Sizing, Cuts and How We Measure

Different Dimensions

Japanese people are on average a little bit smaller than your typical Westerner. Although this is an often-exaggerated cultural stereotype, there is some truth in it – try finding a pair of size 12 shoes in Japan! Therefore, as you might expect, clothing made for the Japanese domestic market tends to reflect this. The difference in average body shape between nations can be seen in this interesting graphic below.

Average BMI International Comparison Nickolay Lamm ©

On the other hand, much Japanese high-end designer clothing is made with an eye towards the Western market. Furthermore, just to complicate matters, many of the top Japanese designers are renowned for experimentation with innovative cuts and over-sizing. All of this makes purchasing Japanese-made fashion a bit of a minefield, especially when buying online. However, have no fear – we at Nippon Couture are here to help!

Comme des Garçons Paris 2014/2015 © 2013 infinitas

 

Sizing Systems

Japanese couture fashion houses such as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Comme des Garçons, utilize two main sizing systems, although scales differ brand-to-brand.

Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme Size 6

Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake both alternate between a Japanese number-based system and the Western S/M/L/XL/XXL scale. Older pieces from both designers almost always utilize the  the Western system, with more recent items more often than not using the numberemical system. This number-based format has sizes scaled between 1–6 (although 6s are quite rare). Very roughly speaking, Size 1 equates to XS, Size 2 – S, Size 3 – M, Size 4 – L, Size 5 – XL and Size 6 – XXL.

Issey Miyake Mainline Size 2

Comme des Garçons have blessfully kept things simple and tend to just use the Western alphabet-based system, although the scale is not necessarily the same. For example, a Japanese M can fit a little more like a Western S, although it really does vary, depending on how the designer envisaged the piece being worn and where it was made to be sold. For example, Comme des Garçons Homme is a line predominantly sold in Japan, whereas Comme des Garçons Homme Plus and associated lines are aimed more at an international market.

Comme des Garçons Homme Size M

 

Measurements

What does this all mean? Well, when buying Japanese clothing online – or any clothing for that matter – it’s absolutely crucial to check measurements to ensure the piece will fit as desired. Comparing measurements to an item which you own that you know fits well is always a good idea.

If you’re buying new from an online shop, most provide a sizing guide, although these can be a little misleading, as these are often based on some fairly rough comparisons. eBay-based sellers like us generally offer some measurements too, but measuring methods do vary and it’s not always clear how a seller has measured-up an item. At Nippon Couture items are always measured in inches, laid flat, seam to seam, and unstretched. See below for diagrams of how our items are measured.

 © 2016 Nippon Couture nipponcouture.com
How We Measure – Shirts/Jackets

If there is ever any spare fabric to let out the waist or hems of trousers, we will always give an estimate (if there are heavy pressing marks on hems we consider this like there is no spare fabric).

Cut

Many couture designers (especially the Japanese early avante-guard) are known for exploring the way in which we wear clothes, often experimenting with over-sized designs. In what could be seen as a rejection of highly tailored clothing, designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, have all experimented with clothing design that subverts conventional sizing.

Yohji Yamamoto Spring/Summer ©2013 Monica Feudi/Feudiguaineri.com

I’ve previously made the mistake of having over-sized garments altered to fit. One piece – a dark grey Spring/Autumn Issey Miayke Men jacket – had extra-long sleeves. I loved the look, but the sleeves went over my hands. Without pausing for thought, I had a tailor alter the sleeves to where I usually like my cuffs to come down to (just above the thumb with straight arms). Only on reflection did I contemplate why the jacket’s cuffs were buttonless and how lovely the lining on the sleeves was. I realized that this jacket would have looked great with the sleeves rolled up! Whist I could technically still do this, it would never be quite right. I still love the piece, but I wish I’d had greater faith in the designer’s intentions.

