Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Newspaper Article

Japanese Fashion Cut out.

Japanese fashion Dynamic

Japanese Street Fashion

Amanda McCuaig

If you think of kimonos or school uniforms when you think of Japanese fashion, you're missing out on the best and most flamboyant outfits that Japan has to offer the world.

Japan's outlandish street fashion trends are mostly concentrated in the large southern cities of Tokyo and Osaka, and particularly in a district of Tokyo called Harajuku, the shopping and entertainment district. It's considered to be Tokyo's teenager town, where dressing up is somewhat of a scheduled event. On Sundays, droves of street fashion kids dress up and head to Harajuku to loiter. If all goes well, they are photographed by magazines and scouted by model and talent agencies looking for future stars.

Japanese street fashion comes in a variety of forms and is reminiscent of London's punk street fashion, though it uses brighter colours and less plaid. Like bohemian fashion trends in North America, Japanese street fashion at first appears to be based on uncoordinated colours and patterns. But unlike the bohemian-hippie-thrift-store trends of North America, Japanese street fashion is far more elaborate. The emphasis is on uniqueness, which leads many street fashion kids to create their own outfits. Hand sewn garments are combined with a mix of items from trendy city stores. Some outfits integrate elaborate social statements with elements of escapism. Western fashions (think jeans and tank tops), are mixed with an emphatic reclamation of traditional garments, such as kimonos and geta sandals (those cute little wooden sandals with the planks on the bottom).

The most well known book on the street fashions of Japan's major cities is a small, 6.7' by 9' photobook called FRUiTS. Photographer Shoichi Aoki triggered an explosion with the publication of FRUiTS in 2001, inspiring a new creative outlet for brand name rebels all over Japan. FRUiTS can be found in several Vancouver bookstores, but if you can't find it, there are also many popular Japanese magazines that feature a variety of street fashion-inspired styles.

Like many youth subcultures, Japanese street fashion is a rebellion against the conventions of a consumer-based culture; but like modern capitalist culture, their rebellion is being recycled back into the system. The Harajuku kids' radical fashion has become the inspiration for designers such as T. Kunitomo and Yuji Hasegawa. If you happened to watch last season's cycle of America's Next Top Model (cycle 3), you'll remember that the girls' trip to Japan put them in the office space of Milk and Milk boy clothing designers Shingo and Hitomi Ohkawa. They were given the "challenge" of putting together an outfit like that of the Harajuku kids - an outfit that would inspire the designer (they all failed miserably in their attempts, because they were trying too hard to make their clothes match).

Ironically, the designs by Hitomi Ohkawa are dramatically more simple than the elaborate designs found on the street of Harajuku, as opposed to French Haute Couture, which is significantly more dramatic on the runway than how it appears on the street.

There are a few very distinct styles that can be found in Harajuku on any given Sunday, ranging from absolutely ridiculous to not-so-out-of-the-ordinary. The trends can be roughly broken down into four groups: fandom, cute, gothic/lolita, and various cultural influences.

The genres, however, include a variety of subgenres, such as cyberpunk, punk, funk, dramatised Western style, goth, lolita, and warmono. For many, their choice of style is more than just a fashion statement, it's also a way of life.

The popularity of anime and celebrity in Japan has brought out its own subset of street fashion. Some kids are inclined to dress up like their favourite celebrities - the elaborate blue-haired rocker, Mana, from the band Malice Mizer being a very popular choice, even at anime conventions in the United States. Others go with their own variation of anime characters, less like a direct imitation and more like an integration of anime styles into their own wardrobes. It is a chance for them to embrace the hyper-celebrity culture of Japan and integrate it top-down into their own lives. This is where a lot of the crazy hair and goggles are brought into play. Other popular accessories include sleeves, huge boots, and dramatic make-up.

Cute (or kawaii in Japanese), as one may suspect, is especially popular with young women who adorn themselves in ribbons and lace, wearing animal ears and sporting clothes made for children. Accessories that feature popular childhood cartoons are a common addition to any cute outfit. Hello Kitty lunch box? Hell(o) yeah! It's a bit like the short-lived '80s nostalgia fad that hit North America recently, when girls were sporting My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake t-shirts.

These kids don't just dress the part; they act the part, too. Hunched shoulders and pigeon toes - their body language is distinctly and purposefully childish. Like much of the street fashion culture, it's a form of escapism - a way for kids to spend time away from the high-pressure Japanese society. The style aids in making the social lives of these kids more light-hearted and sweet, and it gives them a chance to express themselves creatively.

Lolita and gothic lolita fashions are very similar; the key difference being that the gothic lolita dresses in black, while the lolita tends to use pinks and peach colours. The fashion, like cute, is similar to children's clothes. Styles include a nostalgic Victorian children's look - dresses that hide the shape, large bows, ribbons, lace, and bonnets. But unlike cute, it's more of a church-going look than a playing-in-the-yard-on-a-Tuesday look. The outfit designs are both sophisticated and elegant.

Some may be inclined to relate the lolita trend with Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, a novel written in 1955 about a man trying to create the perfect love affair with a 12-year-old. The term "lolita" has come to mean "a sexually precocious young girl," but Harajuku's lolitas don't consider themselves necessarily sexual, as their emphasis is on the delicate innocence of the Victorian style and the elegance of Victorian nostalgia. Their choice of fashion serves to transport them back to an earlier time when culture was slower and people took time to be polite, kind, and graceful. It gives them the opportunity to appreciate innocence and beauty while sharing it with others.

Unlike the North American goth, the gothic lolita gets its name not from the dark and scary aspect of the gothic, but from the detailed and distinct style of dark elegance and gothic style (think of the amazing detail of a flying buttress). Gothic lolita shares the lolita's quest for innocence and elegance. It is said that the lolita and gothic lolita cultures of Harajuku enjoy a tight-knit community that is a nurturing place for otherwise-misfit kids to enjoy. It is a place where nostalgia for a simpler time is embraced and played upon.

