What was your first encounter with fashion? It probably was not related to fashion trends that derived from some designer’s collection presented half a year before hitting the stores. New fashion trends coming from abroad mean nothing to kids; rather, an awakening to fashion came from everyday life. For a boy, maybe it was something your local bully was wearing or your favorite baseball player’s jersey. For a girl, it was perhaps what her idol was wearing on TV or a costume of some anime character. I was no exception: Japanese baseball team Giant’s pajama I desperately wanted in kindergarten and the iconic Adidas cap that Wakabayashi (from a manga series “Captain Tsubasa”) wore were some of the very first fashion items that I consciously chose to own.
Fashion is an obsession that’s not useful in your daily life. Wakabayashi’s Adidas cap didn’t protect me from the sun any more than other caps. It simply just meant extra cost. However, when I wore it, it made me happy and fulfilled, more than anything. Wearing what my heroes wore made me feel closer to them, as if belonging to the same team.
My very first heroes were skaters from California I discovered through my friend’s imported magazines and videos. They were all wearing special, never-seen-before sneakers like Vans, the Air Jordan 1, and Converse together with T-shirts with crazy prints and shorts. Their shorts were not at all like the butt-hugging tight shorts we wore back then; they were loose fit and knee length. Everything was different – beyond different. It didn’t take me long to mistakenly understand that one must dress like them in order to become a skater. The worse you were at skating, the more you wanted to look the part. I researched in detail of what every one of them wore, trying to decipher English using my imaginary translator in my head. I tried everything from cut-off cargo shorts, multiple Swatch watches to mismatched sneakers. Then I realized that many skaters were wearing band tees. These skater kids that we looked up to as heroes had their own heroes; they were musicians. This made me realize the immense impact that films and music have on fashion.
Back then, source of information was limited to just a couple of fashion magazines and some music or foreign film magazines. What we understood had nothing to do with the latest fashion trends but everything to do with what actors wore in films, favorite band members’ outfits, or dubious information coming from the dudes working at second hand stores and import clothing stores. My biggest influence was music. For me, whatever the musicians of the time were wearing was right, precisely capturing the moment. Venice Beach’s Suicidal Tendencies bandanas worn low around the forehead with flip up hats and Axl Rose’s leggings during the peak of heavy metal were both on target. That’s how we followed musician’s fashion of the times as a gateway to fashion, by finding meaning in the style of people who create your favorite sound.
When Red Hot Chili Peppers wore Dr. Martens with shorts, I immediately got them. When Bruce Springsteen wore Levi’s 1966 model, I went on a hunt. Public Enemy’s urban camo pants; Beastie Boys’ Puma sneakers; Ben Davis pants; I learned them all from musicians. That’s not all, I discovered more music through the band tees they were wearing. I bet if Kurt Cobain never wore his t-shirt, most people would have never known who Daniel Johnston was. Their label Sub Pop’s t-shirt would never had become so popular if it wasn’t for Kurt.
The style of Kurt himself cannot go unmentioned. After the glamorous 80’s came the heavy metal era, streets were full of guys wearing biker jackets or cut-off denim jackets together with boots. Then comes Kurt Cobain, dropping the hammer wearing regular old Levi’s, worn-out Chuck Taylor or One Star, your old man’s old mohair sweaters and standard flannel shirts. There is no other man who changed the value and rules of fashion in a second, with a single guitar. He didn’t only gain popularity by expressing angst and frustration in youth through his music, but just as much via what he wore. I am not sure if anything close to that ever happened afterwards. Experiencing the movement in the midst of it all as a teenager and witnessing a movement as a 40-something is completely different. Still, after the grunge movement, many bands and musicians have come up and left marks albeit less impactful. Their fashion always made kids go crazy. Not only kids but also professional fashion designers. Fashion designers always found inspirations through everyday lives, from the past, films, etc. but music tops them all.
Raf Simons, who had always been designing with current events in mind, presented a collection inspired by music he listened to in the 90’s as a teenager, like Joy Division. These archived items go on sale for over $9,000 a piece, proving them to be influential to this day.
Hedi Slimane grew up listening to artists such as David Bowie but were equally influenced by bands like The Libertines from his generation. Him designing costumes for these bands created special coexisting relationships between them.
What is fashion for? Why do we keep buying and wearing new clothes? To answer this, there is nothing more convincing than music; giving reality to created fantasy and in turn giving new design a necessity. Music and fashion go hand-in-glove. The relationship between the two has become more important in today’s world where cheap products are abundant, making it more and more difficult to find necessity in buying new fashion items. In times like this, the reality that musicians create inevitably become increasingly more important.
Virgil Abloh, the fashion darling and Artistic Director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton, understands the link between music and fashion better than anyone. He started his carrier under Kanye West and, despite his busy life, tours around the world as a DJ to experience firsthand the energy of today’s music and youth that flock to it. He chose Michael Jackson as a motif for his second Louis Vuitton show that was held during Paris Fashion Week in January. Back stage, his old friend Dev Hynes a.k.a. Blood Orange created a perfect live soundscape to help present the collection. Upon completing both Off-White and Louis Vuitton shows in two consecutive days, instead of throwing a typical official after party, he gathered with various guests like Jun Takahashi of Undercover, Radio Head’s Thom Yorke, and Gilles Peterson and threw a real party. It was for real music heads, in a dark and sweaty dance club with music blasting out of black speakers; not the typical champagne-flowing afterparty crowded with fashion critics, editors and models. Virgil knows that fashion is desiring music now more than ever, and vice versa. Sometimes I hear people say that there are no interesting clothes, or that they don’t understand what is “now”. If you are in search of new clothing style or fashion, there is only one answer: look for clothes that express music.
Born 1973 in Tokyo. An editor, and a founder of interior design team ‘Tripster’. He is also the radio host of J-Wave radio program ‘Traveling without moving’. He was recently involved in scriptwriting and casting of Wes Anderson’s film ‘Isle of Dogs’.