By Stacey Howell

Globalization and growing Asian markets have turned the fashion industry's sight towards the East. Japan is by no means a new player in the fashion market, but population booms in Asian countries have created a new focus on the region, where Japan stands out for its fashion week and avant garde street style inspirations.

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The Japanese are known for colorful and expressive street style.

History of Influence

Since the 1970's, Japan has been an increasingly influential force on the Western fashion world. Designer Issey Miyake garnered much acclaim for his unique approach to fashion design in which he created masterpieces by manipulating single pieces of cloth. His collections were well received by the fashion industry, and he built an international reputation for his innovative yet functional style. The 1980's saw the rise of yet another Japanese brand as designer Rei Kawakubo revolutionized the fashion industry with her avant garde, artistically fused approach to fashion. Her line, Comme des Garçons, has maintained a global influence and has received much praise from key industry critics. Yohji Yamamoto took Europe by storm in the 1980's with his black anti-fashion, severe garments. Junya Watanabe, who once worked under Rei Kawakubo, launched his own line in 1994 and has since become known internationally for his abstract approach to fashion and for his focus on futuristic concepts.

Street Style

Mass media has given rise to the phenomenon of Japanese street style. Where Japanese style was once traditional and restrained, it has since taken Western cultural references to the next level. Street style in Japan is characterized by extremely personalized outfits and a fearless embrace of bold, statement-making fashion. An example of this is the popular Lolita style, which embraces Victorian, doll-like styles as a rebellion against the sexualized representations of women in the media. Creative self-expression, instead of luxury or status symbols, is the key to Japanese street style and has taken on a global appeal. Many fashion designers now look to Japanese street style for the latest trends, and it's inspired street style culture around the world to becoming increasingly creative and expressive.

Asian Apparel Market

As Asian countries gain wealth and population, many fashion brands and designers have recently focused their attention and expansion towards the East. Manufacturers from the U.S. and Europe often turn to Japan to understand the inspirations and influences within the Asian market. Other facets of Japanese culture, such as video games, anime, comic books and J-Pop, have an influence over culture not just in Asia but also around the world, making Japan a cultural hive. China may have a larger population, but Japan has the greater fashion following and more respected fashion week of any Asian country.

Tokyo Fashion Week

Each year, fashion week in Tokyo gains increasing recognition worldwide. Just like Rei Kawakubo of Comme de Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, new Japanese designers are creating garments that are infused with artistic expression, fantasy and a recognition of street style culture. While many Japanese designers choose to work out of New York or Paris because of its high concentration of fashion talent, established brands such G.V.G.V. and Dresscamp, as well as emerging Japanese designers, are choosing to show in Tokyo. Tokyo Fashion Week is now sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, which also sponsors the renowned New York Fashion Week.