Cultural Influences
Cultural influences include their own slough of styles, but specifically noticeable are replicas of British punk, military influences, cowboys, warmono, ganguro, hip-hop, and reggae. The details of these styles may seem obvious but are elaborated here for your entertainment.

British punk: Plaid, bondage pants/skirts, spiked belts, and t-shirts that feature the names and logos of bands are all elements of British punk fashion. Chances are you've encountered this fashion trend here in North America. If you're hip, you probably even own a pair of bondage pants (with at least 12 zippers, all of which open to nowhere).

Military influences: Some street fashion kids draw inspiration from the military styles of a variety of cultures in order to cultivate their own distinct style - camouflage, badges, and giant Russian hats, worn almost as well as Graham Fox wears them.

Cowboys: It's like Alberta but more fashionable and a bit more ridiculous. Though much less colourful than other street fashion trends, like cute or punk, cowboys bring the Wild West's chaps and spikes on boots back into "everyday" wear. Whereas the real cowboys of the West stick to jeans and plaid shirts, these cowboys of the East don as many elements of the Wild West as they can combine into one outfit.

Warmono: A trend in which youth reclaim the traditional (and often considered staunch) dress of their culture, such as kimonos and geta sandals. Often, these fashion items are implemented alongside Western clothing and accessories; picture a purple kimono matched with a set of bright green high-top sneakers. I must admit, this is my favourite style.

Ganguro: An attempt to replicate the exaggerated American Californian looks - think Malibu Barbie. The girls tan their skin dark, bleach their hair, and wear fashionable summer dresses. Some argue that they are succumbing to peer pressure the way young North Americans do when they attempt to replicate such tanned and blonde celebrities as Britney Spears. Others argue that it's an expression of the complete opposite of the Japanese ideal woman. Unlike the quiet, subservient, pale women they may be expected to be, these girls break out of their shell, tan, and don the loud, assertive attitudes of Western women.

Hip-Hop and Reggae: Hairstyles, like dreadlocks and afros, are combined with the brightly coloured fashions typically found in African and Jamaican clothing. Hip-Hop styles like those of North America can also be seen; accessories, like fuzzy armbands and "bling," are matched with baggy pants and jerseys.

For more images and information about Japanese street fashion, check out these website:
_Street Fashion:
_High fashion:

Japanese Street Fashion
by Pat Lyttle
Fashion in Japan is exciting, fast, eye popping and thought provoking. Japan's young are having a party right now with the world's attention waiting eagerly for inspiration. I love fashion, and to me it makes sense to be involved in Japan's style because it's the brightest canvas for expression around. I feel drawn to their playground, passively with my camera I play along.
view the photos >

Why is the world in love with Japanese street fashion?

Why is the world in love with Japanese street fashion?

Why is the world in love with Japanese street fashion? Looking through the multitude of Japanese street wear fashion magazines such as ViVi, NONNO, CanCan, Elle, Ray, JJ, I finally realized why Japanese fashion has made a mark in the fashion world: Japanese fashion is full of DETAILS. From the top of their head, to the tip of their toes, it seems like they have spent careful thought in selecting every single piece of their clothing. It’s not how each piece of clothing looks. It is about how each piece of clothing complement each other. It is about a look that tells people: ‘Hey, I spent about 3 hours today getting ready, and I look good’. That’s why “Japanese fashion” in the eyes of most Japanese fashion lovers is not a particular style, but a total look of completeness.

On a trip to Japan last year, I walked through the streets of Shinjuku in my Miss Sixty jeans, GAP tee shirt, North Face jacket and black square-toed 2.5 inches square heeled boots, and I felt like a total hag! All the Japanese girls around me were – in my opinion – utterly chic, stylish, and trendy. Were they sporting anything in particular that made them look so fashionable? These girls were in high-heels, kitten-heels, flats. They were wearing long skirts, minis, a-lines, full bell skirts. They were wearing snug sweaters, loose-fitting tunics, sexy tops, tee-shirts. I couldn’t pinpoint a specific look… then I looked harder and caught sight of the bright multicoloured leggings, the richness of material in their apparel, the mix & match of bright deep colors, the uniqueness of their shoes. They all had set hair dyed to perfection with the ‘in’ colors, little purses and totes that they carry in the crook of their arms, the shiny accessories and jewelry To complete the look. I finally realized what I’ve been lacking in my search of being IN-Fashion: The follow-through in completing the final look. It didn’t matter what the actual ‘style’ of clothing were. Now I might not exactly want to look like that in America. But I will definitely strive to pay more attention to details in the future. Maybe one day, someone will stop me on the streets to take a picture of what I am wearing so that they can feature me in their street-fashion magazine.

gekko_van_meng ([info]gekko_van_meng) wrote in [info]fruits,

Fruits photographer
Here's the raw copy from an interview with Fruits photographer Shoichi Aoki - it contains questions that members of this community contributed, so thanks to all you who gave me a hand !!!

The worldwide explosion of Japanese-influenced fashion on the world?has had far-reaching and massive impact, leaving in it's wake a cult surrounding you and your work, even to the extent that the fashion is being generally called "Fruits". Do you feel it was because of the release of the first Fruits book that this was able to come about?

-- I have been unaware about the trend of Japanese “FRUiTS " fashion in the world - but if there was influence, I believe that not only comes from this book, but comes from the power of creativity projected from the people portrayed in Fruits.

The fashions featured in Fruits are inherently Japanese in its expression borrowing from traditional costumes and using Western fashions in an unconventional manner. How do you feel that followers in different countries are able to interpret that?

-- I do not think that Japanese boys and girls who are shown in the book are conscious about the traditional expressions borrowed. I think it just happens unconsciously.?I am also aware that the spirit of London's street fashion is a great influence.

"FRUiTS fashion" originated from a small group of people that were reluctant to dress like everyone else, so it developed by the repetition of creating new styles each time the majority made the style a trend. That is why it is against the spirit of FRUiTS fashion to imitate the style of FRUiTS. I believe the FRUiTS fashion is to make a different style from the FRUiTS fashion.

