Could it be? Is Harajuku becoming …. *whispers* uncool?
Since the 1970s the area has been THE epicenter of new trends and fashion icons in Japan and undoubtedly boasts the most unique shopping anywhere in the world today. Lolita, goth, decora, kawaii, hiphop, neo, otaku, vintage and schoolgirl, it is a veritable wonderland of subculture and chaos all blended into one scrumptious parfait. But then gentrification happened, and that parfait is melting into an unfashionable mess.
Calling it uncool is really unfair to the long history the area has endured, as well as my own affinity and memories attached to it. But what is even more unfair is letting it go and handing it off to the highest bidder. I`m talking about chain stores and fast fashion and shopping mall developers and rude tourists. Harajuku has survived both in part to foreign investment (aka tourist shopping and global chain stores) but is also becoming gentrified because of it.
What does a girl look like? There’s a stereotype of femininity I`m aware of since coming to Japan, so much so that there’s a word for it that doesn’t translate so well; “joshi-ryoku” (女子力). It’s softness, cleverness, youthful charm and subservience and it’s seen as something powerful and a boon to have. For our designer Akiko Aoki here, she grew up in strict girls-only catholic schools until her stint at Central St Martins abroad, and she found that she could only become the girl she was inside while discovering fashion outside of school. This has led her to her signature style of uniform-style clothes with bouts of subversive sexiness and chaos.
Yves Saint Laurent is a name synonymous with the height of decadent fashion, the kind that goes from clothing to a flourishing work of art in front of your eyes. In 2017, two museums dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent’s life work will open in Paris and Morocco (where he and his surviving partner Pierre Berge owned a vacation house), each displaying a different set of ravishing haute couture on rotation.
The Paris museum will be located at the Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent, where the original haute couture salon and Yves’ own studio had been located since 1974. While the museum is currently under construction, I was invited inside anyway, to get a private sneak peek at just a few pieces of the more than 5,000 haute couture works archived inside the salon. Take the tour with me, and be ready to see not only how dazzling the couture pieces themselves are, but get to understand the depth and dedication, the record-keeping, and scope of what it took (and still does) to become one of the most revered names in fashion in history.
What happens when we girls delve into the mind of a curious boy? This one’s brimming with books, art, pictures, taxidermy, masks, fashion, and graphics, all mixed up in a cacophony of creepiness. It’s an attempt to show exactly what it’s like to be inside the mind of a boy, in its glorious chaos, all set to the background of gloriously chaotic Kitakore in Koenji, Tokyo.
This spring, the fashion group known only as The Happening commandeered a few subway cars on the Ginza Line for a guerrilla runway show. I was called out to a show limited to only a few members of the media, and I found myself on the platform of an station underground. When a model appeared and stepped into the train, I followed her inside like a paparazzi or stalker.I trained my camera and shutter finger on her, snapping away as she posed and preened in the car, the usual propriety of Tokyo’s train passengers be damned. The models in their avantgarde garb then all gathered in a nondescript hallway somewhere deep inside Ginza Station, with a gaggle of photographers and muggles all gawking at the scene.
“I said to them, `Even if you won’t give us the OK, we’re gonna do it anyway`!” said Kyoko Fushimi after the show, a stylist and the brains behind The Happening. “In the end, they gave us their permission, and helped us out with logistics.”
And with this sort of determination to bend the rules, The Happening has been happening at random places all over Tokyo, showing off fashion-forward designs from the city’s best up and coming talent. So what do they have cooking this time? Well, it’s certainly a more inclusive way to enjoy their events…
In Japan, we know that trends come and go very quickly (historically, new ones came and went in the span of 3 months). It takes a little longer for the modern ones to cook, and now the “neo” trends mentioned in this article below are getting to the point of being well-done. Specifically, I want to call out “neo ikemen” which as we all know, is now called “genderless” fashion. And genderless is starting to take on a life of its own now. Where are we at, exactly? First, the genderless icon above, Usuke Devil, is all over the TV airwaves and has spawned dopplegangers such as Ryucheru (with 450k followers) and more and more “pretty boys” are popping up on Instagram all the time. And who would have thought that androgynous O-nee Genking would be like the Kim Kardashian of Japan by now?
Some people think that fashion exists in a vacuum, but sometimes…it really reflects a society at large and can offer insight into where it’s headed. So are we in for pretty boys and girls for the foreseeable future? Hey, there are worse things that could happen. Read the original “Neo Ikemen/Genderless” article below.
Subcultures have long been an integral part of the Japanese fashion scene, but they weren’t considered something to be *protected* and *proud of* until recently. The catalyst for this is three-fold
1. The internet globalization
2. The struggling Japanese economy
3. The advent of the “Cool Japan” initiative.
#3 was a major turn, when Japan started to realize that selling their unique fashion culture abroad could be lucrative, instead of keeping it caged inside of Japan. Right now the big trends in this new era are being given the prefix of “neo”. And they are taking off big time, in and outside of Japan. …some of these are even being created outside of Japan rather than inside! What are some of the “neo” subcultures in Japan right now, and what new “neo” subcultures might be born soon?
As a fashion professional, there is some disturbing data out there that cannot be ignored. In Japan, the peak year for the highest number of fashion students in here was in 1985. After that, the numbers just get worse and worse. While in 1985 there were at least 500,000 students studying fashion, in 2015 there were only 30% of those numbers at about 150,000. If numbers keep going in that direction, then in 20 years there will only be 5000 students studying fashion in Japan (1/10 of the peak period).
Why? Is it because it’s becoming harder and harder to be successful as a designer, or in any other position in the fashion industry? That simply isn’t true. So then what is it? In fact, other creative fields like beauty, hair, nails, film, graphics, and photography are all also “difficult” fields and yet their number of students are growing. So then… why exactly are students here abandoning the fashion industry?
“It’s been 12 years since a Japanese designer was seen on the haute couture runway”
And with that, Yuima Nakazato took his ouvre of costume design for the likes of Lady Gaga all the way to the top stage, as a guest member of this year’s Haute Couture collections in Paris. As we all know, to show a haute couture collection during this fashion week, one must be specifically invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture so being asked to a guest spot is a huge honor.
12 years ago it was Hanae Mori with her ball gowns and intricate decor for ladies looking to be glitzy. But Yuima brought his own shade of glitz, in the form of his signature holographic fabric, which turnt out that runway like a future fantastic Bjork in hyperspeed.