There are several great thought questions about perception. i.e. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” “If there is no one to observe it, does the moon exist?”And my favorite, “Is a blogger who doesn’t blog still a blogger?”
I have been trying to get to writing this article for what seems like a lifetime in the digital era. A few days turned into weeks and weeks into months. Of course, I will make many excuses for the absence, because truthfully, there were many; an evolution of career, a reevaluation of lifestyle and health, changes in the fashion industry as well as changes in what it means to be a blogger.
Ask any fashion industry professional or even just a fashion fan and everyone will tell you that fashion is really in a strange place right now; the seasons are all over the place, the designers are all over the place, trends and copycats are all over the place, and consumers are burnt out and frustrated. Young designers are in a state of perpetual stagnation. Prices for designer and luxury fashion keeps skyrocketing. Even people who have some money to spend can’t get the things they want.
As both a fashion professional and fashion obsessee myself, I find I am often disappointed or even annoyed at the industry’s inability to fix itself. But there are a few things that I have noticed and that I have been mulling over, and I suppose now is a better time than never to put it out into the universe. Perhaps the universe will throw a bone back.
I`ve been thinking about three points in particular:
The state of design
The state of consumers and prices
The state of distribution
Being in Japan, I can pretty much only speak for Tokyo, but it’s not all specific to this region. Especially this first point that I want to discuss: the state of design.
Berlin Alternative Fashion Week (BAFW) は私の経験上、世界一エキゾチックで、奇想天外で、ワイルドで、カラフルで、開放的で、クレイジーで、クリエイティブなファッションイベントのひとつ。そしてスクロールした先に並ぶ写真をみたら、みなさんの私と同じことを感じるのではないかと思う。
We all know that fashion trends come from both the high-fashion runways as well as the streets. But the street aspect is gaining more ground against the establishment, and it is becoming more daring, cultured and respected. So doesn’t it make sense to have a fashion week that features some of the most unique street-wear brands from around the world? It’s called an “Alternative” fashion week, and it was born in the best city to represent street fashion: Berlin.
Berlin Alternative Fashion Week (BAFW) is one of the most exotic, surprising, wild, weird, colorful, inclusive and creative fashion events I have ever seen in my life. And after you see the photos from the event, you might feel the same way too.
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.
During Tokyo Fashion Week in Oct., I couldn’t help but noticing; many of the fashion girls around me had tossed the pastel or blonde hair styles for one: the little black bob. To name a few names, Mademoiselle Yulia, Matsuyou, and of course there’s always been Mappy and Erika Gold. It’s part of a growing trend of girls in Japan who are going back to their roots, and making “wa” or modern “yamato nadeshiko” one of the coolest styles around.
Yamato-Nadeshiko is a very outdated term, but means “ideal Japanese woman”…usually very natural looking, demure, humble, good at cooking and homemaking etc. But it’s not about being demure or quiet, because this very “Japanese” style is all about being strong, cool and unique. It’s the modern yamato-nadeshiko, and it’s one of the best trends I’ve seen in Japan in the last decade.
Just the other evening, I was walking home through the busy Shibuya neighborhood. I was in a chic but casual navy blue dress, black tuxedo vest and heels, and pastel pink handbag. It was definitely erring on the side of “fashion”-y, but nothing avantgarde or gothic. Still, this dark ensemble was worn much to the chagrin of some random Japanese dude on the street. He couldn’t help but make sure I knew how annoyed he was with my outfit.
“Excuse me, but…. What’s up with those clothes? Did you come from a funeral or something?”
There comes a point where trends become so heated that they boil over into a frenzy of incoherent parts. The streets in Tokyo have been like an open air discotheque, from the awe-inspiring costumes of decora or Shironuri, down to casual POP looks of Yume Kawaii. It is the era of “anything goes”. Editor in chief of FRUiTS Shoichi Aoki even told me that it has become so disjointed that he suspects something big should happen soon. “It was like this right before Harajuku style appeared too, in the 90s.”
I have had my own heyday in colorful Harajuku street style, and it was some of the most fun I have ever had experimenting with “anything goes” fashion styling in my entire life. Street fashion has become like a 96-color box of crayons, with every shade represented. But no color in particular stands out among all the others.
My breath becomes shallow. My eyes are swollen and damp, as if I have been crying. I`m constantly sniffling, but I do not have a cold. My fingertips are turning to raisins. Any shoe that is not a beach sandal gives me blisters. And the sweat ruins all of my clothes. Makeup lasts 5 minutes, tops. The air smells of sauna, but only with the putrid tinge of chlorine with none of the aroma oils. This must be hell.
There comes a point every year in Tokyo, a time when all of its people’s wills are tested. The weak do not survive. This is called “summer”. And no thanks to the proven “heat island” effect, it’s getting hotter each year. In fact, it may get so hot soon, that fashion as we know it will become impossible to consider from July to September. Will Japan devastatingly become like our Southeastern Asian countries and lose it’s 4-season climate to become a year-long subtropical one? (…no offense) Oh, that future may be closer than you think…
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?