Do you feel the fashions in Fresh Fruits are as original as in the first book and how have they developed?

-- The concept for "Fresh Fruits" is the same as the first - even the way it is photographed, and edited. There is also an overlap in the time for the photoshoots between the two books, so I believe the “originality” is the same as well.

However since there has been a period of time after the first, people probably have a better sense of coordination of the style they want.

This is what I call the 2nd Decora Era, when fashion really gets characteristic.

(The fashion shown on the from cover) (A few shots can be seen on the first book as well)

Why do you think that the fashion subcultures such as ganguro, decora and Gothic Lolita came about and why? Are there any new styles emerging?

-- It would be called fashion Ganguro and Gothic Lolita as a subculture. All the boys and girls with the same attitude and which attitude most people would call weird get together using fashion as a key. It has more meaning as a key than as fashion.

For the youth in Japan, it is important to have friends to hang out with. Many of them who are wearing Ganguro and Gothic Lolita fashions tends to be hard to make friend in normal way. By dressing with the same queer style to be looking different from others, individuality has to be lost, but their fellow feeling gets stronger. Both styles are far from the soul of FRUiTS.

To the contrary, Decora comes purely from pursuing fashion.

I don't think there are fashions characteristic enough to be named now.

I myself do not like to categorize fashions by naming them.

At the moment, Boys from a generation as lightly older than FRUiTS are creating a new style of fashion.

I have been reporting that in the magazine "TUNE" for a year.

What are the cultural and social events that led up to this outburst of fashion?

-- I wouldn't know-it is mystery. The ideas as if it were realized probably aren't right either.

I don't think anything acted as a direct trigger-but all this makes a foundation-Japanese people had a different perspective for fashion after the Designer Brand Boom in the 80's such as comme de garcon emerged. Then there is a city called Harajuku, the city is just place that there was a movement called HOKOTEN- was the first outburst of youth culture to get out from stereotype-once before. Plus the sense of beauty is running in our Japanese blood.

Also, since it is no longer nearly as shocking since it is almost commonplace, how do youths stand out from each other?

--The fashions seen in FRUiTS was not created to stand out, but created a small group of people hate to be style as common as other people. So if the fashion became a trend, naturally the style for this group would change. FRUiTS isn't edited in an chronologically order, so it’s hard to see that there was a plain trend as well .when everyone got loud, the people moved toward plain. After the trend of fancy hair color and hairstyles, brown hair was the trend, and now everyone has black hair.

What is the best reaction he has come upon when someone was asked to be photgraphed?

-- There was a silent rule between the people photographed not to do anything to attract my attention. There were no over reactions, they just got photographed quietly.

That basic style came naturally. People who over react are considered being uncool.

What is your favorite style?

-- I like suggestive styles that are challenging. I prefer clothes layered than simple.

What do you think about Gwen Stefani and her new publicity stunt she's pulling with "Harajuku style" and "Harajuku girls" following her?

-- I do not know.

FRUiTS magazine has seen many trends and fads grow popular and die again and, currently, the scene seems to be stuck on a style that has started to look rather Western. What do you think the future of Japanese street style will be like?

-- If I could predict that, I would lose interest.

Tokyo Teen Spirit: fashion piece

Fashion: Tokyo teen spirit
Meet the Harajuku girls: they dress like Lolitas and love their labels — and now is their moment. Mark O’Flaherty travels to Japan’s hippest district in search of a fashion phenomenon.

Aiko is a 20-year-old student and part-time boutique assistant who wants to start her own fashion magazine. Today, she is wearing a polka-dot scarf and Chloé denim jacket, accessorised with ermine earmuffs, ethnic jewellery, stripy tights and the sort of directional approach to beauty that would make an avant-garde make-up artist blush. "My parents want me to miraculously transform into an office lady when I graduate," says Aiko, who spends 90% of her income on clothes. "But it's just not going to happen."

Like the other girls who hang out in Tokyo's Harajuku district, Aiko's dedication to fashion is total. It's true that nobody can put together a look quite like the Japanese, but Harajuku's fashion victims are in a league of their own — more outlandish, more fabulous, more plain bonkers than all the rest. If they have a flaw, it is that they seem incapable of walking in high heels. But who knows? They're so contrived in every other respect, it could just be another quirky affectation.

What is certain is that now is their moment. From being virtually unknown outside Japan, the Harajuku scene has suddenly found itself thrust onto the world stage. "What’s that you got on? Is it Comme des Garçons?" hollers Gwen Stefani on Harajuku Girls, a track from her new album. "Vivienne Westwood can't go wrong ... Let’s not forget about John Galliano, no!" Not since RuPaul briefly ruled the dancefloor has so much homage been paid to fashion in the pursuit of beats and rhymes. So what's so special about Harajuku, the playground of the girls who, as Stefani puts it, "work it, express it, live it, command your style!"? According to Paul James, who runs the electroclash night Vanity, currently Tokyo’s hippest club, the district is the city’s "fashion melting pot." "Harajuku girls are fashion addicts and shoppers," he explains. "They're fashion students, hairdressers or work in fashion PR, and come to the area to be seen, to check out the latest looks, or wait for a fashion journalist to spot them. There is a whole culture of fashion groupies hanging out there, waiting for the cameras to snap."

Harajuku stretches from Tokyo's Yoyogi Park all the way down to Aoyama, home to the new space-age Prada store as well as Comme, Issey, Yohji and Undercover, Japan's dark, edgy answer to Alexander McQueen. The area is crisscrossed by fashion boundaries that are invisible to the uninitiated.

Right by Harajuku station, in front of Yoyogi Park, is the least hip place to hang out. Here is what Chiaki Tanabe, of the Louis Vuitton private members' salon Celux, calls "the gothic Lolita scene," the Tokyo equivalent of the King's Road punks. They blend Victorian lace with Bo Peep bonnets and video-game gore — fake blood on surgical smocks was last year’s big story for the Harajuku teens. The real cutting-edge style scene is a five-minute walk away, in Omotesando — not so much Harajuku as off-Harajuku. It's these girls that Stefani is singing about.

