I went to Tokyo to cover a shop opening about four years ago. I’d never been to Japan before and didn’t know anything about it. I arrived tired and most definitely lost in translation. But I was with a group of very in-the-know fashion people and the moment we arrived, they said, ‘No sleeping. We need to go to the consignment vintage stores’.
These are frankly extraordinary, stocking endless pieces of Comme des Garçons, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, all mixed in with brands you’ve never heard of. There’s lots of vintage workwear and military surplus, too. And it’s all perfectly curated. I thought, if someone ran a vintage shop in London that way – editing it properly and making it look sexy – they could really make vintage a thing.
In one particular shop, Ragtag, in Harajuku, I couldn’t believe what I found. There were lots of pieces of clothing that men had clearly worn a bit and didn’t want anymore. Consignment culture is huge in Japan because of the no-returns policy there. I rummaged for hours and found an amazing Issey Miyake suit for something like £80. It has since become a signature of mine that I wear all the time. I then found an amazing jacket and a pair of slippers that reminded me of pairs my grandfather used to pick up in Japan while he was a naval commander.
In this moment I understood what retail could be. Men used to travel to New York to go to J Crew. They could find things in Manhattan they couldn’t anywhere else. But that doesn’t exist anywhere now because of globalisation. It’s rare that you go somewhere and find something new. And there is nowhere I’ve ever shopped which had this level of personal service, understanding of what people want, good editing and focus on stuff that’s simply really cool. The trope about Japanese men dressing the best in the world is entirely true. And it was embodied for me by that shop. I’m desperate to go back.
Ragtag, 6 Chome-14-2 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan; ragtag.jp
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