Issey Miyake Men Jacket

It can be a little daunting to wear over-sized clothing. Baggy trousers, big billowing coats, long-cut tees, all require a certain degree of confidence to pull-off. However, for the sartorial dresser, subverting the norm can provide a perverse pleasure.

 

Issey Miyake oversized coat & parachute pants JP Gaultier Sunglasses  ©thenewworldordernyc.com

Comme des Garçons Menswear Lines

Rei Kawakubo is one of the most influential designers of her generation. Never one to court the limelight, she allows her clothes to do the talking. Her designs question our conception of gender and beauty, and tread the fine line between fashion and art.

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Rei Kawakubo © Timothy Greenfield/Sanders

Kawakubo founded Comme des Garçons in 1969. Following her debut show in Tokyo 1975, she opened the first Comme des Garçons shop in Tokyo’s famous Aoyama fashion district. When she made her Paris debut in 1981, Kawakubo was accompanied by her then boyfriend Yohji Yamamoto, also there to present his first Paris collection.

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Rei Kawakubo & Yohji Yamamoto, Paris 1981

Their designs were the antithesis of the fashion of the day: monochromatic palates, abstract shapes, asymmetric cuts, and unfinished hems. This was the birth of the Japanese avant-garde, and whilst Yohji has negotiated regular access visits, Kawakubo undoubtedly holds custody.

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Comme des Garçons 1987 Paris

Following the success of her women’s line, Kawakubo launched her first menswear line in 1978. Comme des Garçons Homme has the brand tagline ‘Good Sense Good Quality’. Following a rapid ascent from pattern maker, Kawakubo’s precocious protégé Junya Watanabe took over as chief designer for Comme des Garçons Homme in 1987, aged just 26. The original brand labels were grey for lightweight items and very dark blue for the heavier pieces, such as jackets and coats. Depending on the item, the brand labels now vary, but the most common is a deep, slightly iridescent shade of blue.

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Comme des Garçons Homme
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Comme des Garçons Homme (new label)

Helpfully the care labels in this line often (but not always) include the year and season of production.

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Comme des Garçons Homme care label

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus was launched in 1984. The clothes tend to be more loose-fitting and experimental. Rei Kawakubo has maintained her position as chief designer and so this line can be viewed as her most direct expression in menswear. The black brand labels are made from a leather-like fabric and are easily recognisable.

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Comme des Garçons Homme Plus

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Sport is a subline of the main menswear line, dealing with sporty streetwear.

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Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Sport

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Evergreen was started in 2005. This line can be viewed as a ‘best of compilation’, with pieces from past collections reinvented and given new life.

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Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Evergreen

Comme des Garçons Homme Deux – launched 1987, mixed Japanese production techniques with western suit design, to produce formal menswear. This is perhaps the most staid of all Comme des Garçons clothing lines.

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Comme des Garçons Homme Deux (older)
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Comme des Garçons Homme Deux (newer)

Comme des Garçons SHIRT – created in 1988 as home to Comme’s wacky shirts. It swiftly expanded to form a distinct clothing line, producing sweaters, jackets, trousers, and accessories, but shirts have remained the central product.

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Comme des Garçons SHIRT

Comme des Garçons SHIRT Boy, launched 2015. An extension of the SHIRT line, aimed at younger men.

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Comme des Garçons SHIRT Boy

Play Comme des Garçons, has one of the most recognizable logos within all the company’s brands. Designed by New York-based Polish designer Filip Pagowski, it appears on all manner of goods, including T-shirts, polos, cardigans, shoes – the list goes on. Described by Comme president Adrian Joffe as “a collection, created by not designing; it was the antithesis of design, based on prototypical forms.” Unfortunately, because many of the pieces use quite simple materials, and owing to the logo’s iconic appeal, there are  quite a few fakes around. Buyer beware.

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Play Comme des Garçons

Black Comme des Garçons is a unisex line, started in 2008, right in the middle of a recession. The idea was to create lower priced pieces, in response to the economic conditions of the time. The line was well received, and continues to offer some nice, fairly affordable pieces.

