Work in Japan Advice Board
Harajuku is known overseas as a center of Japanese street fashion. The area began to take on its unique character at the end of World War II, when occupying Allied Forces and their families settled into the nearby area called Washington Heights. In 1958 it became a popular area for fashion designers and photographers of the Beat generation. It got a third boost in 1964, when it was the stage for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. And today it still features a wide variety of styles, some rebelling against tradition, and some adhering to it as they follow the latest cosplay, punk, or hip-hop tradition. To find something original, you need to get off the beaten path and explore the side streets, which have more character and more surprises.
It is here that I found フリウ (Fulyu) http://shop.fulyu.jp, the Flagship shop for the Yoshiyuki brand http://www.yoshiyuki.jp. The name is based on the characters 風流 which means refined style, or miyabiyaka, a sense of contemporary elegance with roots in the past. Yoshiyuki has a Facebook Page at http://budurl.com/pc7c, which explains the central concept of the high-end casual apparel brand. This is a signature style which deliciously draws on a native Japanese sense of design.
The owner and designer of the Yoshiyuki brand is Ogata Yoshiyuki, and he himself seems cut from a different cloth. The characters for Yoshiyuki 義志 combine to mean righteous resolution, an ambition to set things right. The style fits the designer, who has a kind manner with a robust frame, and is also an experienced martial artist in Gojuryu Karate. He draws inspirations for his original designs from the martial arts, incorporating subtle elements of color and design, with stitches and silhouettes inspired by the traditional clothing of the Samurai. There is functional beauty in the Yoshiyuki line of clothing. It feels bold and just as comfortable as contemporary street fashion. Yoshiyuki hopes to inspire Japanese, as well as foreign visitors, with a style that is quintessentially Japanese, without being nostalgic. His inspiration is partly driven by frustration with the unoriginal designs that are sold as souvenirs, and with the domination of the fashion industry by themes that are essentially American or European.
Yoshiyuki actually likes American fashion very much, having spent time in the United States, and he speaks English quite fluently. One of the things he likes about American style is that it is unapologetically American, the sense of expressing your cultural roots, whether you are from Africa, or Asia, or Europe. Each part of the world has rich ethnic roots that can provide the DNA for a diverse world of truly international fashion, not one dominated by a few monopolistic brands. He feels that fashion has become too standardized, like fast food, and would like to mingle more, to create more diversity and curiosity.
At the same time, Yoshiyuki has created a strong brand with his own signature style. And he did this as an entrepreneur, believing in and investing in himself and his own righteous resolution. Although he did not go to design school, and admits that he cannot draw, this did not stop him from making his mark at the very top of the fashion world. In fact, he was the designer for Miss Universe Japan 2006 Kurara Chibana, who won Best National Costume and 2nd place in the world; as well as for Miss Universe Japan 2007 Riyo Moyi, who took the world crown the first time ever for Japan; he designed an avant-garde Kimono for Miss Universe Japan 2009 Emiri Miyasaka; and is still advising for the Miss Universe Japan competition.
But his own brand proposes a new aesthetic for Japanese masculinity, inspired by the Samurai tradition. He said one characteristic he emphasizes is the silhouette, a stable wide base characterized by pleated hakama pants. Another is tight-fitting well sculpted shirts, subtly inspired by Japanese armor from the Sengoku Era (15th~16th century Japan), with the stitches and functionality of martial arts uniforms. Yoshiyuki is particularly interested in spreading appreciation for the jika-tabi, the split-toed shoe which is native and unique to Japan, not only for the sure-footedness and health effects of these shoes, but also for its value as a fashion item. These too are cut from a different cloth, compared to the high-tech American-style sports shoes you see everywhere. Yoshiyuki believes that the jika-tabi has the potential to be recognized on the world stage as a shoe from the past, for the future.
Yoshiyuki is quite hopeful for the generation of Japanese now in their twenties and thirties. He believes that they have a much greater appreciation for identity and originality, compared to the reputation of older generations for making high-quality copies of things and fashions from other cultures. He goes back centuries to find inspiration in his own cultural roots, and emerges with a bold signature brand that is cutting edge. Imagine what Japan could do if more people emerged to do the same for the way we design and live our lives.
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William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.