Over the past two decades, the Japanese apparel industry has lost its competitiveness after experiencing a period of fast growth from the postwar years to the early 1990s. In international literature in social sciences, most scholars offer ethnic-based explanations of fashion in Japan, stressing some specificities such as street fashion or star designers in Paris. This article, however, argues that such views are biased and cannot explain the current lack of competitiveness of the Japanese apparel industry. Using the concept of the "fashion system" and following a business history-oriented approach, we offer a new interpretation of the emergence of Western clothing and fashion in Japan during the second part of the twentieth century. This interpretation demonstrates that the characteristics of the Japanese fashion system lie in a focus on the issues of production and technology, both of which led both to an extreme segmentation of the domestic market and to weaker brands.