Following on from my last blog post, I can happily announce that progress towards my Harajuku street fashion project is well underway. How well underway you may ask? Let’s just say that I’ve had very little trouble stumbling down the rabbit hole of this certain fashion scene.
At the start of this project, my initial plan of attack was to identify what Harajuku street fashion was. Among countless Google searches, YouTube binges, and even Pinterest boards, it eventually became apparent to me that Harajuku street fashion wasn’t just a single genre. Instead, I began to understand it as an umbrella term used to describe a range of subcultures that fit under fashion styles that have emerged in the district of Harajuku. Upon arriving at this, I began to feel a little hesitant towards my subject and even questioned my ability to proceed with this project. What is a subculture? Why are there so many of them? Do I have to research them all?!
Unlike many like myself who are quite content to throw on a t-shirt and jeans, Harajuku street fashion consists of layers. Not just physical layers, but conceptual layers. While researching this topic, I really didn’t consider Harajuku street fashion as more than just a trend. Upon further inspection, however, I’ve since started to interpret it more so as a form of art, as it often requires careful consideration and curation. From the choices that go into an individual’s clothing to their accessories, hair, make-up and everything in between, it became obvious that Harajuku street fashion didn’t just fit into one concise definition.
As a university student living in the west, I have often considered fashion as a form of expression. Something that lives through trends and is explored purely for aesthetic purposes. Contrastingly, Harajuku fashion serves a much deeper purpose. To represent a sense of identity or even to express certain statements that are both socially and politically charged. They are sometimes even aimed to challenge the conventional and conformist ways of the Japanese lifestyle.
“Rather than being treated as some strange, exotic enclave, the radical fashion of Harajuku is used for thinking about wider ideas relating to the possibilities (and limitations) of resistance through dressing.” (Groom,2011)
More interestingly, after watching short documentaries from the fashion and lifestyle YouTube channel, Refinery29, I began to understand the connotations and tags attributed to certain subcultures. I think what really struck me about these unique subcultures was the fact that they were able to emerge in such a conformist society like Japan. As Chang notes, ‘Japan is known as a conservative country especially for women. Most offices follow a strict dress code for the office environment and often requires their employees to wear uniforms”.
Despite it’s polarity to traditional culture and western culture, I couldn’t help but find elements of certain subcultures quite familiar and relatable. I felt if there was anything I could relate this to, is perhaps its similarity to the grunge era in the 1990s, as fashion became a movement aimed to challenge societal norms and to project resistance.
Through autoethnographic research, I am hoping to draw on Ellis’ suggestion to “deepened my capacity to empathize with my subject”, as a way to understand just how and why certain cultures differ from my own (2011).
Although there are many avenues to explore in Harajuku street fashion, I thought that the best way to tackle my project was to primarily focus on a few particular subcultures. I decided this as a way to both alleviate the amount of research I’ll be doing, without compromising the quality. Of the subcultures, I decided to focus on include: Yami kawaii, fairy kei and decora.
As to why I chose these particular subcultures was purely based on the fact that they immediately caught my eye. I found their childish aesthetic quite amusing, especially as those who wear this particular style range from teenagers to adults. Another reason is that I don’t often encounter fashion choices like this in my real day-to-day life, so I thought embracing something new would be quite invigorating.
In regards to how I am hoping to present my project, is that I will aim to produce an 8-minute vlog. I’ll be dividing this into three major chapters: first, my initial investigation and research (where my inspiration will stem from), second, the process of collecting harajuku fashion items, whether it be through physical retailers or online stores, and finally the transformation process (hair, make-up, and dress).
Why I chose the medium of the vlog is simply because I wanted to be able to narrate my own experiences in a thoughtful and visual way. I wanted to carry out my experience physically and verbally as told through elements of video and audio. As Ellis (2011) suggests, through autoethnographic practices such as this, narrating my personal experiences will allow me to provide rich insight into a phenomenon distinctly different from my own.
Once finished, I thought that the best way to bring my work together is to embed the video in a blog post. This will allow me to add further context to my subject. Pace (2012), considers reflexivity to be a strong element in understanding other cultures and states: “Autoethnographers reflexively explore their personal experiences and their interactions with others as a way of achieving wider cultural, political or social understanding”. Because of this, I am also hoping to include a brief reflection of my project to help consolidate my thoughts and understandings of Harajuku fashion.
Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. [online] Qualitative-research.net. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 9 Sep. 2018].
Groom, A. (2011). Power Play and Performance in Harajuku. [online] http://newvoices.org.au/newvoices/media/JPF-New-Voices-Vol-4-09-harajuku_groom.pdf [Accessed 9 Sep. 2018]
Pace, S. (2012). Using grounded theory analytic strategies in autoethnography. Writing the self into research, pp.1-15.
Header image: http://creativeindaba.com/blog/2017/08/16/harajuku-street-fashion/