Japanese fashion has always been extremely trendy overseas. You just have to look at US pop starlets like Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry to see the influence of Japanese fashion on the rest of the world.
But few people know that this has been going on for a long time, and isn’t limited to the super-traditional and Harajuku fashions.
In fact, Japan is the birthplace of what many consider to be the modern fasion bible: Take Ivy.
The Gospel of Ishizu
In 1965 Kensuke Ishizu, founder of the Japanese fashion company VAN JACKET wanted to learn more about American fashions. What better way than to go to the source?
Like an anthropologist documenting a new tribe, Ishizu sent a Japanese photographer and a band of writers to descend upon Ivy League campuses in the US, snapping pictures of trust fund babies and future members of the Illuminati (Skull and Crossbones! OoOoOoOo!).
When they returned to Japan, they compiled the photographs into a book. They decided to name it Take Ivy after the iconic jazz hit of the era, the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s song Take Five.
VAN JACKET and its preppy fashions became incredibly popular in Japan, due in part to Take Ivy. Fashion writer and Japan blogger Marxy claims that “
Ishizu essentially acted as the godfather of men’s fashion” during the 1960s.
Reportedly, young Japanese people would go so far as to add VAN stickers onto the sides of shopping bags to make it seem like they shopped there. In a way, Japan became an incubator for American fashion. As the preppy style fell out of fashion in the US, it thrived in Japan.
Take Ivy’s Incredible Influence
Even after VAN JACKET went bankrupt and the preppy trend passed into the fashion nightmare of the 1970s, Take Ivy’s influence kept on going. Over the years, Take Ivy became a bible for fashionistas interested in the preppy looks of Ivy League schools.
The New York Times described Take Ivy as “
the nearly unattainable center of a passionate cult,” and it’s not far off. Copies of Take Ivy became increasingly rare. Desperate, and living in an era before the internet, people often relied on photocopied pages from the book if they couldn’t get their own.
Those who wanted the raw, uncut stuff had to empty their wallets for it. At the peak of Take Ivy’s popularity, decades after publication, original copies went for as much as $2,000 on auction.
People who were able to get their hands on a copy cherished it. The current creative director of J. Crew says that he was inspired by Take Ivy and “was always obsessed with that book.”
Fortunately, Take Ivy was republished a few years ago; so instead of shelling out thousands of dollars, you only have to drop about fifteen bucks to get your hands on the Japanese fashion bible.
After being revered in Japan for decades, this kind of preppy fashion has seen a resurgence in popularity, as the clothing of J. Crew and Ralph Lauren prove. Some stores even started selling Take Ivy when it was reprinted a few years back.
It’s really interesting how Japan seems to be able to import something and almost make it better than the original. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal published an article called “Made Better In Japan” that made the argument that the Japanese do just that, whether it’s with American clothing, Italian coffee, or Spanish tapas.
What do you think? Do the Japanese really do it better?