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Black Comme des Garçons

Kawakubo has provided a home for many up-and-coming designers over the years. Some of them have gone on to start successful brands of their own, such as Junichi Abe of Kolor, Chitose Abe of Sacai, (though married, they have both developed independent brands), and Kei Ninomiya of Moir Kei Ninomiya. Others have chosen to stay and work under the Comme des Garçons umbrella, most prominently Junya Watanabe.

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Junya Watanabe © Ladymax.cn

Having taken on the chief designer role for Comme des Garçons Homme in 1987, Watanabe went on to start his own women’s line, Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons, in 1992. This was followed by the launch of Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons Man in 2001. Watanabe has been described as a ‘techno couture’ designer. He embraces the use of new fabrics and design methods, and is known for his fondness of patchwork and mixing fabrics.

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Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons Man

eYe Junya Watanabe Man Comme des Garçons, launched in 2005, is a sub-line of the main brand. The clothes tend to be a little more casual, and could be said to have a slightly broader appeal.

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eYe Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons Man

Watanabe has worked on numerous collaborations, with heritage brands such as Levi’s, Mackintosh and Seil Marschall, as well as sports brands like Nike, New Balance and The North Face.

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Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons Man x Levi’s

Wallet Comme des Garçons, started in 1980, offers wallets in all colours and shapes, from card holders to iPad cases.

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Wallet Comme des Garçons

Comme des Garçons PARFUMS, launched in 1994, and described as “anti perfume” by Kawakubo. Many of the scents offered are unisex and most are fairly bold in nature. I love the original ‘Comme des Garçons Eau de parfum’, which has the tagline ‘works like a medicine and behaves like a drug.’ It’s said to defy the traditional three-tiered perfume descriptions, reacting differently depending upon the skin of the wearer. With a strong cinnamon scent (for me at least!) – best used very sparingly. My other favourite is ‘Amazingreen’, which as the name suggests, is a scent deeply rooted in nature, with lovely verdant top notes and a smokey gunpowder base.

Comme des Garçons AMAZINGREEN

Over the years Comme des Garçons have collaborated with many brands, but they insist these pairings have never been just about cashing in. Instead, there’s an underlying impetus to produce something greater than the sum of its parts, by combining each brands’ corresponding area of specialism with Comme’s artistic flair, such as the swimwear crossover with Speedo. Some other notable collaborations include: Vivienne Westwood, Nike, Louis Vuitton, H&M, Lacoste, Fred Perry, SUPREME, Chrome Hearts, J.Crew, Kaws, Visvim, Cutler and Gross, The Beatles, Undercover and Levi’s.

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Comme des Garçons x Supreme

With global revenue of $240m, and rising yearly, there seems no stopping Comme des Garçons. But how have they managed to remain relevant for so long? One key thing is that they’ve never allowed the brand to stagnate, mainly through embracing in-house talent and allowing their designers the freedom to express themselves creatively. The real reason though is more straightforward: Rei Kawakubo.

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comme-des-garcons.com

To this day, Comme des Garçons – much like its creator – maintains an air of inaccessible cool. Kawakubo only very recently agreed to creating a brand website, but visit it and you’ll see it’s more art instillation than online store. Her husband and Comme des Garçons co-owner Adrian Joffe says he doubts they’ll ever sell the main line clothes online, for the same reason that the original Comme des Garçons shop had no mirrors: [Rei] “believes clothes have to be touched.”

Issey Miyake Menswear Lines

Issey Miyake has been at the cutting edge of clothing design – or, making things, as he prefers to call it – for over 50 years. Miyake’s innovative designs are always future-looking, but beneath lies a foundation of traditional techniques (both Eastern and Western), along with a deep respect for the materials at use.

