Japan has made its marks globally in all aspects of fashion. It continuously influences the fashion-forward youth, molding its own style of fashion, concepts playing critical roles in today's trend. Promising arts and fashion schools in Japan could birth the new class of the next generation of designers. 


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The fashion industry in Japan: Keeping up with the trend

Japan is known for its wide range of fashion pieces that reflect both a traditional and more modern take of Japan. Its fashion ranges from modest and elegant pieces with neutral tones such as white, beige, and nude to avant-garde pieces complete with frills and loud, neon-colored fashion.

When one thinks about traditional Japan, the Kimono would always pop up. During the pre-war era, the Japanese Kimono is a symbol of being elite. Layering clothes and fabrics is a common fashion trend since the early times of Japan. There are many different prints of Kimonos from gorgeous brightly-colored kimonos to subtle tones that reflect a more mature theme.

During the Meiji Restoration, Western influence continued to infiltrate Japan’s culture, including its fashion sense. Especially after World War II, wearing western-style clothes became the new status of elite and sophistication. The influence of the Western world in Japanese fashion eventually brought hybrid fashion trends in recent times unique only to Japan! 

Fashion in Japan is ever-evolving. Let’s take a look at some of the once-popular fashion trends that ruled the streets of Japan:

  • Lolita (think English skirts and frilly petticoats with bolder colors and shorter hems)

  • Gyaru (this style is heavily inspired by Western trends and uses neon-colored wigs, long nails, and fake eyelashes to emphasize one’s beauty)

  • Ganguro (where Japanese women had a dark tan and heavy dark make-up, especially in the eye region)

  • Fairy Kei (think dainty fairies with pastel colors combined with 80s fashion)

There are many more different varieties of Japanese fashion, and all of these trends are a reflection of Japan’s flexible and adaptable culture. These are also ways that young people have presented themselves with creativity and originality in order to stand out and be noticed. 

Notable Fashion Designers in Japan

Japan is the new breeding ground for designers, to inspire foreigners to study in Japan, and to get some inspiration, check out some of Japan’s most notable fashion designers:  

  1. Rei Kawabuko - She is one of the most famous designers in Japan as her grit and dedication allowed her to establish the Comme des Garcons Fashion House in Japan. She rose from the ranks from a freelance fashion designer into building herself as a CEO for her fashion house.

  2. Issey Miyake - He is best known for reinventing the fashion trend and pleats by making the pleats more comfortable to wear and have it more manufacturable. He is also known to design and produce Steve Job’s famous black turtlenecks.

  3. Nicola Formichetti - He is best known for his famous client, Lady Gaga, where he designed avante garde pieces primarily made out of latex. He is also the designer of Diesel, a fashion director for Uniqlo and Vogue Hommes Japan. For Diesel, Formichetti focused on more practical designs for sweaters proving his wide range of expertise from practical pieces to loud avante garde ones.

Pursuing fashion design studies in Japan

Since Japan is considered a fashion hub, many schools offer fashion design as a course. These fashion schools would teach the basics of fashion design, such as how to design clothes and accessories, the different types of fashion, including their culture and history. The demand for cutting-edge fashion made Japan want more fashion design students from abroad! This is an excellent opportunity for budding designers who want to study in one of the world’s fashion capitals.

Here are some of the top fashion design schools and universities in Japan you might want to consider to study fashion design:

1. Bunka Fukusou Gakuin

Bunka Fukusou Gakuin is one of Japan’s most noteworthy fashion schools. Most of the famous Japanese designers had their Japanese fashion education in this school. The Bunka Fukusou Gakuin was also the first authorized Japanese vocational school in the region. It also pioneered the first Graduate Program course in Fashion Design in Japan back in the early 2000s. This fashion school also attracts a large number of international students, so most of its curriculum is catered to this audience.

※ Bunka Fashion College, "History"

2. Sugino Fashion College

Sugino Fashion College is also one of the options for newbie fashion designers who would want to broaden their fashion knowledge and expertise. This school offers two years’ worth of foundational knowledge in fashion design and would eventually go deeper as students progress in the course.