Ruri is a student who has already graduated from Yoyogi Park to Omotesando. "When I was 13, I looked like a vampire, but now I have a different look," she says. Despite being part of a generation with an ultra-conservative reputation, Ruri's parents have never tried to make her tone anything down. "They've always been cool with the way I dress," she says, "though when I was doing my vampire/goth look, they did say they wished I'd wear something with colour in it."

Celux is at the epicentre of the Omotesando scene. To get in, you need a swipe card for the lift — and to get one of those, you need to be proposed and seconded by a member. All that, just to shop? Well, not quite. Celux is a 21st-century salon, where you can sip pink champagne, eat "happy shopper" cakes with smiley faces on, hang out with other Celux members and, most importantly, buy things that non-members can’t get their hands on.

Exclusivity is everything in Tokyo, and a few years ago, if it didn't have a brand name with a multibillion-yen ad campaign, it wouldn’t sell. Now, though, cult underground London labels such as Ziad Ghanem, famous for his raw seams, and Unconditional have been fed into the scene.

The crowd at Vanity, and the other off-Harajuku hang-outs Ageha and Womb, is mixing and matching its fashion like never before. Says Roxy Harris, a Vanity regular and archetypal off-Harajuku girl: "It's still all about Jeremy Scott, Comme des Garçons and APC, but it's also about old Rod Stewart tour T-shirts and flea-market finds. It's like all our favourite style icons shoved their wardrobes into one big bag and we had to get dressed randomly from the result," she says. "Since our style icons range from Japanese film stars to Billy Idol, you get the best mix. The Harajuku crowd shops everywhere, from Comme to 109."

Every self-respecting fashion girl under 25 in Tokyo owns something from 109, a multi-story mall full of tiny boutiques selling everything from customised punky T-shirts to spray-on tights and saucy jewellery. However, the off-Harajuku set blend it with Dior, Buddhist Punk and Westwood.

Why, though, when the rest of the world’s youth is emerging slowly from the "Gap years" and the mass conservatism of the 1990s, is Tokyo taking the Hoxton ideal of high-end bohemia so dramatically into overdrive? Paul from Vanity points to the root of the Harajuku girls' love of style: "Kids here have a seven-day school week and go to tutoring classes after school. Fashion is an avenue for kids to express themselves. Japan is a very rigid society. Every year, about 30,000 people commit suicide, and most of those are either middle-aged businessmen or, tragically, young teens. Fashion is their liberation."

All of which explains the gothic twist of the Harajuku Lolitas and the fantasy dressing-up-box antics of the off-Harajuku club kids. Fashion for these girls isn't just a modern take on punk and messy bedroom rebellion, it's a way of life. As Aiko says, it’s all about a positive state of mind. "I never feel self-conscious in anything I wear. If I did, I’d look terrible. When I'm in my look, I'm telling the world that I like feeling beautiful and that '’m not going to just go and work in an office for the rest of my life."

Japanese Trends in Asia

A concern would be to question the theory that women of Southeast Asia are trying to become Japanese. A popular topic discussed these days is how Japanese women are trying to become American. Some foreigners and Japanese are disgusted by the bleaching of natural dark hair to emulate a western appearance. Has the possibility that they are simply trying new things and gaining a global taste for their appearance failed to cross anyone's mind? Jimabelle Parentez conveys her thoughts very well, "I'm proud of my Asian background. Sure I've dyed my hair red but that doesn't mean that I want to be white. That's probably the last thing I would want; I dyed my hair red because I think it looks good".

The situation may be similar for South East Asia. These women seem to be embracing Japanese fashion trends at a rapid pace. Does this make them inferior in that they can't enjoy their own culture's fashion? That would be a narrow-minded way of viewing it. To think that the masses of women living in South East Asia enjoying this kind of dress are only trying to be something they are not is likewise narrow-minded.

Another question raised is the ever-present comparison to America. If Southeast Asia can adopt Japanese fashion, what keeps America from doing so? It could be the fact that Asian countries are able to relate with one another more easily when it comes to pop culture. Another speculation is the habit of trends in America. Most trends are concrete. In other words, the trend may be one style of pants or one kind of hairstyle at any given time. The trends do not usually include a range as wide as that of the Japanese.

To clarify this point, take the following example that comes to mind. Let's say a Japanese girl dresses in hot pink leg warmers, a tiny skirt, carries around plastic toys, spikes out her hair, and wears shoes that make her twice her own height. That is supposedly considered a fashion statement in Japan. Yet, a girl wearing enormous cargo pants with huge patches sewn onto them, half her head shaved, and a neon fur coat is grouped under the same category as the girl in the pink leg warmers. America thrives on continuity, and the fashion world reflects that. If the trend is a certain scarf by a certain designer, everyone will wear that scarf. If the trend is a certain kind of pants, everyone will buy those pants in a certain color and wear them a certain way. If they were to adopt Japan's fashion all at once, all definition would be lost.

Looking at the clothing that is popular among teens in Japan, you can tell that no specific items are "Japanese". The entire outfit as a whole might resemble the eccentric fashion of this group but there is no one item for America to adopt that would enable the public to label this process as an adoption of Japanese fashion. This may be only one reason for the resistance of a full J-fashion invasion. In fact, some experts say that the circulation of trends has been happening for a while now, but it has gone largely unnoticed because these are not specific material trends. The vibe of carefree and creative dress is what the Japanese give off. There is no real way to identify that in another country, as it will always be molded to fit the needs of that culture's youth. So perhaps the Southeast Asian women are not exactly trying to be Japanese. Borrowing certain fashion ideas and finding some new confidence in a way of life is not necessarily a form of emulation. It should be thought of as trying new things and being international in the way of self-expression. People spend more time accusing cultures of copying Japan than they do looking at the process of cultural diffusion in its simplest form. People will always flock to something they admire, whether it is fashion of another country or of a friend. This should not be reported as a mass conformity, as it has been recently.

