Tokyoites are connoisseurs of fashion and as a result the city has long been a happening clothing destination. Yes, the city is crammed with up-to-the-minute boutiques, but sometimes the best shopping fun is to be had in stores offering beautifully maintained or restored clothing, shoes, jewelry and handbags from seasons sometimes many, many seasons past. Most of Tokyo's best vintage shops are concentrated in the western part of the city, in hip neighborhoods such as Daikanyama, Nakameguro, Shimokitazawa and Harajuku. Here are five of our favorites.
Antiqulosium, tel: (81-3) 3461 5295, in Daikanyama, is favored by fashionistas for its mint-condition Pucci, Courregès and Hermès blouses, Bakelite jewelry and Ferragamo heels. The airy shop, which also carries its own vintage-inspired brand, 21st Century Flapper, is not for bargain hunters: a Pucci blouse can go for $850.
Tucked into an alley nearby, Boutique Jeanne Valet, tel: (81-3) 3464 7612, feels more like the dressing room for Phantom of the Opera than a commercial operation. But the store, the brainchild of onetime Paris resident Yoshitatsu Fukuda, attracts a steady flow of stylists and designers with its Victorian-era jackets, blouses and trousers. Those who prefer more modern attire won't be disappointed: Fukuda also stocks a selection of Pierre Cardin, Leonard and Lanvin dresses, plucked from warehouses on his bimonthly trips to France.
Eva, tel: (81-3) 5489 2488, features unusual pieces chosen by owner Seiko Miyazaki. Her collection includes everything from shiny Biba blouses to Hermès' iconic 1970s Kelly bag, but the prices tend to be more reasonable than elsewhere. Devotees return regularly to see what Miyazaki has snapped up on a buying trip or released from her warehouse.
Also in Daikanyama is Carboots, tel: (81-3) 3464 6868. Victorian-era cotton nightgowns are all the rage in Tokyo this year, and this clothing and knickknack shop boasts an entire rack of them, as well as stylishly scuffed Louis Vuitton and Dior suitcases from the 1970s and recently retired Coach purses. Need a turquoise 1950s swimming cap or an alligator-leather purse, claws intact? Carboots has what you're looking for.
Finally, Jack's Vintage Clothing, tel: (81-3) 3470 1499, sells poodle skirts, bowling shirts and vintage Levi's out of a closet-like shop on a backstreet in Harajuku the district known for its weekend gatherings of rockabilly buffs. Store owner Jack (Elvis) Sato, a sometime actor and Elvis fan (he honors the King's birthday each year by throwing a street party), attracts a mix of stylists, tourists and members of Tokyo's rockabilly scene. The clingy Hawaiian-print dresses are especially popular, but in fact Jack's is good for almost anything '50s. Pick up a couple of items and chances are you'll blend right into Harajuku's passing parade.
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