Japan is well known for it’s …’Overt’ fashion trends. *Cough, Harajuku, Cough*
Don’t let your assumptions of Japanese fashion fool you, though.
The country is home to far more than you often see on the T.V and in pictures.
It’s clear that Japanese fashion can sometimes get a little ‘Loud’ but one branch has stayed the same, and that’s minimalism.
Why is minimalist clothing popular in Japan?
Quite simply because minimalist clothing is timeless, especially in a fast paced country such as Japan.
And even though Japans washing machines have a strange secret, they’re still easy to wash!
What does minimal clothing?
The minimalist style can be achieved with any type of clothing but it must adhere to a few rules.
- Keep it simple.
- Muted Colours
- No branding
Building the perfect Japanese minimal wardrobe, or in fact any minimal wardrobe does involve some work on your behalf.
There is no one shop that will stock everything you’re after. Instead you’ll need to bounce around a few different stores and until you find what you’re after.
Of course there are certain stores like the ones on this list that will specialise in a minimalist design in one way or another. Technically though, you can find minimal clothing at just about any Japanese clothing brand.
That’s how I find my next outfit anyway… Ha!
1. MUJI – More Than Just Clothing.
Physical Stores: 1,029 Worldwide
Year of Launch: 1980
The first offering on the list is MUJI, and it’s much more than a minimal Japanese clothes store.
Founded in 1980, MUJI is the epitome of minimalism and practicality in every aspect of life.
Not only do they have an extensive collection of high quality clothes, but also food, housewares, Health and beauty, a car (not even joking, take a look!), and everything else in-between.
I’ve stepped inside the doors of MUJI in more countries than I care to remember, and the experience is still as refreshing and calming as it was the very first time.
And the same can be said for their website experience.
It’s cool, clean, and an absolute joy to click around.
Of course you came here to find minimal Japanese clothing brands, so let’s take a moment to understand what MUJI has to offer in that department.
At their stores you’ll find a variety of cotton, linen, and organic clothes. You’ll also find a lot of clothing in earthy colours, following the concept of Wabi Sabi (Metals, woods, Earth materials, as much organic as possible)
A couple of the entries on this list may be a little hard to navigate or get your hands on, but I’m confident in suggesting MUJI is the most accessible Japanese minimal clothing brand no matter where you’re located on the globe.
2. UNIQLO – Casually Compelling.
Physical Stores: Over 1000
Year of Launch: 1984
Concept: ‘Made For All’
UNIQLO takes the medal for being the second most accessible and widely available Japanese clothing store world wide with a total of 1000 stores and a big online presence.
Founded in 1949, Yamaguchi, Japan, UNIQLO is a clothing brand that focuses on quality, simplicity and casual clothing.
What I specifically like about UNIQLO is how their clothing range seems to fit for almost any occasion and yet it stays understated and natural.
Lots of clothing brands these days seem to focus on standing out and being unique. Whilst I won’t deny that UNIQLO certainly achieves this, they seem to have gone back to basic designs and focused on upgrading the quality of them.
They aren’t reinventing the wheel, rather… improving it.
Tadashi Yanai, the owner and founder of UNIQLO has had a huge impact on the companies success. He encourages employees to suggest improvements to the company and their respective stores, and keeps the company hierarchy completely flat.
That’s not to say there are no managers, but the process of suggesting and having influence over parts of the company is achievable for anyone no matter their job role.
Anyway I digress…
Moral of the story is, it’s a quality company that definitely deserves some of your time!
3. GU – Fast Fashion?
Physical Stores: 422
Year of Launch: 2006
Concept: ‘Your Freedom’
I’m going to start this section off by saying I don’t have a lot of money. That wouldn’t usually be too much of a problem, but I flipping love Japanese minimalist fashion and I’m very happy to buy some bits when I’m out here.
As such, I’m doing everything I can to find affordable Japanese fashion brands like Muji, because I think they’re a little too expensive for me.
Luckily enough, GU is just that. I would imagine one reason why it’s so cheap is because it’s fast fashion, something that makes Japanese clothing brands affordable.
Owned by the same parent company as UNIQLO, GU cheaper yet perfectly acceptable alternative that specializes in minimal clothing
If UNIQLO was the epitome of high-quality minimal clothes, GU is the less luxury, though still totally fine for what I’m after.
That’s not to say if you buy from GU you won’t get high-quality minimal clothing, but the materials used are different from their sister company.
Due to it’s substantially lower price point, GU may appeal to a younger generation of shoppers who frequently change style or fashion.
They understand this is a large portion of their customer demographic and so use slightly more ‘disposable’ materials to make their clothing.
UNIQLO, the sister shop, focuses on high quality materials that are likely to last a lot longer.
We can assume that UNIQLO will target older (Not old, just not teenagers) customers with bigger wallets and a specific style, whereas GU focuses on younger people and stocks a larger variety of clothing yet still has a minimal vibe throughout.