Delinquent Subcultures vs. Consumer Lifestyles

Most of the first Western scholarship on "youth subcultures" in the post-War period grew out of work on teenage delinquency. Sociologists explained the Teds, the Mods, Rude Boys, Greasers, the Sharks (vs. the Jets) as working-class youth using their own culture of fashion and argot to separate themselves from mainstream society. Now that mass culture has fractured into smaller lifestyle segments and minority looks "trickle-up" to high fashion, the word "subculture" does not automatically imply deviance. In the West, there's no bigger sin than being a "poser" or having "inauthentic" reasons for subcultural affliation, and in this context, Western (and often Japanese) critics tend to bash Japanese punks and B-boys for not keeping it "real." Or conversely, certain champions of postmodernity celebrate these groups for their seemingly intentional depth-less re-appropriations of Western subcultural style.

The truth is, however, that Japan has two different kinds of youth cultural groups - delinquent subcultures and consumer lifestyles - and our failure to distinguish the two means attributing particular intragroup values to Japan as a whole.

The youth cultures recently venerated by Americans are essentially consumer lifestyles. Ura-Harajuku street fashion (Ape, Goodenough, Supreme/Silas), Shibuya-kei border-shirt Euro-fetish, Cutie/Spring/Mini daintyness, Fruits extreme Harajuku-cute, hip-hoppers, Rastas, punks, mods, and "mode-kei" fashionistas are society-condoned, media-directed looks with matching music and activities. Before 1988, all fashion was monolithic: there was only one way to dress "well," but after the DC-boom backlash in the late 80s, magazines responded by providing a huge list of possible choices - skater-kei, surfer-kei, etc. - each with their own brands, hairstyles, record labels, and leisure activities.

Japanese fashions may be largely based on Western working-class teenage defiance, but all the political content has been sucked out - even intergenerational rebellion. In the West, parents would freak out over their kids looking like a lyseric baglady, but Japanese parents can cope as long as they wipe off the goth makeup by the time they leave school. Questions of authenticity are moot. Without specific instructions from magazines on how to put together the fashion code, these looks would not and could not exist. I would guess that a majority of adopters are upper middle-class kids from good families, and their participation does not necessarily preclude future involvement in straight society. Actually, these somewhat alternative cultures support the employment system by providing "play" before a lifetime of serious dedication to the workplace or motherhood.

Even though consumer lifestyles are the most conspicuous "subcultures" in Japan, there have always been strong delinquent subcultures. These follow the Western pattern closely - using alternative fashions, slang, and other cultural practices to break away from the mainstream. In the late 70s, the yankii subculture developed from junior high students who bucked the system through wearing bleached permanent-waves and altering their school uniforms. Instead of high school, yankii entered the workforce - an act that fully limited their future employment options to working-class labor. They roved in gangs, picked up girls to gang rape (gombo), stared down kids from rival junior highs, and coordinated runs around the neighborhood on super-loud motorcycles (the so-called boso-zoku). Their fashion choices - yakuza-like short-cut punch perms, long jackets, kanji embroidery, severe sunglasses, women's heels - were self-determined, not media-mandated, although at this point, Japanese consumer society was not mature enough to target such a small market segment.

Meanwhile in Tokyo, Takenoko-zoku street dancers culled their uniforms from 50s rock'n'roll shops on Harajuku's Takeshita-doori. They were generally high-school dropouts engaged in smoking (gasp!), lighting firecrackers (gasp! gasp!), and other hankou, but opposed to the yankii, their culture depended upon the small consumer market tailoring to their needs. This symbiotic relationship between rebellion and consumerism resembled the early Carnaby Street of the 60s.

The late 80s saw the rise of the Chiimaa - car-based roving gangs of youth who terrorized Shibuya. Interestingly, however, these kids were generally furyou - no-good'ers - from wealthy Setagaya-ku families, and they invented their own sloppy casual style based on an American-style preppie look (think loafers). Their wealthy furyou girlfriends were semi-dropouts from private high schools like Keio, who also developed their own rebellious alterations of school uniforms. But instead of lengthening skirts like yankii girls, they shortened them. The media eventually christened them "kogyaru," soon famous in the Shuukan Post for their rough language and brazen sexuality.

Since the kogyaru spawned at a time when fashion became subcultural, magazines such as EggCawaii! were able to move in to codify the look and make it into a market. The first kogyaru were from elite families, but the fashion's rebellous edge became very attractive to lumpen lower middle-class kids looking for an escape. By the mid-90s, Shibuya was like a female-run Haight-Ashbury, littered with middle-school runaways, grotesque fashion witches ("the Yamamba"), and teenage kogyaru with babies called "yan-mama" ("yan" coming from "yankii"). When news of the kogyaru's schoolgirl prostitution (enjo-kousai) hit the national consciousness, the first response approached the problem like an extension of classess consumerism instead of lower-class teenage delinquency - "This could be anyone's daughter!" Perhaps this was true, but when a delinquent subculture had fully become a consumer lifestyle - sexual mores and all - no one knew whether to blame a certain group (like with past youth problems) or advocate society-wide campaigns ("Talk with your kids about compensated dating before your husband's coworker does!") and

These days, the kogyaru fashion boom is over, but the look remains preserved within a small delinquent subculture. They still retain the organs of a consumer lifestyle - stores, magazines, clubs - but a comparison of Egg to Cutie instantly reveals that these are not just different exterior fashions chosen by similar girls, but radically different life-orientations. Egg casually talks about the best way to have sex in a car, while you can even barely find reference to boys in Spring.

Within the delinquent groups, the value system tends towards celebrating "authentic" behavior as a way to show solidarity with the other members. These groups do have a certain political content in so much as they are dropping out of society. Where Japan differs from the West, however, is that it has never had a large-scale Bohemian-type middle-class, educated artistic subculture like the Hippies or even something like Slackers. In an orthopraxical society, there's no God to justify "dropping out" - deviants don't leave, they're forced out, or catch on early that their future opportunities are nil. If the only condoned path to success is an upper middle-class one requiring constant study and delayed gratification, those who don't fit the mold unsuprisingly choose to make their own reward structures and cultural systems.

