Tokyo truly has a vibrant and diverse shopping landscape, where you’ll find international luxury brands and domestic designer labels all mixed in with a plethora of vintage and consignment shops.
In recent years however, fashion waste has become a serious issue, especially with the heaps of disposable clothing and accessories coming out of the fast fashion industry. Although this global problem is a tough one to tackle overnight, a select group of brands and shops in Tokyo are heading in the right direction by focussing their attention on upcycling.
These fashion innovators are rescuing old clothes and accessories, cast-offs and stock overruns destined for the dumpster and transforming them into something new, unique and covetable. Think backpacks made from old firefighter uniforms, bow-ties from discarded car seatbelts, necklaces from secondhand kimono, and the likes. For one-of-a-kind fashion pieces that are also kinder to the environment, go shop from these top brands and retailers in Tokyo.
For the eco-warriors
Pioneering Tokyo recycle shop Pass the Baton’s Marunouchi branch, located inside the Brick Square complex, specialises in pre-owned and ‘dead stock’ products that have been slightly upgraded. Provided by individuals or scoured from the shelves of some forgotten warehouse, the items are fixed up lovingly before being put on display in the chic space, where glass walls let the high-quality wares do all the talking.
As Pass the Baton’s philosophy is all about making connections, every item comes with a tag that not only describes the previous owner, but also includes a little story associated with that very shirt, purse or necklace. Sellers can choose to contribute their proceeds to charity – a nice touch in keeping with the shop’s socially conscious ethos.
Taking upcycling to the next level, Bonum’s fashion offerings comprise vintage and upcycled clothing. Shirts and jackets are taken apart and reconfigured into completely new tops. Denim jeans, which is a Bonum speciality, are reimagined into everything from handbags to jackets and so much more. The items here are completely unique but you can still tell that they have that classic, timeless style to them and can be worn for years to come. The bonus about it all? Everything feels completely lived-in and comfortable, so no breaking-in necessary.
Remnants of materials used at factories, ‘dead stock’ products and other leftovers are all brought back to life through various projects thought up by the folks behind Newsed, a self-styled upcycling brand that takes regular old recycling to the next level. These prophets of sustainability not only resell old finds – instead, they add to them, taking things headed for the dumpster and turning them into brand- new fashion items.
Newsed’s funky, colourful and extremely popular badges and earrings are made of leftover acrylic materials from accessory factories, while the stylish bow ties give seatbelts sourced from a car facility a second chance. There are also seat cushions fashioned from unused airbags, key fobs crafted from advertising tarpaulin, and card holders created from leather scraps.
The brand’s online shop carries a plentiful selection of items, some of which you can also find at fashion dealers and museum shops across Japan.
Based in Nagoya, Modeco is an upcycling brand that makes good use of materials generally considered worthless. In the skillful hands of Modeco’s designers, industrial waste gets turned into high fashion. Their most popular item is the unisex Tommy fireman bag, crafted individually out of old firefighting uniforms that still carry the marks of battles against the flames.
Another hit is the Flooring Bag, in which old laminate flooring has been converted into a beautifully shaped, practical carrier bag. Its faux-wood appearance and elegant design make it a versatile option for both formal and casual situations. While Modeco products are sold at various shops throughout Japan, buying through their online store is usually more convenient.
The kimono is a beautiful part of Japanese culture and heritage and it’s still a common fashion item worn to this day. Many kimono are kept in tip-top shape, but it’s inevitable that these things can get damaged or worn down with time.
Founded by Cristina Morini Sumi, who has a passion for antiques and Japanese culture, I was a Kimono upcycles used kimono into gorgeous fashion accessories and home decorations. Think Christmas baubles draped with beautiful fabrics as well as earrings and necklaces fashioned from kimono-covered beads. The kimono are sourced from various antique markets around Tokyo and are reinvented into new, modern forms in hopes of giving a new lease of life to items that were clearly originally created with much care.
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