Nippon × Fashion 2012

Rising Stars in the Fashion World

Society Culture

Even as fast fashion takes the world by storm, a few designers continue to make clothes following their own unique vision. Here is an introduction to 12 up-and-coming brands that embody the present and the future of mode in Japan.

Nippon Fashion Catalog 2012

Click on an image to go to that brand’s intro page.

Akira Naka

Entered the 2005 Festival International de Mode et de Photographie à Hyères, a gateway to the fashion world for new designers, while still a student at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Afterwards he continued training in Antwerp under the mentorship of a designer working with a well-known knitwear brand. Naka started his own brand, Poesie, in 2007 after returning home to Japan. He announced the change to his new brand name, Akira Naka, at the showing of his 2009 spring/summer collection during Tokyo Fashion Week. Something in his knit designs catch the eye, such as his unique gradation knit, which seems to gradually melt into the fabric. The theme of his 2012 spring/summer collection is Vanern. This Scandinavia-inspired collection features unique color combinations and evokes a feeling of fresh airiness.



Designer Morinaga Kunihiko (born in 1980) started his career in 2003, after graduating from Waseda University and Vantan Design Institute. The name Anrealage is a combination of the words “unreal,” “real,” and “age,” representing a concept of distortion, a “real and unreal age.” The designer pursues intricate craftwork in all his pieces, including remodeling old clothing, working with the motto "God is in the details." In 2005 he won the Avant-Garde Grand Prix at Gen Art 2005, a contest for new young designers held in New York. In 2011 Morinaga received the Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix for Best New Designer and Shiseido Incentive Award. His 2012 spring/summer collection, entitled Shell, features pieces with strong structural lines that, like a shell or husk, maintain their shape even when cast off.


Christian Dada

Following his work with Charles Anatase and Livraison, Morikawa Masanori (born in 1984) launched Christian Dada in autumn/winter 2010. Looking at clothing not only as something to put on, Morikawa aims to make clothes that are a tool for expressing one’s identity.

He designed Lady Gaga’s outfit for the MTV Aid Japan event held in June 2011. Inspired by his ongoing thoughts about death and the work S/N by the performance group dumb type, Morikawa takes on the challenge of visualizing bones, an icon for death, in his 2012 spring/summer collection Signal/Noize, a combination of fabric (signal) and mixed media (noize).



After graduating from Bunka Fashion College, Ochiai Hiromichi (born in 1977) worked at the textile company Guildwork while at the same time working as an assistant for NGAP (artists that work on everything from clothing to furniture and interiors) before launching his brand Facetasm in autumn/winter 2007. Prior to presenting his 2012 spring/summer collection in his first runway show at Versus Tokyo, an event on the last day of Tokyo Fashion Week, Ochiai had been introducing his collections with an exhibition-style event. The collection’s theme “To be crucially free” pursues the “here and now” characteristic of our time. The true-to-life freedom felt by young people in Tokyo today is expressed in the layered prints and combinations of ethnic and traditional elements.



Established by Horihata Hiroyuki and Sekiguchi Makiko in 2005. After studying apparel design together at Bunka Fashion College and working for some time as patterners, they went over to England. They gained experience designing a collection in England from 2003 and then launched Matohu a year after their return to Japan in 2004. In 2009 the pair received the twenty-seventh Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix for Best New Designer and Shiseido Incentive Award. Their brand name, Matohu, has two meanings, “dressing” and “restraint,” which fittingly convey their concept centering on the Japanese sense of beauty toward clothing and also a sense of restraint, allowing oneself to mature, and not consuming something hastily and throwing it away. They presented their 2012 spring/summer collection, based on the theme utsuri (reflection), at their new shop in Omotesando, which opened in July 2011.


Mikio Sakabe

This brand is a collaboration between Sakabe Mikio (born in 1976), who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp at the top of his class, and Taiwanese designer Shueh Jen Fang. They launched the brand with an installation-style show for their 2007 autumn/winter Paris collection. From spring/summer 2008 they began showing in Paris and Tokyo. For autumn/winter 2011, they hosted a fashion and Akiba culture (Akiba is short for Akihabara) combined event, featuring a talked-about appearance on the runway by the J-pop girl group The theme of their 2012 spring/summer collection is Holy. In an about turn from last season, they present a relaxed and natural view of the world with pastel tones and frequent use of gauze fabrics.