The rising number of friitaa could possibly be a sign that those involved with consumer lifestyles have attached a political content to their fashion and cannot easily give up their subcultural affliation to join the workforce and adult society. We've seen that "real" subcultures can become commodified, but can "artificial" subcultures drop out of society?


Japanese idols as trend setters in Asia

By Eimi Graham

Japanese society is obsessed with its idols. It appears that every single fashion trend in Japan appears to have been started by an idol or a TV talent rather than a fashion designer. It would not be an exaggeration to say that if a Japanese idol were to start dressing in metal or paper or plastic dresses, half of Japan will embrace it.

Kogal fashion

A kogal is essential a schoolgirl, and rather sadly, she is treated in Japan as a sexual symbol. Several idols have exploited this and dress up regularly in a schoolgirl's sailor dress either to act a role in a movie or drama or to pose for magazines to satisfy the sexual appetite of Japanese men. Kogal fashion is still popular among teenagers and women in their 20's. Loose socks were worn about 6 years ago, but now, there is a new type of loose socks. It's called "Super loose socks". Usually, the length of a loose sock is around 25 to 50 cm (or 10 to 20 inches). But the super loose socks' length is up to 100 cm (or 40 inches). As you can imagine, super loose socks are easy to fall down on legs, so girls wearing these socks usually use a special glue called "Sock-touch" to stop the socks from falling down.

The "amulrar" fashion, which was popular just before the kogal boom came, was probably from the singer, Namie Amuro. The brown hair, sexy outfits, and weird kogal vocabulary were popular then. This is now apparently disappearing as women move on to other styles.

Office ladies (OL) rule the world

While schoolgirls like to dress up in the most outrageous styles they have certain restrictions. They have to use a uniform for the major part of the day and they can not always afford the latest in fashion. On the other hand, the office ladies (or women who work in offices rather than manufacturing plants) have plenty of disposable incomes and can dress up any way they want. Some offices have uniforms, so women can't wear sexy fashion there. But of course, not all of the offices have uniforms. Women in offices that don't have uniforms can wear a little bit of sexy fashion, like blouses showing off their breasts or a mini skirt showing off their legs. Japanese women working at an office usually wear suits and pumps. This style has been made popular by an actress, Makiko Esumi.

Show it off

The trends in Japanese fashion are moving in a direction when it is perfectly fine to show off as much skin as possible - something that was not common a decade or so ago. Some of the developments in fashion these days are mind-blowing since they have simply changed the very fundamentals of Japanese values. Women these days do not seem to mind showing off their underwear for instance. The fishnet stockings, tight bizarre (a fake leather mini skirt) mini skirts, camisoles showing off their breasts have been made popular by a Japanese singer and voice actress, Minami Takayama.

"Hip-hang" jeans in Japan are very popular these days and Japanese women show a little bit of their underwear when they use them. The jeans have to be worn around the hip and they hang quite low on the waist (that is why they are called hip-hang) to give others a peek at their panties, especially when someone bends. Until few years ago, Japanese women were reluctant to even show off their bra straps but now they feel just fine showing off their panties.

Similar change has occurred in the case of use of fishnet stockings, which are now also popular in the winter. A few years ago, fishnet stockings were probably only worn by women working at the night clubs and strip bars. Now, they are popular among average women in their 20's and 30's.


About the author

Eimi Graham is half-Japanese and lives in Japan. She is currently in college and follows Japanese fashion trends. She loves music and going to discos.


This article seems rather ill-informed in my opinion. It is not exactly cited as factual in every sense of the word and should be taken lightly. It is simply an opinion piece.


Part I - Youth

One of the most interesting things about fashion in Japan is its street fashion.

Okay, dummy, street fashion is what individuals or groups of people wear, well, on the street. Lots of fashion designers say that they gain their inspiration from the street wear -- what ends up on a catwalk may just be based on something that an unknown seventeen-year old wore on his way to the mall.

Most of these looks can actually be ”bought” in some of the Goths stores – complete with accessories and shoes and wigs. Some Japanese kids are really creative when it comes to fashion, but if they have enough money they can just buy the style that they’re after. Here are some popular street fashion trends in Japan:

The Gothic French Maid look is immensely popular. This is usually means a short full black skirt with white lace trim combined with black blouse with puffed sleeves and more white lace trim. White socks or stockings with mary-janes. Some girls (and boys) who wear this type of outfit will combined with black, white lace-trimmed caps or other old-fashioned accessories. This look is sometimes referred to as ”Gothic Lolita”

The Nurse - There are lots of girls in Japan who are dressed in white Nurse’s uniforms although these are not as popular as ”Gothic Lolita”.

The Little girl. This sort of look is basically anything that makes a girl look like she’s about five-years old – pink skirts, bows, colorful socks… Accessories include dolls, teddy-bears and pacifiers.

Schoolgirl. This is plaid skirt and blazer with sailor-suit. The girls have no choice in the uniform if they get it from school. Buying a schoolgirl uniform when you are not a schoolgirl is really difficult and expensive.

Malice Mizer look-a-likes. Malice Mizer is the biggest Goth band in Japan that is currently topping the country’s music chart lists. Often the singers sometimes look like characters straight out of the Interview with the Vampire movie. They are beautiful boys often dressed up as beautiful girls. The kids love to copy the Victorian look of blonde ringlet curls (wings are sold in Goth stores in Tokyo) combined with blue or green 18th-19th century French-looking dresses with lots of white lace.

Uniforms (military or school uniforms) . These are sometimes combined with the Goth look. Military style seems to surface in Japan as one of the most recent trends. Sailors are popular. As are British schoolboys.

Hip Hop. Surprisingly hip hop style is making room for itself in Japan and is more and more visible (they have a few hippies too) Apparently you can see a number of kids wearing baggy athletic wear, FUBU, Tommy Hilfiger. They get their hair put in dreads, braids and even Afros. This is much more popular among boy than girls.

