The first and last time I went to Tokyo in 2019, I bumped into Anjali Burnett and Rachel Easting of Twenty-seven Names in the arrivals hall. It was a serendipitous moment: we each had no idea the other would be there but happened to be on the same flight. We hung out during the trip, taking in just some of what the wonderful sprawling city has to offer and the pair sharing their favourite dumpling spots, galleries and vintage stores.
The designers were Tokyo pros at that point, having previously visited half a dozen times. “We feel so incredibly lucky to have got to go so many times, we behave like we did when we were teenagers: endless op-shopping, talking our throats dry and linking arms under a shared umbrella,” says Burnett. “I say yes to everything Rachel wants and follow her around willingly. She does the maps, I do the language (Daijōbu). It’s always a blast.”
A 2008 visit to her brother Jase (who was teaching English in Osaka) was Burnett’s first overseas trip. “I was floored by the scale of it all - I spent most of my time looking up,” she recalls. “I remember being very taken with the Shinkansen and the almond M&Ms we consumed on our journey. We had all you can eat Indian right next to the Park Hyatt, which was our Lost in Translation moment.”
She and Easting revisited the city in May, this time bringing along Willow Henderson and Lily Paris-West from their team: a trip for inspiration, and to photograph their latest collection, called Love Songs ‘til Midnight (inspired by romantic tunes, like Something About the Way You Look Tonight, Who’s That Girl and everything in between).
They take us behind-the-scenes of the shoot, and share some of their Tokyo favourites along the way.
What do you love most about Tokyo?
“The people. They seem to really know how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. It’s pretty cool to imbibe that vibe.
If Twenty-seven Names was a city, I’d probably pick Tokyo – it’s that blend of cute and serene and the controlled and traditional. How do you think the city informs your brand and design?
Rachel and I really love how the style over there is so well defined. To us it feels like people pick a lane and do it so well. We often find ourselves talking about particular people we saw when we were there and referring to their style with our collections – ‘like that person we saw next to Fuglen, that vibe’.
The individualistic and self expressive style is so inspiring to be around and we try to bring a bit of that into our collections. The Wabi Sabi way they wear clothes, we love; like, it doesn’t have to fit perfectly, it can be baggy, it can sit away from the body styled impeccably with a white tee underneath, that’s something we’re always striving for.
Why did you decide to return again this year, as a team?
Rachel and Willow love to calendar, so after we’d set out the major dates for the year, there seemed to be a spare week in May. We jumped on the first Grab-a-Seat sale and hoped that it would actually happen.
Rach and I really wanted to be able to do something special for Willow and Lily because it’s been quite a rollercoaster, and we wanted to show them a cool time. To their credit they made the absolute most of it and hit so many spots, and had the best stories at the end of every day. We also wanted to make the most of being there all together so we also tacked on a shoot day – which was a blast.
There is so much to do in Tokyo, and it can be overwhelming to know where to start. What were your top five favourite places to visit?
It totally can be overwhelming, we tried to combat this by booking in a handful of dinners so the most important thing was pre-arranged. Rachel and I shamelessly lean into our creatures of habit vibes with full nonchalance which can help with the tyranny of choices:
Mori Art Museum.
Back streets of Shibuya.
Dover Street Market.
Where did you go for karaoke? And what are your go-to karaoke songs?
We went to Big Echo, we took a local’s recommendation and it was so, so silly.
We had too much fun in the RHCP back catalogue. Lily has an amazing voice, so it’s always great to ride on those coat tails. I just wish Lily sang at work more!
Where do you usually stay when you’re in town?
We don’t stay anywhere cool, we try to save on our accommodation so we can splash out more on food. This time, we stayed at the Mercure in Ginza – it’s an easy place to stay, and close to Tokyo Station so it makes it easy to get to and from the airport. It’s random, but like I said I do whatever Rach wants. I would love to stay at K5 Hotel. We went there for dinner and it was beyond.
Three top shopping recommendations, for fashion?
Dover Street Market – just so inspiring.
Back streets of Shibuya – amazing streetwear, reseller shops, independent boutiques.
Shimokitazawa – amazing opshopping.
K5 – modern Japanese dining. SO yum, with a set menu. A once in a lifetime experience.
Eggs and Things. All day brunch. We had to get dinner late in Ginza when we arrived. Our options were slim, but it was so yum we melted into the couch and shared the fluffiest pancakes for dessert.
Harajuku Gyoza Lou. Our Tokyo tradition. When it’s nice to feel like an American backpacker.
Your key Tokyo travel tip(s) or advice, for a newbie?
Have fun! It’s a safe and easy place to travel. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, directions, or favourite spots. It has seemingly always led to something good or at least a happy memory.
Do some light Duolingo. Learn how to use the word Daijōbu.
The city doesn’t kick off till 11am, so make the most of the day by getting out in nature before breakfast.
Get a Suica card.