If you’re wondering where to start looking if you’re in a store on online, take a look at their cult favorite ¥990 ($8.70) Jeans! Affordable Japanese minimalist fashion is incredibly popular across the world, and GU really fills that gap in the market.
4. LOWRYS FARM – Freedom of Expression.
Physical Stores: 134
Year of Launch: 1992
Concept: ‘She Follows Her Own Feelings’
Lowrys Farm is a Japanese clothing brand that provides a minimal style for women in their 20s to 30s. (Of course, anyone can wear the clothes, but that’s the companies demographic and target audience.)
It was created to juxtapose the often eccentric Japanese fashion scene in Shibuya and Harajuku, but still retain a sense of personal expression and fun.
Lowrys Farm is a clothing company that helps women all over the country feel young and free with a large selection of casual clothes without a hint of pretentiousness.
In store and online you can expect loose fitting clothes, relaxed fits, playful photos and shop designs, and an all round friendly atmosphere.
The company frequently interacts with it’s customers on an active blog and continuously asks for feedback to improve customer experiences. This adds to the laid-back and relaxed atmosphere of the brand as a whole.
Buying products online from Lowrys Farm is definitely harder than some of the other minimal brands on the list, but not impossible.
The website now uses something called ‘Worldshopping‘ which is pretty much a proxy buying company from Japan that will buy it on your behalf and send it over to you.
It’s great because navigating a fully Japanese website when you dont speak Japanese or have a Japanese bank account can end up causing a whole load of problems.
I’ve written an entire post about Japanese proxy buying services, so take a look here if you’re interested! Incidentally it’s the same post that shows some really interesting online Japanese stores you may want to purchase from!
5. Blue Blue Japan – Indigo Madness.
Physical Stores: N/A
Year of Launch: 1996
Quick Vocabulary Lesson: Blue = Aoi (青い)
Blue Blue Japan is a minimal clothing company in Japan that specializes in, you guessed it, Blue!
Of course, it’s a little more in-depth than that, but at the same time maybe it isn’t?
Let me explain…
Unlike some of the other Japanese brands on this list, Blue Blue Japan focuses on one thing and absolutely perfects it.
I don’t know if ‘Takumi’ can refer to more than one person (or a company in this case), but it’s an extremely appropriate term to use with Blue Blue Japan.
In case you don’t know, Takumi refers to someone (usually a craftsperson) who has honed their skills for many years (usually over 25) and is unrivaled in whichever field of work they’re in.
They dedicate their entire lives to the pursuit of absolute perfection and usually pass their skills down so the craft continues to live on.
So what is it that Blue Blue Japan specializes in?
Hand dyed Indigo clothing, hand-stitched material, and traditional Japanese techniques like Sashiko (刺し子 – Embroidery).
Even just a quick browse on the website shows you how much effort is put into each one of these garments.
Because the process is more handmade than machine-made, you can expect this to reflect in the price, but thankfully not too much.
6. MR. OLIVE – The Luxury One.
Physical Stores: N/A
Year of Launch: 2003
Concept: Stylish & Simple
At number 6 on our list we have MR.OLIVE, is a luxury Japanese clothing brand with a minimal style.
Whilst MR.OLIVE doesn’t have its own stores, their clothing is available from many different stores around Japan and also online at ZOZOTOWN.
If you’re looking for minimal clothes to wear on a special night out, or just something with a sense of grandeur, then MR.OLIVE might be for you.
Having said that, if you dig a little deeper on the website, you’ll find a few funky designs that resemble a toned-down version of Harajuku street fashion.
But still, the prices of these clothes are likely to put off a lot of people that could find similar designs somewhere else.
7. BEAMS – Cultural Mashup.
Physical Stores: 150
Year of Launch: 1976
Concept: ‘Life as a Journey’
Last but absolutely not least in this list of minimal Japanese clothing brands is BEAMS.
Now, unless you’re a fashion addict or extremely well-researched in Japanese clothing brands then you probably haven’t heard of BEAMS. And I wouldn’t blame you if that’s the case.
Luckily, unlike many online Japanese stores you can quickly and easily order from their website to just about any country in the world.
As you browse through the online shop (Or physical shop if you’re lucky enough to be in Japan) you’ll notice a heavy American vibe to a lot of their clothing.
It’s this mashup of cultures that have helped BEAMS rise to the heights it’s at today and create an incredibly unique minimal clothing line.
Though the company was launched in 1976, the first women’s label didn’t release until 1984. Partly due to location, and partly to popularity.
BEAMS also made a name for itself with cross-brand collaborations from specially designed mobile phones to clothing that could accommodate specific digital devices.
So there you have it. 7 minimal Japanese clothing brands that you can buy right now!
I’m constantly on the hunt to make my wardrobe a little more minimal but before I did the research for this post, I didn’t look any further forward than UNIQLO and MUJI.
Whilst those are absolutely fantastic clothing brands and will continue to make up the majority of my wardrobe, it’s clear there are other brands that definitely deserve some time on your next shopping trip!