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Elaborate clothing, including the exaggerated beauty of a geisha dress and the complexity of the samurai armour has a long history in Japan. Pattern, colour and layers of garments were used to indicate wealth and social status. The average perception of Japanese people towards its fashion was traditional kimono culture which was avant-garde and an unconventional medium which propped up later, made an immediate reaction of being adventurous, bright and colourful. The whole point of this fashion evolution was that they thought that the western modes of dressing were too drab and limited for their tastes.
When you look at JAPAN from the outside it seems that every segment of it is organized an each and every sector has its own clean and crisp variations. The people of this country believe in the art of presenting each and every thing on their palette. They are people who want a huge variety in the layout they are exposed to and there is a uniformity and neatness to everything they do. They have a very strong and important fashion history not known to many of us. To me, Japan was made imaginable through designers like Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto and Kenzo. These were the designers we saw from the outer lens of the globe and gave us the insights of how the Japanese people thought. All these designers have created an image about Japan in the minds of the entire world. Japanese fashion has been highly praised for its aptitude to challenge fashion conventions and embrace technology to a point that takes them ahead. They succeeded in creating an image of Japan as being edgy, classy and technical in terms of fashion. It was the impact of Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto's collaborative hard work in the catwalk shows during the early 1980s that really created a powerful consciousness of Japanese fashion in the world. Kawakubo and Yamamoto's garments were characterised by an epitome of intentional flaws, a monochrome palette, exaggerated proportions, drapes, asymmetrical and androgynous styling.
The power dressing as well as the fantastical gowns that were created by these designers were nowhere in comparison with the shabby looks of the models. The models looked plainer and just became a medium for showcasing clothes rather than being known for their beautiful faces. This formed a whole new perception of Japan in the eyes of the world which these two designers had been aiming for. The art of Wabi- Sabi, which is defined as beauty in imperfection and the traditional kimonos played a very significant role in their creations.. Initially the response to these Japanese designs was hostile and derisory but within a few years the new aesthetic came to have a major influence on mainstream fashion.
The new generation designers include Junya Watanabe, Jun Takahashi, Kosuke Tsumura and Hiroaki Ohya who used technically advanced fabrics, craftsmanship and great skills of innovation. The use of pleats, layering of garments, using eclectic colours and forms of patterns were the key factors that these new generation designers gained popularity for.
Japan is also known for its cultural presence and there are a lot of sub cultures residing within the country which have been a source of inspiration from the west but the depiction is totally Japanese by style. These famous cultures are yet to be touched by the rest of the world in a full form. There have been designers in the young generation who have tried to take the sub cultures on a global platform like the hello kitty and the over the top dressing but there is much more about the street to be unravelled. The earlier designers like the ones I mentioned above were just trying to bring out Japan to the world as Japan seemed to be unknown to most side of the west or rather I would just say that they were not taken seriously! It is wonderful to see the difference between the fashions of these renowned designers and the fashions growing at the street level. The designers were very much involved in creating a simple and structured image for the Japanese fashion. People perceived Japanese fashion in a way that these designers portrayed it to be. The country has moved fast in terms of fashion, technology and adaptations.
On one side when I perceive their lifestyle and fashion which run on the grounds of being simple, edgy, and classy and in a systematic way, there is yet another side of this same country which exists predominantly in their hearts- in their streets. There is a huge contrast in the fashion that exists in Japan which either makes you love their simplicity or their stark colour combinations or you either would love their over the top dressing or their cute fashion. Either of the one you like, you seem to fit in or I might just say that you are Japanese by heart!
Japan as every other country, has a lot of fashionable youth who brings out the essence of their streets in the clothing they adorn. Japanese youth adheres to the traditional looks which are made classic by their earlier generations but in a more of a contemporary version. The youth in Japan has been serious about what they wear and how they look. Each one has their own identity which accounts for a strong presence among peers. A very recent survey said that the Japanese youth have always been pressurized during their school and childhood day to study as passing in studies in Japan is a huge deal and it does not come easily to them. The youth therefore when they grow older they indulge themselves in being in a fantasy world of games and animation (as Japan is known for being a technology savvy country). The Manga anime is the most common and famous among the youth when it comes to gaming and their caricatures have a strong existence and influence in Japan. Even their dressing up in a certain manner is the result of their being under constant pressure during childhood and ultimately showcasing their freedom in their youth days.
The youth has a very powerful presence in the Japanese fashion world. They want to portray themselves as being powerful, wild and quirky with a different approach towards fashion. There is a section of youth in Japan who also believes in shopping for only branded products but the major part of the youth follow sub cultures like Lolita, gothic-Lolita, kawaaii fashion, manga anime, Harajuku fashion, Cosplay etc.
On Harajuku streets.
The Harajuku scene put Tokyo on the world's fashion map alongside London, Paris, New York and Milan. Harajuku Street is a one square mile long street that is like a heaven within the city of Tokyo. It has therefore become the epicentre of fashion and current styles for youth in the city.
There is a corner within the Harajuku street known as the Omotesando and Meji-dori corner, which practically offers a mesmerizing palette of silhouettes, colours, textures and labels. This street is crowded by aggressively stylized, aggressively accessorized and unapologetically restless youth who think that there is no other way to dress than like them.
On entering Harajuku Street zone would make one feel that you have entered in an outer space arena with different costumes all over the place. The street is believed to be a melting pot of the amalgamation of fashion, youth and shopping. The Japanese fashion magazines like cutie and fruits have widely reported of the Harajuku street fashion and constantly talks about the inherent culture that is ubiquitous on the street.
