Japan began to emulate Western fashion during the middle of the 19th century. By the beginning of the 21st century, this emulation has formed street fashion, a fashion style in which 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. They wear clown masks to demonstrate their affection toward strawberries.
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 extreme and avant-garde, similar to the haute couture seen 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.
In 2003 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 tanned skin. 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.
Modern Japanese street fashion
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Though the styles have changed over the years, street fashion is still prominent in Japan today. Young adults can often be found wearing subculture attire in large urban fashion districts such as Harajuku, Ginza, Odaiba, Shinjuku and Shibuya.
Containing many different themes within its boundaries, Lolita has become one of the larger, more recognizable styles in Japanese street fashion. Now gaining interest worldwide, Lolita is seen as one of the many different styles that brings the "cute" in Japan. The more well-known styles within Lolita fashion are as follows:
- Gothic Lolita - is Lolita with a heavy influence from the Eastern and Victorian Goth style. Often characterized by dark colors, crosses, bats and spiders, as well as other popular gothic 'icons'. Victorian iron gates and architectural designs are also often seen in dress prints. Skirts are usually worn knee length with petticoats beneath for volume. Blouses or shirts are lace-trimmed or ruffled in the Victorian style. Knee length socks with boots, bonnets, brooches, and a parasol finish out this style of Lolita.
- Sweet Lolita - is the most childlike style, mostly characterized by baby animals, fairy tale themes and innocent, childlike attire. It is inspired by baby dolls and Hello Kitty is popular among the SweetLolis. Pastel colors are used, as well as other muted colors like black and dark reds and blues. Large headbows, cute purses, elegant parasols and stuffed animals are popular accessories for Sweet Lolita.
- Punk Lolita - An experimental style, mixing the influences of Punk with Lolita. It can sometimes look deconstructed or crazy, while keeping most of the 'Lolita silhouette'.
- Classic Lolita is very traditional. It is very mature, and business-like and focuses on light colors such as, blue, green, and red.
- Kodona, a.k.a. 'boystyle' and 'ouji', is a more masculine version of lolita, influenced by Victorian boys' clothing. 'Prince pants', which are short capri-style pants that are cut off the knee, usually with some sort of detail (such as lace-edged cuffs) are commonly worn with masculine blouses, top hats, knee socks etc.
Gyaru, which is sometimes known as ganguro, which is actually a subcategory of gyaru, is a type of Japanese street fashion that originated in the 1970s. The original ganguro look is no longer popular in Japan. Gyaru is a huge uproar of girly-glam style, breaking all the rules of "what is pretty", and dwelling on man-made beauty (wigs, fake lashes, fake nails etc.). Gyaru is also heavily inspired by Western fashion. Contrary to stereotypes, not all gyarus dress in a sexually provocative manner. The gyaru look is varied and is not limited to blonde hair and tanned skin.
The ganguro style of Japanese street fashion became popular among Japanese girls in the early 1990s and peaked in the early 2000s. Ganguro falls into the larger subculture of gyaru. Ganguro typically includes brightly colored outfits, mini-skirts, and tie-dyed sarongs. The ganguro style consists of bleached hair, a deep tan, fake eyelashes, black and white eyeliner, bracelets, earrings, rings, necklaces and platform shoes.
The kogal (kogyaru) look is based on a high school uniform, but with a shorter skirt, loose socks, and often dyed hair and a scarf as well. The girls sometimes call themselves gyaru (gals). This style was prominent in the 1990s, but has since declined.
While bÅsÅzoku fashion has not been popular since the 1990s, the stereotypical bÅsÅzoku look is often portrayed, and even caricatured, in many forms of Japanese media such as anime, manga and films. The typical bÅsÅzoku member is often depicted in a uniform consisting of a jumpsuit like those worn by manual laborers or a tokko-fuku (ç¹æ"»æ), a type of military issued over-coat with kanji slogans. These are usually worn open, with no shirt underneath, showing off bandaged torsos and matching baggy pants tucked inside tall boots.
The Decora style originated in the late 1990s/early 2000s and rose to great popularity both in and outside Japan. The clothes are usually in black, dark pink or baby pink, but other neon colors were also acceptable (pastels could be found rarely). A plain shirt and hoodie was often worn with short tutu-like skirts in the same color-way. The hair (often worn in low ponytails with long bangs) and make-up itself tends to be quite plain. However, the most significant part of decora is to pile on many layers of cute accessories until the bangs and shirt are barely visible. Stockings, legwarmers, armwarmers, and knee socks are also worn atop each other in different layers. Common details also include leopard prints and patterned dental masks. The style was eventually merged/replaced in the late 2000s by fairy kei and OTT (over-the-top) lolita in Japan, though it is still a relatively popular style overseas.
Shironuri literally means 'painted in white'. It is so called because people who dress in the shironuri style wear white makeup. This is the only rule of shironuri, although traditional Japanese fashion elements (kimonos, hakama, etc.) are common, as well as elements of gothic lolita style. Minori is a well-known shironuri artist who has been interviewed by Tokyofashion.com.
