Walking into the tiny Wagado shop in Osaka’s Amerika Mura is like entering a cave made out of clothes. It is dark and there are clothes all over. On the walls, hanging from racks, and even hanging from the ceiling.

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Wagado StoreYou have to push some of them aside just to move a few steps forward. Incense burns everywhere. The strong smell, the darkness of the small space and the loud music soon overwhelm and make you feel like you have been transported into a different world. It is a strange realization, because just a few steps away is the reality of a large and crowded city.

This tiny alternate world has been created by the 24-year old Yuuki Kawano. Kawano runs three shops in Amerika Mura, Osaka’s famed center of youth culture, and Wagado is his flagship store.

The store stocks imaginative remakes of ordinary used clothing. A grey Adidas sweat shirt with a shiny silver hood, for example. Or two pairs of pants sewn together to create something entirely new.

“I want to introduce fashion that hasn’t yet been seen in Amerika Mura,” explains the always smiling Kawano. He calls it “a mixture of electro, street and cyber.” He feels that there is a big difference between the down-to-earth Amerika Mura in Osaka and the almost elitist world of Tokyo’s youth culture mecca, Harajuku.

Yuuki Kawano of Wagado
Yuuki Kawano

“In Amerika Mura you see a greater mix than in Harajuku. Here every single person is different. They take culture really seriously, the use of color for example, or the use of accessories. This makes that people do their own thing, regardless of trends. Even after they have long vanished from the streets of Tokyo, you can still see aspects of colorful decora, punk lolita, street, hard core, hip hop and other sub-trends here.”

Harajuku, however, is very susceptible to the trend of the hour, feels Kawano. “Harajuku is fast,” explains the young entrepreneur and designer,” but it soon becomes generally accepted. Harajuku also has many unwritten rules, ‘this is cool, this is not.’ It is very strict. I find that people in Amerika Mura are more original and individualistic.”

Kawano is one of those people for whom time moves too slowly. At 16, he dropped out of school and started a small shop selling interior goods in his native Tottori Prefecture. “I didn’t tell my parents,” he recalls with a big grin, “when they found out, they were furious.” He didn’t dislike studying, explains Kawano. “I just had no interest in going to a famous university and working for a famous company.”

Kawano visited Amerika Mura for the first time when he was 18. “I used to have this image of Amerika Mura as something that was out of reach.” The real Amerika Mura, however, was very approachable he found. “It made a huge impact on me. This I can do, too, I thought.” Within half a year he moved to Osaka.

Wagado Fashion
Wagado fashion

Kawano worked at lots of places to quickly save enough money to start his own shop. He did so in February 2003. “I wanted to create a shop for people with their own style and identity.” People flocked to his store and in 2005 he moved to larger premises on a prime location in Amerika Mura, right in front of the replica of New York’s Statue of Liberty.

The large shop confronted Kawano with his inner drive and intentions. “Profits were three to five times as high, but there were many customers who were only interested in usual clothing. It was also impossible to get enough original clothing. I was forced to sell clothes that I didn’t really like.”

“Is this really what I want to do, he began asking himself. the answer came quick and clear. In 2007, he moved back to the original small shop in front of Triangle Park, another prime location in Amerika Mura. In the Summer of 2008 he finally left this place for his current cave-like shop some 10 minutes away on foot.

Genecon Store
Genecon Store

After running a shop for several years he was looking for a new outlet of his creativity. He found it in organizing parties. “Compared to when I first came to Amerika Mura, there are fewer shops that sell really original stuff. Before there was little on internet and you’d had to come to Amerika Mura during the day to see fashion and make friends. Now you can meet people on the net and see all kinds of fashion without leaving your home.”

Kawano managed to draw these people back to Amerika Mura by organizing parties that last all night. “We start the parties at 11:00 PM. Many people first come to one of our shops to buy clothes and change, and then go party. Since we started organizing parties late at night, more and more people come.”

He now organizes at least one large event per month that attracts many hundreds of people, most of them with a fashion style all their own. “The parties are a place where people with their own style can explode into expressing themselves,” Kawano says of his parties.

Fashion is the Japanese way of self-expression according to Kawano. “Every country has its own culture and means of expression. For Japanese it is fashion. It carries no political or societal message. Japanese fashion is different from fashion in other countries. It is an important way to enjoy yourself and it is a bit like a language. People use it to express their feelings.”

See our collection of photos of Wagado fashion.

Brands: Wao Designs (remade), Homeless Party (new), Dugashi (accesories).

Wagado Store
Address: Shouzan Biru, Room 115, 2-13-13 Nishi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Hours: 13:00-21:00
Closed: Never

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Genecon Store
Address: Osaka Avenue Shinsaibashi Building 6F, 2-18-6 Nishi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Hours: 13:00-21:00
Closed: Never

Fabulous Store
Address: Osaka Avenue Shinsaibashi Building 6F, 2-18-6 Nishi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Hours: 13:00-21:00
Closed: Never

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Official site: (Japanese)

Kjeld Duits About the Author

Inspired by the stunningly creative street fashion that exploded on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka in the late 1990’s, photo-journalist Kjeld Duits launched JAPANESE STREETS in 2002. This makes JS one of the first fashion blogs on the net, and the very first to cover Japanese street fashion.

Recent articles by Kjeld Duits:

Comment (日本語もOK)

Hm…it seems like a fashion that depends strictly on how you think things should fit. I like it, though. It seems unique and real.

May 25, 2009 (4741 days ago)

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