Tokyo Street Fashion and Belgian Designers

Tokyo is famous for it’s fashion subcultures. Especially in the Harajuku 原宿 district, you can find Japanese youth sporting styles like gothic lolita (gosuroriゴスロリ), decora デコラ, cosplay コスプレ, visual kei, gyaru ギャル, punk and hiphop (although I heard the Harajuku heydays are over by now). But if we talk about street fashion, we must not forget the individual stylish ones, whose creativity lies in combining fashion items or sewing clothes themselves. A lot of fashion street snaps can be found on the internet (see under references).

I check Style Arena weekly, and was surprised that Belgian designers were sometimes worn or mentioned as “favorite brand/designer”. (By the way, the fact that people actually wear expensive brands as “street wear” was surprising too.) I have to admit that I’m quite proud of our Belgian fashion industry. Take for example “the Antwerp Six“, a group of influential avant-garde fashion designers who graduated in the ’80 from the Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

So, I gathered some pictures from Style Arena to compare. Most of the time, one or more items worn are from Belgian designers.

fashion1fashion2fashion3fashion4fashion5What does these styles have in common? 1. Almost all are worn by men. 2. The colors black, white and grey are popular. 3. Often combined with Japanese fashion items like Comme des Garçons. 4. Loose clothes, except for the tailored jackets. 5. plain fabrics, not patterned. The most popular Belgian designers are Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten and Raf Simons. Following photos are from their summer collections (in the same order as mentioned).

maison martin margiela

ann demeulemeester womenann demeulemeester mendries van notenraf simonsI think you can sense a resemblance with “the Japanese spirit”. No frills, pure looks with solid fabrics and simple colors. I would like to call it “minimalism”. According to my basic guide to fashion, “deconstructivism” is a term that covers most of Belgian fashion, while  Hanae MoriIssey Miyake, Kenzo Takada, Rei Kawakubo, Yōji Yamamoto and the like are known as “Japanese avant-garde”. Fashion and power-blogsite says:

Issey Miyake (considered the founding father of avant-garde fashion), Rei Kawakubo, and Yohji Yamamoto, known as “The Big Three,” brought in a new style that Europe hadn’t seen before. The style was characterized by monochromatic, asymmetrical, and baggy looks that set the stage for the beginning of postmodern interpretation of “clothes that break the boundary between the West and the East, fashion and anti-fashion, and modern and anti-modern.”

Both movements were a reaction against the tasteless, lewd glitter and glamour of the ’80. However, if I take a look at the current collections of Japanese designers, they feature extremely bright looks. In my opinion, Belgian and Japanese influenced and were influenced by each other since the eighties. Japanese people today who sport an avant-garde style, naturally tend to take a liking to Belgian fashion, because there are so much similarities. To go back to the street fashion pictures: I think this style looks classy, timeless and sophisticated. Both men and women dress cool, because of the androgynous look. So, mixing up Japanese and Belgian brands seems to be a good idea. If I only got the money…


– Street Fashion Blogs Japan: Japanese streets, Style Arena, Tokyo Faces, Japanese Street Report, Tokyo Fashion, Drop Tokyo.

– Street fashion pictures are taken from Style Arena and edited.

– Other photos are taken from the official designer’s sites.


5 thoughts on “Tokyo Street Fashion and Belgian Designers

  1. what a wonderful post! i’m a fan of both japanese fashion and belgian design and can see the similarities. but i have to agree with you – if only i, too, had the money…xx

    • Thank you! Japan covers so much inspirational styles, and these classy looking street fashionista are often too much overshadowed by their Harajuku fellows. I think you can “copycat” this style a bit if you creatively mix and match pieces from cheaper shops. I sometimes go treasure hunting in second hand shops too. There you can even find designer things from expensive shops at ridiculously low prices. And of course, if you’re very skillful, DIY is the best solution…

    • Although it’s a pity Belgian are not so outspoken in their fashion sense. You have to watch out very carefully to spot them on the streets.

      • That is very true. You know, people always have the idea that Japanese society is very rigid and rule bound. But while I was living there, I felt a lot more free to dress in any way I liked. Somehow Japanese seem more tolerant towards such displays of personal expression. Although there are some Belgian cities where there are more fashionistas than others. Admidetedly, Leuven is definitely not one of them ^_^

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