※ Sugino Fashion College, "Undergraduate/Graduate"

​​​​​​​3. Kyoto Seika University

Kyoto Seika University offers a comprehensive design curriculum for anyone who would want to study fashion design in Japan. It starts with a foundational design course such as designing apparel for one person, then moves on to study the fundamentals for transmitting fashion in the second year. The third-year course focuses on refining one’s style in designing clothes, and finally completing the course through graduation projects.

4. Yokohama College of Fashion Design

Yokohama College of Fashion Design offers basic design courses such as pattern course, fashion sewing course, stylist and coordinator course, and even bridal course! 

5. Tokyo University of Arts

Tokyo University of Arts also offers a wide array of fashion design courses in Japan. For example, the foundational course being offered is design fundamentals followed by lifestyle and diet in the second year. The third-year focuses on design expression and urban environment and fourth-year caps it off with a thesis on fashion design.

6. Mode Gakuen

Mode Gakuen is Japan’s largest training institute with three campuses in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. It has a wide variety of different fashion departments which include Fashion Design, Fashion Technology, Fashion Business, and CAD Patterns.

Mode Gakuen

7. Ueda College of Fashion

The Ueda College of Fashion offers specialized and unique fashion courses in Japan including Fashion Creator Masters, Gothic and Lolita Fashion Course, and even Haute Couture!

Basic requirements for foreign students

Foreign students who would wish to study in any Japanese fashion school should possess the following basic requirements:

  • Must get a Japanese Student Visa;

  • Has completed twelve (12) years of legitimate education;

  • Has sufficient knowledge of at least N4 of the Japanese language by passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT);

  • Sample portfolio or fashion pieces at the time of application;

  • Pass the interview by the fashion school;

  • Prepare a letter of motivation; 

  • Pass the international students examination

※ Bunka Fashion College, "Application Guide for International Students," p.10

Requirements might differ from other schools or universities. Once you choose what school you wish to apply, it is best recommended to check the additional requirements needed, if there is, before enrolling in your preferred school or university.

Average tuition fees and other expenses

The average cost of a fashion school tuition in Japan for one year is 800,000 yen to 1.5 million yen. Other fees include application fee which is approximately 35,000 yen and admission fee which costs 300,000 yen. Tuition fees vary depending on your course; for example, a footwear design, bag design, jewelry design, or intensive garment creation course costs approximately 1.3 million yen per year. You should also consider other living expenses such as monthly rent in the city, daily meals, and transportation service to and from the fashion school as well as the costs for personal supplies for your own use.

※ Japan Study Support, "杉野服飾大学 | Sugino Fashion College"
※ Bunka Fashion College, "Application Guide for International Students," p.12 
​​​​​​​※ Sugino Fashion College, "Admission information"

Additional information

Some fashion schools in Japan do not offer scholarships like Bunka Gakuen University and Tokyo Design Academy directly. Tokyo Design Academy offers instead a student learning support system where tuition costs for international students are reduced. For example, part of the entrance fee amounting to 50,000 yen is waived.  Another option for international students is to consider applying for a scholarship like MEXT Scholarship or check the range of scholarships that JASSO offers. Visit the MEXT or JASSO website for more details.

※ Tokyo Design Academy, "Tuition/Scholarships"

After completing a fashion education in Japan, there are many business opportunities for Japanese fashion graduates since the country is the third world’s biggest importer of clothes next to Europe. The market is big and the demand for clothes and fashion; the job opportunities for fresh graduates are practically endless! And many of the schools have great networks to connect the students to job opportunities, another plus to studying at a fashion school in Japan! 

※ EU Business in Japan, "Fashion & Clothing"

Summary

Japan is considered one of the best fashion hubs in the entire world because it offers fashion choices from the elegant and demure to the wild and unconventional. Japan boasts quality education for budding fashion designers who would want to study fashion right in the heart of Japan. For creative seekers out there, try studying in Japan!

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