Street cred in Harajuku

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Ask young Asians which city they would most like to visit for inspiration, and they will tell you Tokyo. For real inspiration, go to Harajuku, a little suburb of windy alleys that for over a decade has been the home of street credibility in Japan.

Some of the more established brands for sale include Evisu, the jeans to have for quite a few years now. The story goes that designer Hidehiko Yamane was disappointed with mass-produced jeans, so he produced his own genuine vintage type by learning traditional methods and reviving machines not used for more than 40 years.

Perhaps the most famous street-cred brand remains A Bathing Ape, founded in 1993 by now-legendary Tomoaki Nagao, known as Nigo. The name actually refers to a phrase translated as "bathing in lukewarm water," apparently a reference to the shallow lifestyle preferred by many young Japanese today who seem to have no real ambition. The signature logo, based on the original "Planet of the Apes" movie, is now available through 30 exclusive boutiques around the world and has made Nigo a highly desired partner in the collaboration projects that seem to rule street cred today.

If you really want to know what's next, track down the latest preferences of Hiroshi Fujiwara, considered the "god of street culture." One of his projects is the brand Goodenough, with its very-limited-edition products ranging from skateboard decks to chinos to action figures. Or grab some hybrid sneaker-cum-casual shoes from Visvim. Then there is the boutique run by Neighborhood, one of the original ura-Harajuku labels (ura means underground). Another favorite collaboration brand is Real Mad Hectic, famous for its double-branded sneakers.

Of course, not all the brands are local. Silly Thing is a Hong Kong-based rising star of Asian streetwear. The brand grew out of the publishing company that launched Milk, a weekly magazine that focused on Tokyo street culture and snapshots of what was being worn on the coolest streets of Hong Kong. Silly Thing eventually expanded to its own apparel lines, and has undertaken exclusive collaborations with brands such as Hermes and Commes des Garcons.

Dave McCaughan is exec-VP-director of strategic planning at McCann Erickson and a Tokyo-based trendspotter.
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