This is part two of the three part history series. Yesterday we talked about the main branch, Japanese Street Fashion, today we are talking about Harajuku Fashion Lolita Fashion.
Harajuku is the common name for the area around Harajuku Station
on the Yamanote Line in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, Japan. Every Sunday,
young people dressed in a variety of styles including gothic lolita, visual kei,
and decora, as well as cosplayers spend the day in Harajuku socializing.
The fashion styles of these youths rarely conform to one particular style and are usually
a mesh of many. Most young people gather on Jingu Bridge, which is a pedestrian bridge that
connects Harajuku to the neighboring Meiji Shrine area.
Harajuku is also a fashion capital of the world, renowned for its
unique street fashion. Harajuku street style is promoted in
Japanese and international publications such as Kera, Tune,
Gothic & Lolita Bible and Fruits. Many prominent designers and
fashion ideas have sprung from Harajuku and incorporated themselves
into other fashions throughout the world. Harajuku is also a large
shopping district that includes international brands, its own brands,
and shops selling clothes young people can afford.
Harajuku is an area between Shinjuku and Shibuya. Local landmarks include
the headquarters of NHK, Meiji Shrine, and Yoyogi Park. The area has two main shopping
streets, Omotesandō and Takeshita Street (Takeshita-dōri). The latter caters to youth fashions
and has many small stores selling Gothic Lolita, visual kei, rockabilly, hip-hop, and
punk outfits,in addition to fast food outlets and so forth. Omotesandō has recently seen
a rise in openings of up-scale fashion shops such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Prada. The
avenue is sometimes referred to as “Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées”. Until 2004, one side of the
avenue was occupied by the Dōjunkai Aoyama apāto, Bauhaus-inspired apartments built in
1927 after the 1923 Kantō earthquake. In 2006 the buildings were controversially
destroyed by Mori Building and replaced with the “Omotesando Hills” shopping mall,
designed by Tadao Ando. The area known as “Ura-Hara”, back streets of Harajuku,
is a center of Japanese fashion for younger people—brands such as A Bathing Ape
and Undercover have shops in the area.
Harajuku as it is now traces its roots to the end of World War II during
the Allied occupation of Japan. U.S. soldiers and government civilians and
their families lived in a nearby housing area called Washington Heights.
It became an area where curious young people flocked to experience a different
culture and stores in the area stocked goods marketed towards middle and
upper class Japanese and Americans. In 1958, Central Apartments were built
in the area and were quickly occupied by fashion designers, models,
and photographers. In 1964, when the Summer Olympics came to
Tokyo the Harajuku area was further developed, and the idea of “Harajuku”
slowly began to take a more concrete shape. After the Olympics the young
people who hung out in the area, frequently referred to as the Harajuku-zoku,
or the Harajuku tribe, began to develop a distinct culture and style unique to
different groups and the area. From this distinct style grew the culture of
Harajuku as a gathering ground for youths and as a fashion mecca.
The term “Harajuku Girls” has been used by English-language media to describe
teenagers dressed in any fashion style who are in the area of Harajuku.
This fashion infuses multiple looks and styles to create a unique form of dress.
The cyber-punk look takes its influence from gothic fashion and incorporates
neon and metallic colors. However, it isn’t as popular as it was in the 1990s.
Punk style in Harajuku is more of a fashion than a statement. Its fashion mainly
consists of dark colors, plaid, chains, and zippers. Punk style is also one of the
more gender-neutral fashions in Harajuku. Ganguro is a style that symbolizes the
average American teenager. The term translates to ‘black-faced’.
The basic look is what Westerners would call a ‘California girl’,
with bleached hair, dark skin, fake eyelashes and nails. It is not
clear how Ganguro came to be. Many assume it originated in
the early 1990s, when singer and performer Janet Jackson was popular.
Cosplay is more of a costume-based style. A cosplay enthusiast
will usually dress as a fictional or iconic character from a band, game,
movie, anime, or manga. Ura-Hara is another section of Harajuku,
which caters to a mostly male population interested in a hip-hop,
graffiti, and skater fashion and culture. Ura-Hara is seen as the
opposite of Harajuku in that it’s more hidden and reserved.
In addition to Harajuku is its counterpart, known as
Visual Kei. this refers to the style of bands and their fanbase.
The term Visual Kei literally means a ‘visual style of music’.
The melodies of the music these bands perform often resemble
eighties rock, heavy metal, or techno; in some cases, the sound is a
good mix of the three. The fashion began in the 1980s, when American
metal bands were popular. Japanese fans loved how their idols would
dress frantically and paint makeup wildly on their faces, so they began
to emulate their style. This mimicking is also known is costume play, or cosplay.
Some countries have embraced this culture and arrange meetings under the
same fashion as their Japanese counterpart. For example, in Colombia they are frequently
held at the surrounding area of the Virgilio Barco Library in Bogotá.
This is going to be a three part history series for the next few days in which I will go over the main branch, Japanese Street Fashion, then move onto Harajuku Fashion & then onto Lolita Fashion.
Japan began to emulate Western fashion during the middle of the
19th century. By the beginning of the 21st century it had altered into
what is known today as ‘street fashion’. The term ‘street fashion’ is
used to describe fashion where the wearer customizes outfits by
adopting a mixture of current and traditional trends. Such clothes
are generally home-made with the use of material purchased at stores.
At present there are many styles of dress in Japan, created from
a mix of both local and foreign labels. Some of these styles are
on European catwalks.
The rise and fall of many of these trends has been chronicled by Shoichi
Aoki since 1997 in the fashion magazine FRUiTS, which is a notable magazine for
the promotion of street fashion in Japan. More recently, Japanese hip-hop,
which has long been present among underground Tokyo’s club scene, has influenced
the mainstream fashion industry. The popularity of the music is so influential that Tokyo’s
youth are imitating their favorite hip hop stars from the way they dress with over-sized
clothes to darkening their skin with ultraviolet rays, usually done by tanning.
Many Japanese youth believe that tanning or being darker is a freedom of expression they
are unable to experience in their circumscribed social role as ‘Japanese’. The idea
of darkening one’s skin to more closely resemble an American hip-hop star or
ethnic group may seem like a fad, but this subculture, the black facers,
do not particularly set themselves apart from many other
sub cultures that have emerged as a result of hip hop.
The motives driving the pursuit of fashion in Japan are complex.
Firstly, the relatively large disposable income available to Japanese
youth is significant. Many argue this was made possible through youth
living at home with their parents, reducing living expenses. In addition,
the emergence of a strong youth culture in the 1960s and 1970s that
continues today (especially in the Harajuku district) drives much of
the striving for new and different looks. The rise of consumerism to an
important part of the “national character” of Japan during the economic
boom of the 1980s and even after the bubble burst also contributes
to the feverish pursuit of fashion. These factors result in the
incredibly swift turnover and variability in styles
popular at any one time.
Japanese Street Fashion:
If you like this post, then come back tomorrow for Part 2: Harajuku Fashion.
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Thanks for coming.