Trends in Japan > Fashion > Fashionably Black
Contrasting Fabrics Lend a New Twist to Boom
(November 9, 2007)

Black coordinates are popular (C)Color & Design Research Room of Kyoritsu Women's Junior College

Black satin trench coats, black dresses embellished with black sequins, black enamel bags and boots, and other black-dominated items are gracing boutique and department store windows this autumn. Around town, black is enjoying growing popularity as the color of choice for blouses, dresses, tight pants, fedora hats, shawls, boots, bags, and other items. In the past, black was used in combination with white for a monotone look or as a backdrop for a brightly colored item. This season, however, all-black outfits are a common sight as fashionable young women combine black items of different textures and materials.

The Rise of Black
The original boom in black dates back to 1981, when the well-known Japanese designers Yohji Yamamoto of Y's and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons unveiled black-based collections in Paris that critics hailed as "Oriental black" or "mysterious black." Many shop mannequins were subsequently dressed in black, ushering in a new view of the color as cool. Black fashions were all the rage as young people in their twenties bought up clothes released by "DC" ("design and character") labels, which were known for their distinctive styles. In 1982, young men and women clad in black from head to foot began appearing on the streets of Tokyo's trendy Harajuku and Shibuya districts, earning themselves the name karasu-zoku ("crow set"). In a short space of time, the image of black was transformed from funereal to fashionable.


A perforated knit cardigan (C)felissimo/haco.

In the 1990s, the Amekaji style rooted in American casual wear gained ground among the young people who gathered in Center-gai, Shibuya's main shopping street. The tendency to dress from head to toe in DC-label clothes gave way to a new look characterized by a combination of imported items of different colors purchased from specialty boutiques. This pushed up demand for black as people discovered it could be worn with an array of colors. By the 1990s, black was a standard hue in people's wardrobes.


An enamel bag (C)HAMANO 1880 CO.,LTD.

Black in the Driving Seat
This year black is being viewed in a new light. All-black outfits are providing a refreshing change from the array of fashions on the scene today, such as the bold colors of Shibuya's "gals," the iridescent and bright colors of Harajuku's cool crowd, and the dyed blond hair favored by some youngsters.

All-black outfits run the risk of looking uninspired and somber, but this season fans of black are increasingly creating distinctive looks by combining black items made from a variety of materials, such as satin, knit, leather, fur, suede, enamel, cotton, and wool. Creating an effect not with colors but with subtly different materials and textures is a key to the fashion scene this autumn.

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