We have an exciting announcement here at JapanCulture•NYC: We’re happy to introduce Jen Green as JapanCulture•NYC’s official Fashion Editor!
Fans of JC•NYC may remember Jen’s popular recap of the Lolita fashion event at Japan Society, a story that was picked up by the one and only RocketNews24. A 15-year veteran of the fashion industry and a design director for a New York accessories company, Jen has her finger on the pulse of Japanese fashion and is the perfect addition to the JC•NYC team.
As a kindergartener, Jen appeared in the Japanese play Momotaro, which sparked her love of all things Japanese. She travels to Tokyo twice a year to gather the latest information about the street fashion scene in Japan, which she applies to her job designing accessories for the juniors market.
We recently sat down with Jen to talk about Japanese fashion and to get her take on what she discovered on her latest trip to Tokyo.
JapanCulture•NYC: How did you become interested in Japanese fashion?
Jen Green: I’ve always had an interest in Japanese culture, and the street fashion came later. I started studying fashion when I was young, taking college classes while I was still in high school. In 2001 I discovered the book FRUiTS at a salon. It put Japanese street fashion on the map for me. It was established in 1997, and it was the originator of Tokyo street fashion. This was pre-fashion blogs; people weren’t seeking out street fashion snapshots.
JC•NYC: Did you study anything about Japanese fashion while you were in college?
Jen: I learned the historical stuff in school, like the kimono. In 2007 I started going to Japan for work. Going there and experiencing it for the first time when I didn’t know the brands, it was inspirationally overwhelming! I was so taken by the attention to accessories. EVERYBODY loves accessories in Japan. Anything extra that you would wear to accentuate your garment: socks, glasses, jewelry, purses, hats. The love of accessories crosses all ages in Japan, even the older salaryman with his white dress shirt has a cute accessory hanging off of his phone. I think it’s because they’re obsessed with the youth aspect of Japanese culture. Youth and all things kawaii!
JC•NYC: Let’s talk about some of the looks you saw and documented on your trip to Japan in August. Tell me about The Uniform.
Jen: This was the first time I saw the same look in every store. I saw this look at every price point, in every mall, and worn on the street. Something needed to be said about that. The Uniform is variations of similar head-to-toe looks. You’ve got a hat, a quirky shirt, cool socks or sneakers. Athletic socks are worn with skirts.
JC•NYC: Now here’s a youthful, playful look that harkens back to a different era.
Jen: There are references to urban fashion and, well, I don’t want to say “grunge.” It is grunge, but not that dirty. It’s a stylized grunge with a lot of plaid and knit caps, but there’s also a lot of layering and ‘90s graphics.
JC•NYC: I actually bought a sweatshirt with a lace back last year in Tokyo. It was the first time I’d ever seen anything like it.
Jen: This is another look that I saw in every store. We’ve got sweats styled with dressier looks, reinvented with lace inserts, pockets, and even elbow patches. College sweatshirts – this is actually a sweatshirt from Delaware! – are cut and remade with flouncy sleeves. Here’s an office girl who threw a sweatshirt over her work clothes, and she’s making it work. I don’t want to say they’re making sweatshirts prettier, but they’re making the sweatshirt for everyday wear and not just for the gym.
JC•NYC: Here are more college sweatshirts.
Jen: The varsity trend has been around, but this time it’s really collegiate-based to specific US colleges. Why is there Delaware? Why is there University of Florida? It’s a combination of plaid with varsity trends. And the logos aren’t just on sweatshirts and jackets. You see them on socks, hats, shoes, phone cases.
JC•NYC: This look is my favorite of the bunch.
Jen: Plaid is the entire reason I got into fashion design. I created a knock-off Betsey Johnson plaid dress as an eighth grader. I definitely love this trend.
JC•NYC: We’ve seen plaid scattered throughout the other trends, so it must be really big.
Jen: You saw plaid with the varsity, and there’s also plaid with florals. And they use plaid as accents, as you can see on the high-tops, as collars, and as graphic inserts. Plaid skirts were everywhere!
JC•NYC: And this plaid skirt looks like a shirt tied around the waist. Amazing.
JC•NYC: I like this look, too. It’s a little bit more mature than the plaid in some ways.
Jen: It’s houndstooth that’s stylized and updated. There are classic pieces, but a lot are redone in a more playful way. Here you have stars and monkeys done by designer Tsumori Chisato, and this fabric is incorporating cats.
JC•NYC: Now we’re getting really playful. Putting junk food on clothes and accessories.
Jen: They always love cute food stuff in Japan. This was the first time junk food outweighed sweets. Burgers and fries were huge.
JC•NYC: I love how the zippers on this back pack line up with each element of the burger. And of course, I love the aspara bacon socks.
Jen: That’s from Punyus, as is the sweater with the strategically placed pancakes. The food phone cases are kind of a play off Jeremy Scott’s line of McDonald’s-themed clothing for Moschino.
JC•NYC: Continuing with the cute things . . .
Jen: The last three trends are things I’ve seen on all of my trips that I’ve shopped in Japan. There are updates. Cats, no matter what, they’re going to be there. New are the sweatpants and the tie. There are constant updates, like the cat tights now have stripes, and the face always used to be above the knee whereas now it’s down at the feet. They’ve added flowers and bows to cuten it up even more.
JC•NYC: They sure love their Peanuts and Disney characters in Japan.
Jen: I find this fascinating. Why does the teenage Japanese girl want a Joe Cool varsity jacket?
JC•NYC: But now there are Star Wars socks?!
Jen: A lot of stores will have the license and do a special series. People tend to do special collaborations as limited editions. titty&Co. – yes, that’s the name – has a Peanuts collection, and x-girl has Hello Kitty and Winnie the Pooh.
JC•NYC: Now that you’ve shown us some of the trends you saw in Tokyo this summer, how long until we can see these looks in New York?
Jen: Sometimes it can take years. The sheer nude tights with the tattoos were hot in Japan two seasons ago, but I just got an email from a client talking about that look but with henna tattoos. Some buyers aren’t willing to take a risk, or they’ll say, “I don’t think it’s right for our customers.”
JC•NYC: Is Japan ahead of fashion trends?
Jen: Yes! Japan is ahead of the game when it comes to the street fashion scene. Many trends I spot there don’t surface in the states until years later. I think Japanese fashion is trend-setting because the fashionable Japanese girl is not afraid to take risks & try something new.
JC•NYC: What about the Lolita look you wrote about earlier this year? Is that a trend?
Jen: I don’t personally see that as a current trend there as much as a subculture.
JC•NYC: So what are the biggest trends from Tokyo, and what will you do now that you’ve compiled your research?
Jen: Plaid was huge for Fall ’14, and I think it’s going to continue for Fall ’15. On October 21 I’ll present the Fall ’15 collection that will include inspiration from Tokyo Fall ’14. I take what works and sell it to mass markets across America. The fashionable crazy-trendy junior girl is the target. Another thing about Japan is that accessories are just as much a part of the garment. Here it’s an afterthought. And Japan is big on coordinates.
JC•NYC: After shopping in Japan for all these years, what’s it like to shop here?
Jen: Tokyo shopping has ruined me for life! Shopping will never be the same for me.
Welcome to JapanCulture•NYC, Jen! We look forward to your reports about Japanese fashion in New York!
You can also follow Jen’s adventures on Instagram @jenpanese.
Trend collages compiled by Jen Green and contain photos taken by her and from catalogues and magazines.