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Streets of Asia: Our Cultural Movement Through Clothes

As seen on Tik Tok and popularized by the media, street fashion in Asia is taking the world by storm. From the edgy domain of the streets of Tokyo to the exploration of mixing tradition with the contemporary in Dhaka, the streets of Asia have never seen so many shades of expression. Looking at how the major Asian cities represent our roots, we can see how history and development have changed the identities of what fashion means to us.

1. Tokyo

As one of the first culturally traditional cities to bravely incorporate elements of edginess and personality in their everyday streetwear, Tokyo deserves all the recognition for its iconic cosmopolitan style. Starting in the 60’s, the aesthetic of the “female college girl,” or joshi daisei,  was popularized in the west, making way for a new definition of Japanese fashion. Around the 90’s, subcultures such as Shibuya Casual and Harajuku fashion were created to symbolize as Japanese fashion.

Today, Tokyo doesn’t stay far from its reputation of originality and collective appreciation for fashion. Whether it’s traveling on the subway or doing a street photo shoot, Tokyo forgets the phrase “dress for the occasion” and rather, preaches “dress for your soul.”

To start building your Shibuya casual or Harajuku wardrobe, check out these popular brands: ZOZOTOWN (on Buyee), WEGO, Uniqlo, Beams

2. Seoul

Speaking of S(e)oul, the prominence of the capital of South Korea’s street fashion was mainly fueled by the popularity of K-dramas in the 2000s. The youthful and unisex clothing staples dubbed the “Ulzzang style,” meaning “best face” or good looking, serve as an essential base for any outfit. You will often find styles of punk, hip hop, and business casual infused with the Ulzzang style.

These styles may look very familiar to the eye due to their popularity in the west. The curation of the “put-together” look combined with an approachable edginess, however, is solely accredited to the trendsetters of Seoul, South Korea.
To upgrade your closet with a few everyday Ulzzang pieces, shop here: YesStyle, Fashion Chingu, Sthsweet, 66girls, Codibook

3. Shanghai

The largest city by population in China is not only the finance and trade capital of the country, but it’s also the home to the creative class of China. Shanghai’s street fashion is unique in its outlandish creations that combine the traditional and the futuristic. It also seems that gender is fluid in Shanghai’s street fashion with women often wearing shapeless wear while men might wear maxi skirts. The revolution of Gen Z’s against customs in taking back their identity through fashion is truly inspiring for the fashion industry.

Some say Shanghai’s rise in the fashion industry isn’t a surprise as it became China’s industrial hub for textiles, between the 1950s and 1960s. Since then, Shanghai has developed its own signature style while maintaining the history of Chinese beauty, such as the Qipao. The traditional dress is said to have inspired many designers, such as Chanel, Ralph Lauren, and even Gucci.
To develop a fashion-forward closet like the street-stylists in Shanghai, try out these brands: Shanghai Tang, Stylein New York, Uniqlo, Shine Marketplace

4. Dhaka

Heading to the south of Asia, street wear in Dhaka takes form of bright colors and bold graphics that connects “the diaspora and their motherland.” Whether it is creating a bold statement with colors or combining the conventional with the unconventional, Dhaka’s fashion brings the character and personality of its people.

One company, in particular, is bringing a modern twist to the fashion world of Bangladesh. Harllow, a local fashion label focusing on the “niche segment” of street fashion hopes to characterize streetwear in Bangladesh with reflective material, neon stripes, and mixed textiles (Apparel Resources). The brand is hoping to take the proud Bangladeshi identities abroad and work with international brands to bring light to Bangladesh.

Up-and-coming brands to shop the South Asian street style (courtesy of Jore Magazine): Dacca, Gundi Studios, NorBlack-NorWhite

5. Jakarta

The tropical capital of Indonesia is well known for its exciting city lifestyle and luxurious shopping experience. Naturally, the glamorous and high-fashion population has influenced Jakarta’s younger generation to continue incorporating elements of wealth, even in street fashion. I’d say that Jakarta’s street fashion, is vastly similar to Korean street fashion.

Especially throughout the 2010s, the craze of name brands had every Gen Z and millennial in a chokehold and Jakarta was no exception. At the same time, colors and traditional patterns are what make Asians Asian, and the streets of Jakarta represent the national pride that we all feel!

For the mix of traditional southeast Asian and 90s grunge hip hop look, shop @Thanksinsomnia (on Instagram), @public.culture (on instagram), @aestheticpleasure_ (on instagram).

The streets of Asia are constantly bustling with creativity and excitement. Fashion, as an art of expression, is vastly used in Asian cultures to express our individuality and cultural richness. Since the very beginning of time, it was always the details of the intricate traditional clothing of Asia (the Hanbock, sari, qipao… etc.) that stood out in history, so it’s no surprise to see our creations surpassing our ideas from yesterday. With the collective effort of every major Asian city, the western world has begun adopting similar trending styles, carrying our influence to other cultures. The fashion world is ever-evolving, but Asian voices are here to stay.

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1 comment on “Streets of Asia: Our Cultural Movement Through Clothes

  1. What do the governments in places like China think since they spent decades trying to curb that kind of stuff even to the point of regulating your hair like Taiwan did under the Nationalist Party rule?


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