Record producer and DJ Steve Aoki has always loved fashion, but his passion for Japanese-inspired streetwear really began when he was just a teenager designing T-shirts for his first band.
“I was making graphics on the cheap at Kinko’s, not even like a computer graphic,” Aoki says. “Then screening it and making a bunch of shirts and selling them for five bucks at my first show. And I loved it. I loved the idea of making clothes.”
After his career as a DJ took off, Aoki landed the funding he needed to break out of creating just band merch and dive into the world of fashion, starting the Dim Mak Collection in 2014. An expansion of the record label that the artist started in 1996, the fashion line features graphic tees, sweats and sneakers, along with some Steve Aoki tour merchandise, all of which is sold worldwide on his website.
Now in its eighth season, the Dim Mak Collection is heavily influenced by Japanese fashion designers and streetwear — inspiration that Aoki finds in his many travels to Tokyo and his wanderings during the hours when he’s not performing.
“When you think of fashion you think of Milan, Paris, you think of New York,” Aoki says. “I don’t think you automatically think of Japan. But look what we’re doing over here. When I started to see what’s happening in Japan, I was like wow, they are the leaders of menswear.”
So where does the mix master look for the latest trends when he’s in Tokyo? Aoki heads straight to the neighborhood of Harajuku with its colorful street art and hipster fashion scene.
“You can get so lost in the maze of stores that you might not even know what the shop is called,” Aoki says. “But I actually like to go into ones that I don’t already know so that I can check out things I’ve never seen before.”
Harajuku is so full of stores, in fact, that Aoki reminds shoppers to look up as they stroll, since some shops are stacked two or three floors on top of one another. But, lucky for us, while Aoki loves to get lost in the neighborhood’s maze of retailers, he does keep track of his favorite fashion haunts. So whether you’re on the hunt for vintage finds or that elusive silver necklace with a cult following, you just might find it in one of Steve Aoki’s top three Tokyo stops for serious shoppers.
The Japanese menswear brand founded by Hiroki Nakamura, Visvim is headquartered in Harajuku. “There is a story to every single piece that he makes, down to where the color of the dye is made,” Aoki says. It’s this level of craftsmanship that compelled Aoki to connect with Japanese Partners, a small company and design team based out of Japan, when it came time to start sourcing his own Dim Mak Collection.
“Whether it’s with food, art, music, or in this case, fashion, the Japanese aim to be at the highest level of their craft,” says Aoki. “So as a culture, you’re getting a lot of designers really pushing the envelope and putting their hearts and minds into their work.”
This is one of those places that Aoki can never remember the location of—until he stumbles across the line of shoppers waiting to get in. Known for its iconic hand-made silver pieces shaped like feathers, the mythical store bears the name of the designer Goro Takahashi, who passed away in 2013, leaving the legacy of his designs to his children, who continue to sell these one-of-a-kind pieces. Getting inside the store can sometimes take hours, yet the experience is considered to be a pilgrimage of sorts for diehard collectors who are taken with the history and reverence for craftsmanship that the brand represents. Fans of the designs include music glitterati including Ed Sheeran and John Mayer.
“It’s a small little shop, but there is a line—always,” Aoki says. “People wait in line forever, and there’s a chance that once you get in, you won’t even get one. If you see someone with one on it’s like, wow. They’re a huge, huge deal.”
3. Vintage shops on Cat Street
Located right between the neighborhoods of Harajuku and Shibuya, Cat Street is Aoki’s favorite place for those indescribable, unique finds. The vintage shops packed along Cat Street are where streetwear junkies will find collectable merch from their favorite brands and designers. “If you’re looking for old Supreme, you’ll find it on Cat Street,” says Aoki. “Like every Supreme collab, they’re collecting it. They’re reselling it here. You might be priced out of your pocketbook, but you’ll definitely find it for sure.” And don’t worry about bootleggers — Aoki says Japanese buyers are very aware of what’s authentic and excellent at tracing and sourcing their goods.
“Harajuku is such a good starting place,” he says. “It’s just open streets and streets and stores upon stores upon stores. There’s such a beauty in those alleyways and you just get lost in the maze.”
Whether you love Japanese streetwear or just like to window shop, Harajuku is the place for fashion-minded travelers looking for some style inspiration. Want more Steve Aoki? Tune into his podcast on Spotify to learn more about the artist’s faves in fashion, music, food and more.