I’m no expert on Harajuku style and fashion- it’s a complex and constantly changing subculture in a country I’ve never visited. I do enjoy many of the styles that come out of Harajuku, and lately I’ve been learning more about some of the personalities that help create the kaleidoscope of pastels, fluffy dresses and eyelashes, killer stockings and crazy hair that makes Harajuku famous. Another non-sewing post! I’ll get back to being useful next week…
Harajuku is an pair of streets near the Harajuku train station. After the war, the area became something of an American quarter, with foreign shops and restaurants that catered to American servicemen. Young people from Tokyo also congregated there- young people love novelties.
These days, Harajuku is something like the Champs-Elysee in Paris: shopping, shopping, shopping at exclusive international retailers on the broad, tree-lined Omotesando. Another, narrower street runs parallel to this street- Takeshita Dori. It caters to younger and poorer tastes with cheap restaurants, independent retail shops, and second hand stores. I think I’d be more likely to wander Takeshita Dori than Omotesando! I suppose the thrift-shops would be fairly well-picked over, though. Can anyone tell me how the second hand shops are in Takeshita Dori?
Harajuku kids (mostly young women) meet on a bridge on Sundays. Since Harajuku has achieved a legendary, iconic status as a street fashion hub plenty of tourists and professional photographers also fill the space, snapping photos of the posing kids. Some of these photos go into blogs (like the ones I’m linking to) and some show up in Japanese fashion magazines.
Some of the very specific styles don’t excite me much. This girl is Ganguro. Her bleached blond hair and fake tan serves a dual purpose- to emulate the “California Girl” look and also to rebel against traditional ideals of Japanese beauty. That is, pale skin and dark hair. Around here, we call the fake bake and bleach look the “Tandoori Chicken.” (Or is it just me?) It’s a perfect caricature, isn’t it?
I found a pretty interesting sociology paper written about Harajuku and discovered that many of them bring suitcases to change into their outfits after they reach Harajuku, lest they stand out too much on the train. I love that, it seems so polite.
Some Harajuku kids grow up into fashion icons, designers, pop singers or retail store owners in this interesting shopping district. A few weeks ago I found Party Baby, a Japanese indie fashion label created by a girl named Kumamiki.
This utterly charming mini-micro-film about Kumamiki shows you the sweet, tenacious and hard-working lady underneath the fluff and candy-colored hair. I always enjoy watching a talented sewist at work, too. She talks about her time in fashion school- “I made friends with different fashion styles,” and talks about how she found her own style. Of course, I looked up Party Baby, but only a few of her items are available online at Electric Alice. Looks like I’ll just have to go visit her shop someday…
(Candy Candy by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu- Love song to candy with evil onion overlord…)
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is another Harajuku celebrity. She started as a blogger, and then last year made the video Pon Pon Pon which has been viewed by over 30 million people on YouTube. It’s a bit weird, but also funny and catchy and cheeky, yet inoffensive.
I mean, she farts rainbows… She’s released several other videos since then. I really enjoy them and so does Lila- perfect “get ready for the day” music. It’s rare for me to find pop music I don’t mind Lila listening to (and don’t get me started on the videos…) but this is light-hearted and whimsical and sets our toes tapping.
She tends to make funny faces in many of her photos…
…and chooses some very surreal hairstyles…
and accessories. I like that about her. She doesn’t trade on “pretty” alone, but also injects her work with a strong dose of humor. It’s light hearted, and she doesn’t sexualize herself to advance her career as so many other pop stars have before her. The Japan Times said
For now, however, it is perhaps simply enough to know that in a pop world seemingly engaged in an arms race to concoct the ultimate formulaic female idol, a figure as sharp-witted and monstrously silly as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu can exist when we need her.
Aside from the occasional costume party, I haven’t played much with Harajuku fashion in my own wardrobe. I like to look at it, and if I had the chance I’d break the bank buying up bits and pieces up and down Takeshita Dori, but I don’t dress this way myself. I suppose I find more inspiring the spirit of the place, and it makes me happy to know that this little pocket exists somewhere on our tiny spinning planet.
Like I said, I don’t know much about Harajuku fashion, so do chime in with links to your favorite Japanese street fashion blogs or your own experiences. I’d love to hear about it.
Do you like Harajuku? How about those “Ganguro”?
Next time we’ll stay in Japan, but take a look at what’s going on in the sewing/crafting scene. If you have any great links or recommendations, do email me!