Gothic male look Interestingly lots of Japanese Goth females seem to be into the 18-19th century male look with beautiful, tailored jackets, pirate shirts and top hats.

Other Gothic Lolita – similar to ”Gothic Lolitas” but you’ll often find the clothes are actually made by the owner or an owner’s friend and therefore are subtly different looking than the store-bought stuff. These Gothic Lolitas are also different from the generated GLs because they seem to have more guts when it comes to applying make – they will often draw black tears, blood stains around their mouths. Sometimes they carry toys that are dressed and made-up to look just like them.

The individual dressers are much more interesting. One of the most interesting groups are Goth-Punks who cherish their individual style and invest in creativity to the point of obsession.

Usually they do give up on corsets or cinchers or bodices. You will probably not see any PVC bras or anything that reeks of cheap S&M bar amongst this group. But there are some interesting things that seem to be popular in this circle such as:

Big platform boots – very popular and it’s rare to actually see a Japanese Punk-Goth or a Goth without these. Girls love them and boys are into the superhero boots just as much.

Little black caps or thick headbands. – these look very Victorian and also are very similar to ”Gothic Lolita” caps, black with white lace trim.

Black arm bands worn on one arm -- these are popular among boys and usually come with the name of a Japanese Goth band on them. There are lots that have words ”Japan X” printed on them.

Make-up – make-up is huge in the street fashion. It could be a bright blue lipstick, very whiteface, heavy makeup with black tears or red hearts painted right on the faces. Silver stickers of stars glued onto cheeks, eye patches and gigantic fake eyelashes are common too.

Nightmare Before Christmas accessories such as pens, notebooks, little keychain-like-things that kids can attach to their miniature cellphones.

Religious paraphernalia are also used as accessories, for example Catholic crosses are worn both right side up and upside down.

According to the tourists, the biggest population are the Goths and they seem to be in their full gear usually on Sunday, usually near Yoyogi Park (Tokyo) where they mostly stand around, socialize and pose for photographs taken by tourists or other ”normal” looking middle-aged Japanese men. Different fashion groups seem to hang out in their own circles with little socializing in between the groups.

Part II - The Newest trend (youth)

Gunguro A newest fashion trend that seems to be infiltrating Japanese streets. Here it goes: A pale-skinned Japanese teenager with dyed blonde hair looking like some sort of a beach girl California circa 1970. Apparently, right now, this is the most popular fashiontrend amongst Japanese girls and there are literally thousands and thousands of them looking sort of like Barbie-gone-wrong. Though perhaps you want to be a Gunguro girl? Here’s what you need:

Pale lipstick is an absolute must.
Lots of orange, also bright green, bright yellow, bright pink… bright anything!
Light brown or beige, leather or suede knee-high platform boots.
Tans are very popular, especially really dark tans. Tanning saloons are blossoming all over Tokyo thanks to Gunguro chickies.
Pale blue or white eye shadow to emphasize their ultra tans are also absolutely essential.
Hair has to be bleached blonde (alternatively bleached pale blue or bleached orange) and has to be worn in big wavy curls.
Hawaiian-theme jewelry as well Hawaiian-theme shirts or backpacks are a bonus.
Mascara is BIG. Lots of it. Lots. And more. More! More. Fake eyelashes. More mascara!
Fake hair extensions. Silver, electric blue, electric pink.
Stripper shoes with knee high socks.
Plucked eyebrows
Stick-on glittery eyeliner-stickers are huge too so are stick-on stars and sparkly flowers.
Fake flowers in hair. Bright fake flowers in bright yellow hair.
Most importantly though: If you want to be a true Gunguro girl you have to have Gunguro girlfriends. Gunguro girls travel in packs. Recently, Gunguro males have been spotted as well and these have to be accompanied by Gunguro girls.

Part III – General Street Trends (In no particular order. C’mon this is Japanese fashion we’re talking about. Order. Bah!)

Platform boots. The platforms seem to average around 6-8 inches high, no less. Sometimes you may see a 10-incher but never smaller than 6.
Plastic rain coats in different colors.
Little sticker-photo-booth things are everywhere. You can find specialized ones where you would put your photo in a little frame with members from various Japanese Goth bands, so it looked like they were in the photo with you.
Ironic geisha look has made a (sort of) appearance. Traditional mixed with current, for example a silk printed shirt mixed with jean skirt and knee high socks
Hats are popular – cowboy hats, trucker hats with ironic messages on them (”I’m a Jerk”)
Did I say platform boots? Forgot to tell you how long. Knee-high long.
Miniature, tiny, tiny cell phones are used as accessories. There are stores in Japan that are devoted entirely to cell phones and accessories that come with them such as key chains with cartoon characters or furry cell phone cases.
Prominent designer labels. Even Japanese kids are very much into having visible designer identities – Louis Vuitton is huge. It does make one wonder what’s going on with Louis Vuitton stores posting signs saying that each customer has a limit of five bags… only. The bags range from $3000 U.S. and up.
Pillows with pictures of friends, boyfriends or girlfriends silk-printed on them.
Clear plastic long-handled umbrellas are big. Sometimes with cute things painted on them.
Curled bleached hair or pigtails and braids, worn low on the back of the head.
Small bells worn as jewelry.
Bobby pins, decorative and plain attached to coats.
T-Shirts with nonsensical English phrases such as: ”I am a record” or ”Today fruit is melon”
Little old women with purple or blue hair. Seriously. These are super trendy. You’re super lucky if you can actually get a hold of one and keep her as an accessory.
Dominating nail polish colors are black, pink and orange.
Those baggy, baggy white socks are still very much in style. They sell ones that are sometimes up to one meter long and you get that ribbed sock look by pushing them down to gather around the ankle and actually gluing them to your leg with a sock glue (no joke)
Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty. Hello (you stupid, ugly, mouthless, usueless, stupid, stupid) Kitty. Hello Kitty.
Hair extensions are big. They are sold everywhere from jewelry stores to clothes stores. The extensions usually come in natural colors and it’s harder to find flaming pink or blue fake tresses but their styles vary from curls, straight, iron-flattened to braids, dreadlocks and frizzy.
According to one source Audrey Hepburn is really big in Japan. She is all over advertisements and banners; her face appears on buildings, there are lots of art shows devoted to her. Nobody knows why her, exactly.
In comparison with the U.S. Japanese kids are much better and careful dressers even if they’re in their casual mode. The clothes look and are much more expensive. It would be very difficult to find someone in stained shirt, shoeless, drunk, dressed in track pants with ass hanging out of pants (think Britney Spears). Japan’s young fashionistas are much more elegant and pleasant to look at.