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Issey Miyake 1970  © Claude Charlier

Having studied haute couture in Paris in the 1960s, under the likes of Guy Laroche and Givenchy, Miyake returned to Japan in 1970 and founded Miyake Design Studio Inc. He presented his first collection in New York 1971, going on to debut his women’s main line (ISSEY MIYAKE) in Paris in 1973. He proceeded to launch his first menswear line in 1976, primarily as a counterpart to his women’s line, but then later as its own independent line, ISSEY MIYAKE MEN in 1978.

Original ISSEY MIYAKE women's line
Original ISSEY MIYAKE women’s line

The main two menswear lines you should be looking out for are ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line and ISSEY MIYAKE MEN. For all intents and purposes they are very nearly the same line; indeed, between 1976-1985 I believe they used the same brand label. Early ISSEY MIYAKE MEN pieces can be identified, as they used a distinctive garment label.

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Original ISSEY MIYAKE MEN label

ISSEY MIYAKE menswear had its first independent show in 1978. When comparing ISSEY MIYAKE MEN and ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line, the latter is perhaps the slightly more luxurious, due to its close links to the women’s main line. You can spot the ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line pieces as they usually used a black-backed label, with white typeface, whilst the women’s line usually (but not always) used the reverse (ISSEY MIYAKE MEN uses both white and black labels).

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ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line
ISSEY MIYAKE women's line
ISSEY MIYAKE women’s line

ISSEY MIYAKE MEN shouldn’t be seen as inferior to the main line men’s clothing, but whilst the former served as the partner to the women’s collection, ISSEY MIYAKE MEN is very much a brand in its own right. Fortunately ISSEY MIYAKE MEN clothes are very easily identified.

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ISSEY MIYAKE MEN

There’s one more strand of the main lines we need to talk about: ISSEY MIYAKE WHITE LABEL, which makes both women’s and men’s clothes. Don’t be fooled by the name, ISSEY MIYAKE WHITE LABEL menswear items have black labels (confusing right!) and only the women’s have white labels – just the same as with the main line labels.

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ISSEY MIYAKE WHITE LABEL

In 2012, presumably in an effort to make things a bit more clear, both the menswear lines were amalgamated under the ISSEY MIYAKE MEN brand. Phew!

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ISSEY MIYAKE MEN current label

In order to check whether a vintage ISSEY MIYAKE or ISSEY MIYAKE WHITE LABEL garment is a men’s or women’s piece, you need to inspect the product code on the care label. Men’s garments always start with ME.

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ISSEY MIYAKE men’s  care label

A.POC (A Piece of Cloth) was a line closely linked to Issey Miyake’s vision of creating clothing from a single thread. Developed in conjunction with engineering designer Dai Fujiwara, the concept was brought to life via the extensive use of computer technology. This label has now evolved into the ready to wear line A.POC Inside. Usually you’ll find both the ISSEY MIYAKE label, as well as an A.POC label on these garments.

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A.POC (A Piece of Cloth)

Alongside the main lines we’ve looked at, there is also IM MIYAKE DESIGN STUDIO, which is linked to the parent company Miyake Design Studio Inc. These items are produced for a wider market, nonetheless, there are still some great bits out there to be found.

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IM MIYAKE DESIGN STUDIO

FINAL HOME, whilst not strictly a Miyake Design Inc. line, was created by one of their designers, Kosuke Tsumara, and distributed by Issey Miyake from 1994 onwards. The line’s core product was a nylon jacket that was able to transform, thanks to a series of zipped compartments and padded cushions.

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FINAL HOME © FINAL HOME

In 2010 Issey Miyake launched the new, innovative brand 132 5. ISSEY MIYAKE, making clothing for both men and women. The production method employed utilizes old plastic bottles, along with other recycled fibers. The clothes are designed using computer algorithms, incorporating helix shapes which were originally developed by scientists for solar panels.

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132 5. ISSEY MIYAKE   © Miyake Design Inc.

