Remember the Chinese character phase? Back in the early 2000s you could see Chinese characters everywhere from T-shirts to tattoos. While the trend still continues to some extent today, once people started realizing that you should probably double-check the meaning before going out in public, it has definitely slowed down.

Maybe Chinese symbols have a sort of stigma now, but that is not stopping major designers from branching out into the other styles of Japanese writing, namely katakana. This new trend is being used by brands all over the world, from Adidas to Stussy.

Let’s start out by briefly reviewing the three writing systems of Japanese. First we have kanji, the easily spotted Chinese characters with lots of strokes, squiggles, and lines. Next we have the kana — hiragana and katakana — which consist of one character for each syllable of the language.


Kanji 漢字 Hiragana ひらがな Katakana カタカナ


Hiragana was originally viewed as more womanly, with its curved lines, while katakana was thought of as more masculine, with its sharp edges, clearly derived from Chinese. While hiragana eventually made it to the mainstream and is deeply ingrained in normal written language, katakana is now usually reserved for foreign and onomatopoeic words.

As we mentioned earlier, katakana is very angular, and that shape and style is pretty cool. Designers have caught on to the very unique and stylized writing system and have started creating clothing lines with a katakana theme. Let’s check out a few examples:

▼Big and bold: The katakana on this dress mimics the English with Adidas Originals.


Image: Fashion Press

▼Not to be left behind, Nike came out with shoes featuring “Nike” in katakana.


Image: Blam!!! 

▼ French fashion house, Carven, seems to like their katakana logo.


 Image: give a sh*t about fashion

▼ KENZO is a high-fashion brand started by the Japanese designer Kenzo Takada who came out of retirement to make this design.


Image: Fake Tokyo

▼ Even Lacoste is on the bandwagon with this shirt. It seems like it’s katakana, but we can’t quite tell what it says…


 Image: Lacoste

▼Even the surf wear turn hip-hop brand, Stussy, is trying out the Japanese version of their name:

stussy2Image: Stussy 

The katakana look is very cool and brings a strong Japanese impact to everyday clothes, yet at the same time is very different than anything you would normally find in Japanese fashion. For now, it seems that it’s being used simply to write brand names in a unique way, but we wonder how long it will be until we see random words or nonsense written all over the place. At this point though, we can all agree that katakana is fresh, it’s cool and it’s taking over the fashion world.

Source: Naver Matome