Globally, the fashion industry’s status as an ally of LGBTQ issues is pretty much a given, to the point where it’s considered an industry stereotype by the general public. When Pride Month rolls around in the United States in June, there is usually an influx of international observers asking how Japanese fashion honors the month. In this case, the news is “no news.”
While some fashion retail groups like Marui have been vocal supporters and arguably made the most tangible mark on urban spaces by turning over a significant proportion of outdoors advertising spaces to Pride awareness, the overall impact from the industry is decidedly muted. However, given the increased mockery, particularly online, of companies forcing messages of solidarity for the sake of public relations, perhaps silence is preferable.
Still, it is nonetheless remarkable that smaller brands don’t express their values, reluctant to isolate themselves as a brand that is only worn by LGBTQ individuals. Men’s underwear brand Toot, which has been rapidly expanding its global presence at large, and in Taiwan in particular, is one of the more savvy at walking that line.
One of the few domestic fashion brands to have a booth at Japan’s largest Pride event, Tokyo Rainbow Pride, the brand releases capsule collections for the occasion each year without alienating its user base at prominent department stores such as Mitsukoshi, Seibu and Tokyu. Considering the brand already has to combat the thoroughly moribund notion that men who care about looking good in their underwear are effeminate, this is no mean feat.
This year, the (virtual) parade and weeklong festival took place from April 24 through May 5. While the timing of Pride festivals are scattered wherever you go in the world, Pride Month is fixed. The fact that Tokyo Rainbow Pride falls consistently in advance of Pride Month halts a degree of synergy with the global calendar and potentially limits global fashion brands and media from creating a more cohesive sense of occasion.
Old media, new look
The issue of timing is also one that plagues Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo. Running biannually in March and October, it falls after every major European and North American fashion week has had its turn. This isn’t just a matter of other collections stealing thunder, it is a major budgetary one. Buyers and the industry at large need to plan what will be on their shelves months in advance, and asking them to reserve a percentage of their budget for Tokyo when they are already looking at racks in Paris is a tall order.
Exacerbating the situation, not only did the stringent restrictions on international travel hinder media and buyers from abroad from attending March’s festivities, they also kept away domestic media. As such, there was very little media coverage beyond the industry bubble.
Stepping in to fill this gap is media outlet and e-commerce platform SeeNowTokyo, which started a free magazine to try and shine a light on the best of Tokyo’s most recent fashion week. While it is Japanese-only for now, for a high-quality, full-color, hundred-page print and digital publication, free is an excellent price.
Beyond the key looks, there are 11 interviews with leading lights of the current generation including Balmung’s Hachi, DressedUndressed’s Takeshi Kitazawa and Keisuke Yoshida. If you are out of the loop, this is the best way to get back in.
You can request a physical copy of the issue for free online, or pick up a copy at a number of retail locations.
Back in time
Further proving that timing is everything, by the time of publication a new collection from Takashi Kumagai’s streetwear brand Wind and Sea will probably be long sold out. Collaborating with the 1996 PlayStation cult classic PaRappa the Rapper, the collection dropped on May 29. Your luck may fare better if you visit Wind and Sea’s physical Tokyo and Osaka retail locations.
The rhythm game perfectly encapsulated ’90s Japanese hip-hop culture, albeit in a rather ridiculous way, and continues to resonate well with gamers today.
Half of the appeal might be nostalgia, but the enduring character designs and graphics clearly have the power to reach a new generation, too. If more proof were needed, apart from the main collection of streetwear essentials, there are interior design items and kids’ sizes so the whole family can jump and pose their way into the retro world of PaRappa the Rapper.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.