who make their debut in their 40s and 50s as learned artisans of their craft, Saito made his debut at 27 as one of the world’s youngest kimono designers.
The kimono’s long history is one of its most important characteristics. It is a garment that has evolved over at least a thousand years of Japanese culture, dating back to the Heian era. Chiso, a Kyoto-based firm, was founded in 1555 and has long overseen the evolution of the kimono in Japan.
When the enterprise originally started, it supplied garments to aristocrats and monks. The enterprise grew to supply temples and imperial family members. Throughout the Meiji period, Chiso specialized in yuzen, a unique dying technique in Kyoto.
13. Michiko Koshino
“The concept of Japanese fashion and what people wear is different. “Many are actually quite conservative,” Tae Ashida noted in an interview with Vogue in 2017. Tae is the daughter of Jun Ashida, the personal designer to Empress Michiko.
She has worked hard to make a reputation for herself, while she is naturally very proud of her father’s legacy. “Design is personal,” she explained in an interview with Tatler Asia.
Tae’s designs are exquisite and sophisticated, decorating runways and track fields, as evidenced in her most recent Spring/Summer 2023 collection, which debuted just three months ago.
14. Junya Watanabe
Junya Watanabe began his career as an apprentice pattern-maker at CDG before becoming owner Rei Kawakubo’s protégé. The designer rapidly established himself as an avant-garde genius with a penchant for pattern manipulation, conceptual designs, and inventive cutting techniques.
Watanabe debuted his first collection to critical acclaim at Paris Fashion Week in 1993, and he currently delivers four big international presentations per year. In addition to his own label at CDG, Watanabe has recently partnered with Converse and Puma.
15. Tamao Shigemune
Tamao Shigemune is a modern kimono designer that pays close attention to the kimono shape while allowing something modern (and wild) to bloom. The designer is a fan of fairytales, and her kimonos are adorned with castles and swans.
Other elements, such as koi fish and flowers, can be found in Shigemune designs, but with a more edgy style.
Originally intending to be a painter, the designer was lured to the skill of dying kimono and obi early in her career. The vibrant colors in her kimonos are bold and unafraid to stand out. Consider Alice in Wonderland in Japan.
16. Toshikazu Iwaya
Toshikazu Iwaya, the designer and founder of Dress Camp, is known for his spectacular and colorful men’s and women’s attire. His label is recognized for its flare, color, and couture-like touches, which frequently draw on allusions from bygone times.
Iwaya graduated from the Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo in 1996 and began her career with At One printing textiles before starting Dress Camp in 2002 and making her debut at Tokyo Fashion Week in 2003.
You’ve probably heard of Nigo if you like hip-hop. His Bathing Ape (BAPE) men’s streetwear line has been worn by celebrities such as Kanye West and the Notorious B.I.G. and is noted for its logo-heavy designs and trademark Ape symbol.
His most well-known pieces include limited-edition camouflage print hoodies and the BAPESTA sneaker. Nigo left BAPE in 2014 and currently oversees the Ice Cream and Billionaire Boys Club streetwear labels with Pharrell Williams, as well as being a music producer and DJ for the Japanese group the Teriyaki Boyz.
18. Kansai Yamamoto
Do you remember David Bowie’s eye-catching Ziggy Stardust costumes? They were created by the late Kansai Yamamoto, who took great pleasure in producing striking pieces that blended traditional Japanese motifs.
Yamamoto’s career took off after a successful debut at London Fashion Week in 1971, and he continued to walk worldwide runways into the 1990s. He has clothed Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Lady Gaga, among others, and he has even designed the sleek Skyliner train in Tokyo.