Japan is known for its rich cultural history and world-renowned craftsmanship. It continues to attract a high number of tourists, with over four million foreign travellers exploring what the country has to offer within the first three months of 2023 alone. As one of the most innovative and forward-thinking nations in the world, Japan’s artistry extends to its fashion industry, most notably in eyewear.
Japan has deep roots when it comes to spectacles. The first pair of frames produced in the country came from a factory in Fukui, where 97% of Japan’s glasses still come from today and were gifted to the emperor in 1905. In the present day, collaborations with Japanese designers and innovators are coveted internationally because the result is always a quality product embellished with a distinctly Japanese flair. For a list of some of the most iconic Japanese eyewear partnerships, here are some of the most popular ones to be aware of.
Oakley and Meguru Yamaguchi
Meguru Yamaguchi is a Brooklyn-based artist that takes inspiration from Japanese calligraphy to create his avant-garde abstract pieces. His work, often utilising vibrant colours, captures movement and fluidity through structured chaos. It comes as no surprise that Oakley tapped him to create a collection fit for athletes of all abilities. Internationally, Oakley sunglasses are known for their innovations in sports eyewear.
Often, these innovations come in the form of functional enhancements like lenses meant to enhance colour and contrast for optimal performance. By onboarding Yamaguchi, Oakley aimed to create a visually and functionally dynamic collection. For the partnership’s frames, Oakley technicians had to build a custom machine that could replicate Yamaguchi’s artwork, complete with hues of Japan’s signature cherry blossom pink.
Randolph and Junya Watanabe
High-fashion designer Junya Watanabe debuted his partnership with eyewear company Randolph during a Spring-Summer 2022 fashion show for Comme des Garcon. His excellent manipulation of fabric and experimental concepts have earned praise all over the globe, and this new eyewear line exudes the same level of quality expected from him.
Through this collection, Watanabe emulates vintage Americana with four aviator frames in different metal shades and a limited-edition laser-engraved chrome case. Since their inception in 1973, Randolph has been known for their aviator sunglasses, so much so that they’re the American military’s prime contractor for this eyewear. With Watanabe’s line, Western influence and Watanabe’s Japanese handiwork came together in one seamless cultural mash-up.
JINS and Pokemon
Pokemon is a cultural phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. Incredibly popular to this day, it has even spawned its own Pokemon Center within the heart of Shibuya. In 2020, JINS incorporated the beloved characters into a whopping 52-piece collection that captured the hearts of fans everywhere.
The gaming-inspired line features frames that simulate the designs of various Pokemon, along with their trademark colours. Fans of all ages caused all models to sell out quickly, but JINS delighted them once again in 2022 when they announced a second series with more character variations.
Masunaga and Kenzo Takada
Kenzo Takada is regarded as one of the most influential icons in Japanese fashion, as his intricate prints left a huge impact on the French fashion scene in 1964. Since then, he has founded a global fashion brand and served as the honorary president of the Asian Couture Federation.
In 2014, he launched an eyewear line along with Masunaga, one of the oldest eyewear manufacturers worldwide. The line is a mixture of vintage sentiments and contemporary innovations, as the bridge and the temples mimic 1920s jewellery. Masunaga takes elegance to the next level, as some frames are even made with 24K gold.
VAVA and Kengo Kuma
Kengo Kuma is one of the most distinguished Japanese architects, known for his contemporary designs and use of natural materials. Although seemingly an unlikely pairing, eyewear and architecture are both centred on the premise of utility and structural beauty.
This is reflected in Kuma’s eyewear line with VAVA, as the resulting products have been labelled as wearable structures. The frames, shaped into unorthodox silhouettes, are 3D-printed and made out of castor beans. The capsule collection stands as an efficient epitome of Kuma’s holistic Japanese approach to construction.