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Big in Japan: The American Aesthetic


It sometimes seems as if the best American clothing is made in Japan. There exists a definite fixation with Americana underpinning Japanese heritage fashion and contemporary street-wear, quite possibly owing to the influx of genuine American-made garments and other pop-culture oddities during the seven-year Allied occupation of the country in the aftermath of the Second World War. The most extreme manifestation of this fixation is undoubtedly Nigo, the eccentric and ostentatious boy-who-never-grew-up polymath behind the iconic clothing brand A Bathing Ape. Nigo’s obsession with Americana is easily evidenced: Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans adorn the walls of one of his many houses and more recently his Human Made imprint has produced a capsule collection drawing from the Coca Cola archives. Whilst the most prominent standard-bearer of American heritage in Japan, Nigo and Bape are far from its only disciples as a whole host of Japanese clothiers  champion high-quality clothing torn from the American history books.


At the forefront are Daiki Suzuki’s forward-looking Engineered Garments, Takeshi Ohfuchi’s Post O’alls, a lynchpin of the workwear revival, and The Flat Head; a far more niche-oriented brand with a passion for denim and the 1950s greaser aesthetic. Amongst that illustrious peer-group can comfortably sit Mt. Rainier Design. It’s a superior brand which has delved into the archives of the twentieth century’s second half to produce garb fit for the twenty-first. After discovering a Californian manufacturer with a real pedigree in outdoor apparel, possessing experience dating back to the trail-blazing heyday of the 1960s, in 2006 Mt. Rainier Design was born. The brand’s mission statement professes a commitment to reviving classic designs produced to the highest quality and is readily evidenced by its output, which has an overriding focus on heritage trail-wear - perhaps more so than American counterparts like Penfield and even Filson. That commitment to quality is particularly clear in Mt. Rainier’s choice of method and material, primarily it’s use of the 60/40 fabric. What makes ‘60/40’ unique is the way that the nylon and cotton yarns are interwoven (to a 60/40 ratio in favour of the horizontal cotton yarn) to create a garment which is fit to endure in testing conditions far from or near to the Anza Borrego State Park in Southern California. Those products range from archetypal mountain parkas to charmingly retro-looking hip bags and down-filled shirting; all oozing Americana at every pore. 

To that end, Mt. Rainier can almost be seen  to represent an incursion of some extension of the otaku into the Japanese fashion scene. In English otaku is generally taken as being by-word for nerd or geek and it does, generally, carry negatives connotations of anti-social behaviour and isolation but the American ‘cyberpunk’ author William Gibson identifies, at the heart of the otaku, a “fascination with detail, with cataloguing, with distinguishing one thing from another.” In that sense Mt. Rainier is absolutely a product of its homeland. However, superficially it really is hard to believe Mt. Rainier hails from the land of the rising sun and not the land of opportunity as the painstaking attention to detail invested in each item renders the collection as authentically ‘American’ as anything you might find on a shelf in the desert towns of the Mid-West or along the coast of the Pacific North-West. Fortunately, on the back of several strong seasons, the brand is now firmly established outside of Japan, with a notable presence at English retailers End and Oi Polloi as well as Inventory for North Americans. (JR)

Some more images, lifted from the aforementioned retailers, speaks for itself and will follow shortly.

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  1. thelameunknown posted this