Motonari Ono

Ono Motonari moved to Europe in 2002, after graduating from Mejiro Fashion & Art College, and continued his studies at the London College of Fashion and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He launched his own brand in 2006 after working as chief patterner under Bora Aksu from 2004. In 2010, he was selected as a finalist for the Mango Fashion Awards, one of the top international fashion design competitions. His 2012 spring/summer collection, entitled “Un club de nuit secret,”is inspired by thoughts of a secret nightclub in Paris. The pieces feature lingerie styled details, such as garter belts and corsets, using original lacework and textiles. The use of knit fabrics made in the disaster stricken region of Tōhoku is a gesture of support for Japan to get back on its feet again after the natural disaster in 2011.


Saphir East

Launched in spring/summer 2007. Not much is known about the designer, who goes by the same name, except that she or he has experience working for various fashion houses and has lived abroad. Just like the designer, the designs are very enigmatic. Taking inspiration from travel memories and pictures and flowers seen in Europe, the designer’s approach is to create whatever inspiration indicates, with total artistic freedom. The circular black leather tamanegi (onion) dress that Lady Gaga wore for her appearance on a talk show during a visit to Japan is also a Saphir East design. The brand is carried by shops including the celebrity favorite Church boutique in Los Angeles. The designer currently only takes orders in Japan.



Established in 2003, Sasquatchfabrix is the apparel-making side of the Wonder Worker Guerrilla Band. The brand is engaged in a wide variety of activities, including art exhibitions, in addition to men’s fashion. Their 2012 spring/summer collection, entitled Japonism Sunbeam, incorporates traditional Japanese motifs into Western-style clothing. The designs are known for going beyond typical Japanese techniques or patterning to display the stylishness encompassed by the broader Japanese aesthetic. Following a common thread from their past themes Zenarchy and Modern Ninja, Sasquatchfabrix continues to highlight uniquely Japanese features in their collections—today representing a shout of support for Japan after the March 11, 2011, disaster.



Started in 2006 as a design project of Hirokawa Tamae and began taking part in Tokyo Fashion Week in spring/summer 2007. Hirokawa came out with the Skin Series bodywear line, based on the concept of “possibilities for clothing oneself,” in her debut season. Received the twenty-fifth Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix for Best New Designer and Shiseido Incentive Award. In addition to collaborating with Toyota and Canon on installations, Hirokawa frequently shows her work abroad, including venues in New York, India and Russia. In her 2012 spring/summer collection, themed on the ongoing evolution of birds, she graphically expresses a mystical life force that transcends time and space. The brand is also known as a favorite of Lady Gaga in her private and public life.



Established in 2007 by the designers Yamagata Yoshikazu and Tamai Kentaro, who met while studying at an art college in London. (Tamai left the brand in 2009.) Building on the idea that fashion design is “a facet of humanity and a way to craft popular trends,” they propose fashion as a communication tool having educational, social, cultural, and environmental perspectives. In 2005 Yamagata graduated from the University of the Arts London Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design with a major in womenswear design. Received awards in three categories at ITS#3, an international fashion competition in Italy aimed at final year students of fashion design schools and young designers. Yamagata launched the brand after working as a design assistant for John Galliano. His 2012 spring/summer collection was presented in a secret show, the content of which was made known only to those who attended. (Photos: 2011 autumn/winter Ultimate Grown-Up Girlie Fashion collection, taken by Chikashi Suzuki [top] and Kanako Sasaki [middle].)


Yuima Nakazato

Born in 1985, Nakazato Yuima began learning how to make clothes on his own and enrolled in the fashion department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp after graduating from high school. He has received several awards for his work, including an award at ITS#7. Nakazato launched his own brand after graduating in 2009 and continues to show his work mostly in Paris. He has designed original pieces for recording artists including Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga. Nakazato presented a menswear collection at his 2011 spring/summer show during Tokyo Fashion Week. For his spring/summer 2012 collection, he expresses a world view going beyond gender in an exhibition event and a photo collection. (Photos: 2011 spring/summer collection runway.)


(Originally written in Japanese by Yata Yumiko.)


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