Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion

Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion
Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion

Garbstore in Conversation – The subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion

Japanese culture has had a huge influence on the rest of the world; technology, food and fashion, mainstream or niche, the impact is unsurpassed. We decided to probe further into the subculture of Japanese Outdoor Fashion by speaking with Founder of Garbstore, Ian Paley and Head of Menswear Buying, Carin Nakanishi, who were able to provide an insightful British and Japanese viewpoint of this cultural phenomenon.

What makes dedicated outdoors paraphernalia so appealing to Japanese people?

CN: Japanese people love useful useless things: things that are useful, but in the West might be considered unnecessary, or extra. Portable ashtrays, clips to hang plastic bottles from your bag, beer can covers so your hand doesn’t get too cold from holding the can…
The outdoor market is huge, with its endless line up of accessories you didn’t know you needed. It becomes a fun thing to collect.

IP: Often the interest in any recreational area is fuelled by a desire for knowledge around the subject, the compulsion to do it properly, the age old ‘all the gear’ mentality. I suppose historically this would come from the period of occupation where a long lasting stoical culture was suddenly washed with a wave of foreign influences from both America and the UK. Fuelling a desire to be different and owning the difference by acquiring knowledge. Indoor space in Japan is also very limited pushing the population to spend more time outside.

How does the appreciation for nature and adventure shape Japanese lifestyles and clothing design?

CN: The study and appreciation of nature has a very long history in Japanese culture. Not only do they celebrate the four seasons with street festivals (omatsuri), there are 24 mini seasons throughout the year, which mark the details of the transition between seasons, such as the day of the awakening for hibernating insects, and the day of the first frost. This appreciation of nature is seen across Japanese design and lifestyles. Traditional Japanese architecture famously blurs the distinction between outside and in; while ‘seasonal’ confectionaries in the shape of sakura flowers or Autumnal ‘momiji’ leaves play an important role in ritual and gift giving. Of course, this translates into the manufacture and aesthetics of fashion, with a particular emphasis on indigo dye and natural fabrics of quality silks and cottons.

IP: Once the current knowledge has been acquired, further segmentation and elitism of culture is maintained by digging through the history of the culture and then improving both historical and current items buy the re-manufacturing or replication of goods.

What makes Japanese people so adept at taking labels from utilitarian to fashion-conscious. Is there any way to codify this phenomenon?

CN: Most of the big American outdoor brands take on a life of their own in Japan. They take the utilitarian blacks, khakis and greys and add prints and directional detailing to make them more ‘fashion’. Outdoor and men’s fashion magazines have a big cross over, labels like Keen are part of the crossover style, with guys in Harajuku or Shibuya wearing head-to-toe outdoor style, even if they are just going between their office and home.

IP: I think they identify with brands that have function as a core message. Keen is a great example of this, if anything they equate function with originality. This in turn supersedes the stylistic component of the item and allows this original product to be desired as a piece of fashion.

Why are Japanese outdoors clothing designers so successful at blending function and fashion?

IP: Mainly because the outdoor lifestyle in Asia has a blurred boundary with the fashion market, and is bought in a very functional way, it is also distributed in a different way than it is in Europe, Most big outdoor brands in Asia have a more sophisticated outlook as predominantly they know that the consumer longs for the lifestyle but is inherently urban. Therefore, the urban aesthetic has to compete and be sensitive of current trends. The products are also communicated in a more general sense and are seen in marketing terms as less specialist with a wider appeal for a consumer that craves only specialist items.

Can you break down some differences between Japanese and Western outdoors enthusiasts?

CN: The landscape and climate are hugely varied, you can go surfing in Okinawa or snowboarding in Hokkaido. As a country made up of mountainous islands, mountain climbing is a major part of outdoor hobbies. Most towns are an hour away from a mountain range, making camping and a weekend climb far more accessible for most people than in Europe or America. Every schoolchild will do a climb during a school trip, it is very much ingrained in the national psyche. When the general population treat ‘cherry blossom viewing’ (hanami) as a major event in their social calendar, being an outdoor enthusiast is definitely more part of the mainstream than in the UK.

IP: One set is predominantly based in an urban environment the other often outside of main urban centres. The Japanese consumer will appreciate that there is a product for every function and behaves as a ‘collector’ of these functions buying very deeply into the lifestyle. the western consumer will value the experience of the lifestyle a little more than the products associated with it.