In response to the fact that 10% of Pleats Please sales were being made to men, Miyake Design Inc. launched HOMME PLISSÉ ISSEY MIYAKE in 2013. This line offers many wonderful pieces, showcasing Miyake’s trademarked pleating techniques.

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HOMME PLISSÉ ISSEY MIYAKE © Miyake Design Inc.

ISSEY MIYAKE WATCH produce some truly unique timepieces. Having started in 2001 as a collaboration with Shunji Yamanaka, it has grown to form a permanent collection of 13 different styles, by a host of designers, all of whom share Miyake’s futuristic perspective on design.

Tokujin Yoshioka’s “TO” Watch © Miyake Design Inc.
Tokujin Yoshioka’s “TO” Watch © Miyake Design Inc.

ISSEY MIYAKE PARFUMS is such a success that this is possibly the sector where Issey Miyake is now most widely known. L’EAU D’ISSEY POUR HOMME is one of my all-time favourites colognes – citrus notes, with a little spice for good measure.

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L’EAU D’ISSEY POUR HOMME © Miyake Design Inc.

IN-EI ISSEY MIYAKE is a lighting product brand which grew out of the technology developed for the 132 5. ISSEY MIYAKE clothing line. Through his now familiar exploration of geometry, Miyake combines futuristic production methods with the traditional Japanese concept of light and shadow.

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IN-EI ISSEY MIYAKE © Miyake Design Inc.

Issey Miyake stepped back from Miyake Inc. in 1997, but has maintained an influential position within the company, and it’s said that nothing gets through to market without his approval. At the present time, most of Miyake’s creative work is based around his role as one of the co-directors of Japan’s first design museum, 21_21 Design Sight.

Yohji Yamamoto Menswear Lines

Yohji Yamamoto is the fashion world’s Batman… Both are renowned for their billowing blacks, they share a disregard for the well-trodden path, instead choosing to define their own way, and of course, they both personify effortless cool. It’s no wonder then that over the years, just like his comic book counterpart, Yohji Yamamoto has attracted his own band of dedicated fans across the globe.

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Yohji Yamamoto 1981 © Takeyoshi Tanuma

In 1972 Yohji’s started Y’s, his first women’s ready to wear line. Many of the original Y’s pieces were fairly androgynous in design and you would be forgiven for mistaking some for menswear. This can make the business of buying vintage Yohji a little confusing at times.

You can spot the early Y’s women’s line, as the labels look like this
Original Y’s women’s line

Yohji presented his first menswear collection (Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme) in Paris in 1984, having launched his women’s main line, (Yohji Yamamoto), back in 1981. The Pour Homme line is home to Yohji’s most experimental and high quality pieces – the stuff that you’ll predominantly see in his catwalk shows. This is where many of his most quirky, iconic and desirable items can be found.

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Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme
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Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto Costume D’homme generally tends to offer slightly more conventional design, whilst maintaining the wonderful feel and quality one associates with Yohji. Personally I love the suits in this line: beautifully crafted, wonderful subtle detailing and lovely loose cuts.

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Yohji Yamamoto Costume D’homme

Y’s for men was an attempt to create a slightly more accessible clothing range. It was made up of the kind of items you could wear day-to-day, whilst still staying true to the Yohji design ethic, of bellowing cuts, dark shades and fine fabrics. It’s a great shame that, due to over-expansion and poor financial management, this line came to an end in 2009, when Yohji Yamamoto Inc. went through a period of restructuring.

early Y’s for men label
early Y’s for men label
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later Y’s for men label

There were a few off-shoots of the Y’s for men line. Y’s for men SHIRTS – as the name suggests, mainly (but by no means entirely) dealt with shirts, in much the same way that Comme des Garcons SHIRTS still does to this day.

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Y’s for men SHIRTS

Also, Y’s for men red label, a line designed in collaboration with Michiko Suzuki in 2006, inspired by the emotions of ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’.