Visual kei is a style created in the mid-1980s by Japanese musicians consisting of striking makeup, unusual hair styles and flamboyant costumes, similar to Western glam rock and glam metal. Androgyny is also a popular aspect of the style. Some of the more well-known and influential artists of the style include X Japan, Luna Sea, Versailles, The Gazette, Mejibray, Royz, L'Arc en Ciel, Antic Cafe, Malice Mizer and Diaura.
Oshare kei is the happy-go-lucky version of Visual kei and is seen as the most fashionable and cutting edge of the styles. The style focuses a lot on mixing different patterns, bright colors and punk elements to create a unique look. Unlike Visual kei, the make-up is toned down a bit and focuses more on the eyes alone. Facial piercings are also common. Just like Visual kei, Oshare kei has been largely influenced by musical artists. Some of those include An Cafe, Panic Channel, Ichigo69, Lolita23q, SuG, LM.C and Aicle.
Angura kei is the darkest visual kei style. The clothes of the style tend to be mostly black, but with spikes and chains. Make-up is worn dark and heavy. The style has been compared to the modern goth. Like the other two styles mentioned, Angura kei is heavily influenced by underground music with the same name. Some of the most well-known ones include MUCC, Floppy, Guniw Tools, Metronome and Nookicky.
Cult party kei
Cult party kei, named after the Harajuku shop Cult Party (now known as the Virgin Mary), is a relatively new coined style that is based on Western religious artifacts like crosses or bibles. Common aspects include crosses wired in yarn, layers of fabric in soft colors, lots of cream lace, satin bows and bible prints. The make-up and hairstyle is not as over the top as other styles. In fact, Cult party kei is often worn with natural looking make-up without any larger emphasis on the eyes and simple hair-dos with roses. Cult party kei is considered by some to be a subset of dolly kei.
Dolly kei is a newly emerging style based on Japan's view of the Middle Ages and European fairy tales, especially the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. It includes a lot of vintage-style clothing and sometimes has religious symbols. Grimoire is a store in Japan that has been described as 'the pioneering store behind the Dolly-kei fashion scene'.
A more sweet lolita, decora blend, with a hint of 80's. It uses mostly bright pastel colors (like lavender, baby blue, light pink, mint green, pale yellow, etc.), and elements and accessories from Western toy lines of the 1980s and early 1990s, such as My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, Popples, Jem and the Holograms, Barbie, Wuzzles and Care Bears. Wigs are often used and are often decorated with large bows, star clips and other hair accessories. Fairy kei originated from Sauri Tabuchi, the eminent Tokyo fashion figure's store Spank!
Mori (which means forest) fashion uses soft, loosely fitting layers of garments such as floaty dresses and cardigans. It places an emphasis on natural fabrics (cotton, linen, wool) and hand-made or vintage accessories with a nature theme. The color scheme tends to be light and neutral, but patterns such as gingham and florals may also be used. In terms of hairstyles, bangs (often curled) and braids are very popular. Mori girls dress up like a girl walk out from the forest.
It is similar to dolly kei in that the aim is to create a doll-like appearance, but in a more casual, earthy manner.
Fashion industry and popular brands
Although Japanese street fashion is known for its mix-match of different styles and genres, and there is no single sought-after brand that can consistently appeal to all fashion groups, the huge demand created by the fashion-conscious population is fed and supported by Japan's vibrant fashion industry. Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawakubo of the Comme des GarÃ§ons are often said to be the three cornerstone brands of Japanese fashion. Together they were particularly recognized as a Japanese fashion force in the early 80s for their intensive use of monochrome color and cutting-edge design.
As early as the 1950s, there were a few brands specially catered to street fashion, like Onitsuka Tiger (now known as the ASICS), but arguably it wasn't until the early 1990s that the industry saw a blooming emergence of street fashion brands. The most popular ones include: A Bathing Ape, Comme des GarÃ§ons, Evisu, Head Porter, OriginalFake, Uniqlo, Visvim, W)TAPs, and XLarge. Street Fashion brands frequently feature collaborations with popular artists and designers and use limited edition as a selling strategy. There are also brands that target specific fashion groups. For example, Angelic Pretty is for Lolita style and Sex Pot Revenge for Punk style.
Japan is also known for its significant consumption of foreign luxury brands. According to data from 2006, Japan consumed 41 percent of the entire world's luxury goods. The blue line of Burberry is among the most successful in this arena.
The immediate influence of Japanese street fashion is said to be China, Korea and Taiwan. Geographical and cultural affinities are said to be among the most important factors. The similar body shape and figure also made Japanese style an easier sought-after than that of European or American. However, the influence is not direct emulation. See Chinese clothing, Korea Museum of Modern Costume and Shiatzy Chen.
Japanese street fashion is also said to influence the West Coast of the United States. High-end fashion brands like Comme des GarÃ§ons have played a big role in the global industry since the 80s, especially through frequent cross-over guest design with other brands. In 2008, Rei Kawakubo designed for Louis Vuitton and H&M.
Tomoko Yamanaka's work was featured at London Fashion Week, 2010.
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 pursuit of fashion. These factors result in swift turnover and variability in styles popular at any one time.
- Japanese Fashion Brands
- The Japanese Fashion Experience
- www.harajukustyle.net Tokyo street fashion, information and photos.
- Japanese Fashion Website