Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar. These are the few names that tend to pop into my head when I think of fashion. Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, Hermes. A showcase of tall, lean models clothed in jewel embellished gowns, tailored to perfection, holding their heads up high as they stride down long, flashing runways.
For myself, I’ve have always grown up viewing fashion from a purely Western/European perspective. Having learnt about “what’s in trend” from reading reputable magazines as mentioned above, high-end has always played a forefront in my perception of fashion and style. Like Miranda Priestly in the Devil Wear’s Prada would say, fashion is an ever-growing industry – “one that represents millions of dollars and countless jobs“.
Now I’ve always considered myself to be a well-dressed individual. Minimal, polished, and as best put together as my student budget allows. But with every new item I acquire, I know that my style will inevitably change, as the fashion industry a constantly shifting thing. I’ve always admired the changing of styles in each era, the roaring 20s, groovy 70s, and even the grungy 90s, but no style has particularly caught my eye quite as much as the streetwear of the early 80s’ Harajuku fashion.
Now, I am aware Tokyo is very much a fashion capital as New York, Paris and Milan, however I’ve never stopped to truly think about what kinds of styles have emerged in the land of the rising sun. With such strong contrasts between rich, traditional clothing such as the kimono and the yukata, it’s hard to imagine that Harajuku street fashion could co-exist in the same city. So, what better way to steer my curiosity towards this style than to focus my independent research project on it.
For those who are unfamiliar with Harajuku street fashion, Harajuku simple refers to a district in Tokyo. Well known for its distinctive fashion scene, Harajuku is a place where Japanese youth often congregate to show off their bold, expressive streetwear. Unlike the clothing I’ve seen in mainstream magazines, and tv shows like, America’s Next Top Model, I’ve noticed Harajuku street fashion tends to go beyond the conventional. It aims to push the boundaries of societal norms and embrace a mix of traditional and urban/modern influences.
“The first craze was mixing traditional Japanese attire with western clothing. Harajuku fashion is a movement against strict societal rules and the pressure to fit the norm.” – Marasigan, C.
Looking back, I believe my first real encounter with Harajuku fashion occurred as early as the 2000s, thanks to pop star Gwen Stefani. Along with her Harajuku girls/backup dancer, she made it quite clear to the public that her style aimed push boundaries. She created a brand modeled off Harajuku street fashion: bold, bright and completely unconventional. To be honest, I didn’t really like it.
Initially, I thought Harajuku fashion was just another form of cosplay. People dressing up into characters just for fun. However, upon further inspection, I’ve come to realise that the style itself is an evolution of a culture, a lifestyle as it were. As Yuniya Kawamura states:
“It’s not just about a group of youngsters in distinct clothes. Their stylistic expression is a reflection of their values, norms, beliefs. The emergence of a subculture means that there is a community trying to send a social message to the public.”
Because of this, it’s become more apparent that it’s not just dress-up. People spend countless hours accumulating and curating specific items to contribute towards their own individual sense of style. Harajuku street fashion itself branches into a collection of sub-genres, all possessing their own unique system of styles and aesthetics.
Through this research project, I want to explore and understand the history and influences of this distinct street style. I want to uncover why is so important, both intrinsically and geographically, to the district of Harajuku and what inspires people to take on its certain attributes. To do this, I’ll be researching into and collecting items to help build my understanding towards these unique styles and try to immerse myself in the experience of a Harajuku girl.
To put it quite simply, I want to transform myself into a Harajuku girl.
As fashion is a highly visual thing, I’m hoping to produce a series of vlogs to document my transformation from an everyday uni student into a Harajuku girl. Within these videos, I am aiming to showcase the sources of my inspiration, talk about my understanding and opinions towards the different sub-cultures, and finally share the sources of where I find certain Harajuku inspired items (ebay, kmart, etsy, etc). Likewise I’ll be following Harajuku style icons (@KyaryPamyuPamyu, @kurebayashiii, @tokyofashion). Although I could have just blogged about the style itself, I felt it would be more fun to try and re-create this style in real-life, to further enhance both my understanding, and even appreciation towards this certain fashion.
Drawing on Ellis’ methodology of autoethnography, I want to eventually be able to use my personal experiences to help illustrate and communicate a new cultural experience, “and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders.”(Ellis et al, 2011)
Header image: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170920-the-outrageous-street-style-tribes-of-harajuku