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Y’s for men red label

Additionally to Y’s for men, and somewhat confusingly, there is also Y’s men’s label. If you recall, Yohji’s first creations were launched under the Y’s label, which was at the time only a women’s line. Y’s has since expanded to make both men’s and women’s clothes under the same label, so it can be tricky to identify which is which. I’ve bought items that said Y’s for men on the tag, yet the label on the garment just says Y’s, so when buying second-hand, you really need to know what to look out for. For the Y’s lines, my advice would be if the product code starts with an M then it’s almost always a men’s piece.

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Y’s men’s white label
Y's men's black label
Y’s men’s black label
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Y’s men’s brown label

As well as the black Y’s men’s label pictured above, there’s a different line: Yohji’ Yamamoto Y’s ‘black label’. This branding, expressly using the name Yohji Yamamoto, perhaps suggests that he had a greater hand in designing these pieces himself, although I’m not sure if that’s the case or not.

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Yohji Yamamoto Y’s black label

Yohji Yamamoto Y was an Italian-based extension of the suit production line, launched in 2005. Despite having since having been discontinued, there are some great suits, ties and other accessories still out there to be found if you search.

Yohji Yamamoto Y
Yohji Yamamoto Y

Amongst the more rare lines you might come across are: Yohji Yamamoto Gothic Homme – a late 80s/early 90s line, with stark gothic influences – the women’s version of which is still running; Yohji Yamamoto Impermeable Homme – a late 80s line, mainly coats and outerwear; Y’s at work – a limited range of workwear; Y’s for living, which sells furniture, household items and bedwear; Yohji Yamamoto Jeans – high quality denin line made for the US/European markets; and Y’saccs, operating between 1986-2001, housing some of Y’s miscellaneous goods (watches, ties, bags, etc).

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Yohji Yamamoto Gothic Homme

In 2011 Yohji Yamamoto Inc. launched S’yte, a fairly small, internet-based casual clothing line. Some great pieces, perhaps aimed at an entry level Yohji consumer.

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S’yte

Yohji Yamamoto REGULATION men debuted at Paris fashion week 2013. This line is said to be inspired by uniform and made “for men who love and pursue freedom.” Described upon launch as containing “the clothes the designer would like to wear, appealing not only to the existing fans but also to the potential customers of slender build.”

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Yohji Yamamoto REGULATION MEN

As well as the in-house lines, Yohji has collaborated many times – perhaps most famously with Y-3, the luxury street style brand made in conjunction with Adidas. The Y stands for Yohji (or is it Yamamoto, or both!) and the 3 represents the iconic three stripes of Adidas. Growing out of an earlier collaboration, Y-3 is one of Yohji’s most successful ventures and is still going strong to this day.

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Y-3

Another more commercially geared collaboration saw Yohji pair-up with Hong Kong fashion house A.A.R. (At All Risks) to produce the lines Yohji Yamamoto AAR D’Urban, and AAR Yohji design studio. The fabrics aren’t quite what you’d find in Yohji’s high-end lines, but there are still some gems to be found and at fairly reasonable prices too.

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Yohji Yamamoto AAR D’Urban

COMING SOON, described as a ‘super casual capsule collection’, launched in 2008 by Yohji Yamamoto and Italian design licensing company Sinv Spa. Yamamoto Inc’s then CEO Keizo Tamoto heralded it as “a more affordable line aimed at young consumers looking to trade up from streetwear to more elegant pieces”.

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COMING SOON

Yohji Yamamoto has produced footwear in all his main lines. Alongside Y-3, which makes a wide range of footwear, other notable collaborations have been produced with Dr Martens and Repetto.

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Yohji Yamamoto X Repetto

Lastly, also worthy of note is the luggage and accessories collaboration between Yohji Yamamoto and Italian-based Mandarina Duck – Y’s Mandarina. How else is the dedicated Yohji consumer expected to travel in style?!

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Y’s Mandarina