Find yourself in an alley off Aoyama Dori and you step into the world of Japan-wear. H Beauty & Youth may lack experimentation of Comme des Garçons or Yohji Yamamoto, but makes up for it through curated selection of brands it carries, including its own. I found a silky silver pajama-suit and furry sandals that I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Next I got lost in the Aoyama’s Comme des Garçons store whose windows feature nothing but undressed (and distressed-looking) white mannequins. Perfect. I got there on the day the FW16 collection dropped, and the store was a madhouse. With a good reason: new items can best be described as a cross between transformers, samurai and grandma’s flowery tablecloth gear, in the best possible way. Coats were of perfect structure that turned their wearers into foreign species. I wanted it all. I also wanted to hang out with the shop assistants, who were easily the coolest people in the neighborhood.
“We make noise not clothes” is the tagline of my favorite discovery of the day, Undercover by Jun Takahashi, a Japanese fashion brand supported by Rei Kawakubo. Kawakubo’s influence definitely shows, as the pair of boots I fell in love with were both edgy and playful. Alas, they came only in three sizes, none of which fit me.
I was of better luck at Yohji Yamamoto around the corner, which also introduced its Fall collection (dark & stormy), and where I found a light sweater that I can tell will soon become my BFF.
I skipped Loveless as it looked too much like Brooks Brothers-meet-Tory Burch, non of which I am massive fan of. Instead, I became obsessed with Sacai new collection around the corner. The bare, construction site-like boutique doesn’t allow photos, but allows for plenty of swooning. My particular item of choice was a leather-plus-fur jacket, an earlier iteration of which I already own. Better yet, it isn’t available in the US.
Move a neighborhood over, and you will find yourself in Roppongi, where I stopped by Restir. Don’t bother: although they carry a lot of brands, the selection of items is boring. Facetasm made up for it, with its strange-meets-original-meets “I must have it” items. Isetan Salone is very Upper East Side in their selection + presentation, but I found a pair of cool oxfords by Church’s.
Estnation in Roppongi Hills is the best store in the chain, but go there only for accessories and if you want something safe. They carry some Japanese brands but overall, the selection is pretty vanilla.
Don’t waste your time in Ginza, which dubs as Tokyo’s Fifth avenue. Barneys there is made for an entirely different generation (a much, much older one), so best is to skip it. Dover Street Market is of course a must visit, although it was populated mostly by gaijin tourists. I personally prefer the brand’s London’s outpost.
On the opposite side of the town is Nakameguro, an all around lovely neighborhood with a pretty strong food scene. The river is lined with both cherry trees and boutiques that can also be found in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Handmade, local fabrics and clogs all in neutral colors overpopulate the selection. If you are into that stuff, this is a place for you.
Daikanyama T-site bookstore is nearby, where you can browse everything from 032c to obscure quarterlies. Design, fashion, travel and automotive sections are extensive and you can easily spend an afternoon in the upstairs lounge (quiet, cool, no-wifi). Down the street is A.P.C. surplus store sporting a heavy aroma of grandma’s closet. The selection is decent and the prices are good. Nothing to surprise and delight, tho. Via Bus Stop is next to it, and go there only for the selection of accessories and bags, skip everything else. Around Daikanyama T-site, there is a slew of mini-boutiques on the side streets, so set some time for strolling and browsing. My favorite was just across from Miyake Homme Plissé, and it featured dusty pink t-shirts and structured, Celine-like jumpsuits.
Further down, Kapital Ebisu is a treat. Most of the clothes look like they are to be worn by Mad Max road warriors and that’s a good thing. I loved everything about this store, although don’t expect to find a deal. Do expect to find something that comes with a story and that no one else will have. A must go.
In the end, my favorite store turned out to be MUSE de Deuxieme Classe, in Omotesando. I ended up with a denim apron, sandals, leather pants, a clutch and a ton of shirts after my visit. They have a great accessories and jewelry selection, too. Definitely worth going. Onitsuka Tiger is around the corner, and you can go there for some silver high-tops.
Harajuku is also there, and although the neighborhood is in every fashion guide, I preferred to wander the streets for random discoveries. But do go to Harajuku — there’s a ton of boutiques and you will surely find something.
I was certainly overstimulated in Tokyo. Street style + item selection + Japanese brands made my head spin and inspired me to no end. Japanese women use following trends as a form of their self-expression; there isn’t a lot of mass experimentation and the overwhelming majority wore baggy mom’s jeans and oversized white shirts this summer. The look came also in the black pants version, but that’s basically it. Still, variations on the theme were inspiring enough as was the Shibuya scene. Nothing made me turn my head like the whole-face visors, tho.