The Rise of Japanese Outerwear
I, like a great many others I am sure, have a long harboured desire to visit Japan. I’m not talking about a brief stop off in Tokyo (though that’d be great too), I mean a good few weeks in which to immerse myself into all things Japan.
The food, the culture, the people, the whole shebang.
And when I make this journey, I dream of doing so with an empty suitcase and a full wallet, for Japanese garms are high on the agenda of this imaginary itinerary, and I want to return with untold riches in this department.
On the first part of my journey; the urban element; I am extremely well catered for.
I envisage grabbing white tees, socks and boxers from the hallmark of quality-for-cost basics Uniqlo as I step off the plane before donning some top notch selvedge denim from the likes of Orslow, Full Count or Edwin.
As I continue to discover the temples of Kyoto, the nightlife of Osaka and the pulsating neons of Tokyo I proceed to procure some highly sought streetwear from the likes of BAPE, Kapital and Visvim.
My credit card in meltdown, there’s still time to treat my tarmac weary feet to some real delights, for the Japanese know their way around a sneaker collab like nobody else. Some Sacai Vaporwaffles maybe? Or Undercover Daybreaks?…. What a bloody trip so far.
But, alas, for now I’m all done with the hustle and bustle of Japanese cities. I’m yearning for the fresh air of the Japanese forests, the hot springs of Kinosaki and the pistes of Niseko.
But hang on a minute, I’m still clad in an array of Japanese urban attire. And whilst it is magnificent, it is not ideal for the hiking, skiing and subzero stargazing that I am about to embark upon.
I have left my trusty puffer from North Face or Arc’teryx at home, whatever shall I do?!
I could be forgiven for thinking at this point that my laissez-faire attitude to packing has fucked me right over. However, fear not, for out of the mountain mist comes some absolute outerwear gems that, until recent times, have received nowhere near the recognition that they deserve.
The first such brand is Snowpeak, possibly the most well known internationally, now being stocked at renowned retailers such as End, Selfridges and Mr Porter. Founded way back in the late 50’s by an esteemed Japanese mountaineer who was unimpressed with the gear on offer for such activities in his native country.
Specialising for many years in high quality camping and hiking staples such as titanium cups, compact camping stoves and, erm, collapsible coffee drippers, it wasn’t until in 2014 that the founder’s granddaughter – a fashion graduate and now brand President – launched the apparel line.
In its relative infancy, the firm’s fashion arm has gone from strength to strength to widespread acclaim, and they subsequently now have retail stores in prime London and New York locations. Their mission statement is “…to create restorative experiences in nature through legacy grade gear and apparel.” Sounds like exactly what the doctor ordered for my hypothetical adventure!
Even earlier to the Japanese outdoor game are Nanga, named after the Himalayan mountain Nanga Parabat and famed for their range of down products that are decidedly ‘up’market (sorry). In fact, so confident are they in the quality of their flagship sleeping bags that they offer a lifetime guarantee on them.
With regards to the clobber offering they’ve stuck to their guns, offering a select range of top end down outerwear designed to “overcome challenges under the most drastic conditions”. Not gonna lie, I’d glide straight past the down t-shirts; as it just seems odd; and straight to the puffer jackets which are a match for any of their North American or Canadian counterparts.
So, before I head back to the airport and commence my journey home to launch all my worldly belongings onto Depop in a vague attempt to offset this lavish Japanese fashion haul, there is one last port of call. Only my stupidity could’ve allowed me to leave this until last, as it has the potential to undo all of my theoretical good work undertaken thus far.
A brand that could seamlessly offer a range of schmutter as at home on the streets of Tokyo as on a hike towards Mount Fuji? Surely not I hear you say.
Well, may I introduce to you ‘And Wander’. The brainchild of two former Issey Miyake employees was launched in 2011 as they enjoyed escaping Tokyo for weekend camping expeditions, and they couldn’t find anything that they wanted to spend their hard earned cash on.
The resulting 110 piece collection won the Tokyo Fashion Award for combining fashion and performance, and it’s easy to see why. It’s super technical – waterproof, windproof, lightweight, layer-ready, all that jazz – yet also manages to look fashion forward and well, just damn right cool.
Anyway, back to reality and I’ve just ordered some ramen on Deliveroo. It’s as close to Japan as I can get right now. It’s hardly the Hida Highlands, but there’s a right chilly breeze when I open the front door. Best get that Japanese down jacket at the ready for that hands-free delivery.
TJ – Barber at Ruffians Shoreditch