Tokyo fashion is about young people. It isn°«t a luxury business, as it is in the USA and Europe.
Luxury articles don°«t give status. It's the young people strolling in the streets who decide what
appeals to them, and this trend then spreads among their like-minded peers. This youth-driven
phenomenon is similar to how Mods and Punks created their own fashion in the London of the °«60s and °«70s. The difference is that young Tokyo trend-setters are not people angry at society, like the Punks, or people who use a style of clothing as a means of protest. In Tokyo, the girls want what°«s kawaii (cute), and both the boys and the girls want clothes that will make them the focus of others°« attention.
In his L°«Empire des Signes (1970), Roland Barthes wrote that Tokyo is a city with an °»empty centre°… of signs without meaning. Likewise, Tokyo fashion isn°«t about meaning. The girls treat Louis Vuitton bags as they would a Samantha Thavasa bag (an inexpensive domestic brand), because both seem very kawaii to them. When they tire of them, they move on to a new °»cute°… brand.
This is why Western designers are astonished when they visit Tokyo. Wearing fashionable or trendy clothes doesn°«t mean being rich or successful in Japan. It°«s not about prestige but about being
young, free and sometimes innocent. In this market, there°«s no need to design clothes for mature and wealthy tastes. Foreign designers are overwhelmed by the freedom. Leading Tokyo brands like Undercover, Green, Mintdesigns and A Bathing Ape aren°«t about prestige and class: they just want to make things young people will go for.
Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons said in the early °«80s that to create something new is to be youthful. Her brand faced barriers in the USA and Europe at the time because European critics
commented that Comme would not suit mature women. Now the brand is coming to be acknowledged as a statement of Tokyo fashion.