Part IV – 20-somethings

No more platform shoes but instead expensive-looking designer mules or sling-backs, lots of high heels.
Coppery reddish bleached hair are popular.
Shaggy-type hair cuts with different layers are sexy.
Pink is still in but it’s more toned-down, pale pink is in.
Scarves worn as wraps. Pashmina shawls are popular. Also sweater-poncho wraps are a big hit in Japan. These are worn in the evenings. Lots of them come in different shades of pink.
With 20-somethings, little designer handbags are even more essential than they are with the younger women.
Louis Vuitton handbags become a necessity. No Louis Vuitton no leaving the house. Period.
Instead of white, black knee-high stockings are common and fishnets are also quite popular. This is called ”maturity”.
Skirts get longer and tend to be knee-length and straight-cut.
Labels, labels, labels. LABELS!
Did I mention labels? No? LABELS.
Jean is in – the most popular is dark denim. Dark denim jackets are it.
Dark blue straight-cut jeans that are cuffed about 6 inches at the bottom and worn with sexy high heeled boots.
Long, straight, ruler-sharp skirts are popular.
Fur and feather collars are very popular. Especially in pink. Especially if they have LABELS on them.
Used fur is popular as well and it is worn around shoulders or as a sort of a collar.
Anything made of Burberry’s signature plaid is in.
Flowers are in. Fake flowers, for example fake fabric roses worn as accessories, often a black fabric one worn as a brooch in the center of the chest, sometimes a fake flower is worn in the hair.
Part V -- Where to Shop (in Tokyo)

Goth and Punk clothes and used cd’s can be found on Takeshita Dori street, near Harajuku subway station in Tokyo.
Trendy designer clothes are sold at a store called Takeshita Dori.
There is also a fantastic store, near Shibuya subway station called Shibuya 109 in Tokyo.
There are also a lot of Hip Hop stores in the Shibuya area.
All the very expensive department stores are located in Tokyo region, Ginza.
Fetish and sex shops can be found in Shinjuku area.
Osaka – which is a few hours South of Tokyo has lots of cyber, Eurotechno-style type of clothing.
Par Avion is where you can find some fantastic ”recycled” clothes. This one is special though because the clothes are hand picked and then remodeled into individual design.

Why are Fruits so fruity?

Two years ago I came across a wonderful book. It was a book of photographs of Japanese teenagers dressed up as… it is actually impossible to say exactly but a typical – although there’s no such thing as ”typical” with Fruits really – outfit could involve platform boots with teeth and fur, pink thighs, ruffled skirt with another ruffled skirt underneath it, a shirt with Victorian-period collar, hair in braids, a Victorian-period maid hat complete with a bow, a teddy bear as an accessory and a boyfriend in a skirt with a cowboy hat. It would be wrong to compare too too-closely this particular street fashion, to what club kids used to do more than a decade ago in New York, but there are some similarities as both styles were/ are simply out of this world. Fruits are dressed much more carefully than club kids with everything matching – even if particular items seem as if they should never be matched – often wearing vintage, design as well as their own creations.

The inspirations for the Fruit outfits are many. The idea behind this street fashion it is that through clothes you get to become someone else or be a parody someone that you are definitely not. This somebody else could be an Oxford school boy, a carefully adorned and painted imitation of a punk rocker, a cowboy-Buddist monk or a weirdly sexual school girl-gothic-French maid that itself is such a popular style within Fruits style that it has gained a separate title: Gothic Lolita.

Many people say that anyone who visits Tokyo should walk around Harajuku that has become an unofficial center of Japanese teenage fashion scene. The place is buzzing with self-expression and Fruits are ruling the place. These kids are very happy to pose for tourist’s pictures and they do pose beautifully with most of them pigeon-toeing their feet, opening their eyes wide and displaying their unique look in all its glory. Often they pose with a friend or a partner who is, always, another outrageously dressed Fruit. They are frequently dressed according to the same concept so you’ll get a girl Squaw and a boy cowboy or two girls in mary-janes, sucking on lollipops dressed in high fashion Gothic Lolita outfits (each wears a different version of it, of course). These kids are immeasurably beautiful and it makes one happy to see so much thought put into an outfit that balances on the line that divides fashion and art.

Fruits is not a new phenomenon and it’s been around long enough to actually develop into different forms, such as Cosplay where the kids (okay, you do get an occasional thirty-something year old, but rarely) dress in superhero outfits or create outfits that make them look like superheros complete with colorful wigs (blue, pink, orange, yello…), wings, fake elf ears, tails, etc. Fruits seems to be more playful than Cosplay which in some instances has evolved into a kink and has inspired a creation of adult communities that indulge in Cosplay as more of a fetish and not necessarily a fashion statement.

A friend who lived in Japan told me once that the kids that visit Harajuku center usually don’t walk around anywhere else dressed in the Fruits fashion. They are very often typical Japanese teenagers with lots of homework, long school hours and chores that would make an American teenager throw a temper tantrum on dr.Phil. But like the American teenagers that do end up on dr.Phil, because they dress provocatively, sneak out mini skirts, make-up, piercings and high heels in their school bags and change into their ”real” persona once leaving home, the Japanese Fruits seem to have identical reason for their dress-up. They too fight for so-called freedom of expression and they too get a little relief from not being what their parents and the society expects them to be all the time.