Harajuku Street has been a spot for domestic audience to come into contact with foreign culture and style but these days it's totally the opposite since the foreigners are highly getting influenced by the Harajuku fashion. There have been a lot of influences of foreign culture on Harajuku, like one of the major one being the i-D magazine. This magazine was a melange of club, culture, bands, DJ's and the reaction of people on the streets. It has been a huge inspiration to the Japanese magazine named cutie which rose to existence after the i-D magazine.
In the early 1960s the street of Harajuku was a site of the US military residencies and shops. But in the later half it acted as a ground for the Japanese youth who came there often with different fashion adornments. The youth who would come there had an urge to counterfeit something that was incredibly new. The first generation designers in Japan worked from scratch through which created a new business model which later be formed as a base for any new comer in the industry of fashion.
By the beginning of 80s which was an economic boom period, people started spending lavishly on consumer goods. This healthy consumer economy was needed to develop the designers and brands that were just starting or rather booming.
Though the Japanese culture holds a strong adherence to the tradition, Harajuku is exact opposite. Harajuku is known for youthful and energizing fashion which chases after the newest thing. It was inextricably linked with the youth culture. Harajuku street fashion had occurred during the booming years which evolved into a turning phase for the development of Japanese street fashion into something easily assimilated and replicated in the broader popular culture and robbing it off its edge.
The nature of the Harajuku street styles and the way in which the designs develop here have more to do with remixing and editing than setting down new tracks and it is more about further contributing to ephemeral aspect of the Harajuku street style. Each look is an amalgam of many other styles, strategies, incidents and whims.
The stores in the Harajuku streets are usually cluttered with imported baby doll t-shirts from Levis and not to forget the platform shoes that had created a great havoc on the streets of Japan on the grounds of fashion as well as medical forum. The Japanese teenagers have been avid shoppers and consumers of all the products and thus they flock around this area the most as they are the most important part of consumerism in Japan. Thousands of boys who follow regular and trendy fashions also flock around in this area, wearing slouchy hip hop clothes. The girls in the market are spotted wearing thrift store style dresses layered over blue jeans which would seem a little difficult for the rest of the world to wear but in Japan, there doesn't seem any right or wrong in fashion.
There is a famous store called the brand select recycle on this street which has a very narrow pathway to reach to it and sometimes it can just be missed out by the shoppers. It has designers under it with the names like the undercover, bathing ape, Gucci, Prada and Martin Maison Margiela under it. The stocks are kept in a crammed up way on the racks of a second hand clothing section with hand written tags which have prices that soar high. In Japan, though people are from an affluent background and are also willing to spend to spend their money on fashion, the prices tagged here would make them wonder whether the yen price shot up while they ascended the staircase to this store.
It is noted that the most of the products sold here are bought by the college or high school students. But the studies have also found that the students who have a lot of money would not simply become a slave or blinded by what is being offered at the label. They would choose their fashions wisely.
Japan has gone under a huge speculation in the markets and is yet experiencing the hangover of it at lower levels. But, despite that fact, the youth of Japan shops without a sign of back down from which no one could tell that the conditions in Japan were not that great. Fashionable youth who live with their parents do not have to pay rentals for their living and therefore with the saved money they would go out on the streets and splurge it on fashionable items. This happens because parents of these teenagers have been living under guilt after the economic bubble. They think that they have lost the rights on their children and in turn also their respect. Thus, they give into the demands and wants of their teenage children. In this case, fathers soothe their children with ample amount of gifts in both cash and kind. The streets of Harajuku or as a matter of fact any street fashion district in Tokyo is crowded by people only under the age of 30. It seems that the people above that age have dispensed off.
After the 1990s there were many multiple styles that have eventually been emerging. There were sub cultures like:
Harajuku fashion is an understanding of the street culture which lies in the Japanese relationship with the outside world. There is a total disconnect between what something is and what is supposed to mean. Like there would be lot of instances that their thinking does not come in comparison with the rest of the world. The instances are: punk can be cute, micro- minis are not sexy, ghoulish makeup is not a macabre, hip hop is a state of mind rather than an experience of culture. There is also a belief that they consider the extremeness and excessiveness of using piercing is a pure fashion and has nothing to do with tribal acceptance.
Japan is majorly divided into two when it comes to fashion.
Couture- it is more structured, superlative craftsmanship and use of exquisite material.
Street- involves pop- culture, t-shirts, denims and off the rack clothes with over the top dressing.
The street consists of limited edition shoes and t-shirts, tailor made sweatshirts and embroidered casual wear. The sales that happen in this street is hardly done with advertisements as the maximum sales happen through word of mouth.
The Harajuku fashion of 1990s was a movement not led by the designers but by the young people of the country who wore an extreme mix of traditional Japanese dress, handmade and second hand clothing and designer fashion. The diverse Japanese street fashion revolves around the unique and popular looks like WAMANO which is a mix of Japanese and western styles, CYBER which is a futuristic perception in a combination with bright colour plastic jewellery and COSPLAY which is referred to a generic type, for e.g. nurse or a waitress.
In the 90s the Harajuku street style emerged with extraordinary features with combinations of a traditional kimono dress with obi sashes and geta sandals. Harajuku was the birthplace of several crazes like takenoko-zoku, which means people dressed in bright coloured clothes who danced to recorded music on the side of the road and the rock and roller bands too, which originated from here.
There have been studies that have been conducted on the street of Harajuku which mainly focused on the relationship of innovation and convention, genuineness and pretense, originality and ersatz. There have been a lot of incidents where the followers of Harajuku street fashions have changed the meaning of the current passing trends just to find their own individuality in the process of doing so. There have been accounts of data where fashions come and circulate the market through the lower classes and this way the process of fashion imitation is overtly emphasized. More so it is a trickledown theory effect that happens with this street. On this street, when we focus on fashion, there is an observation that is made by the researchers that the sub-cultural styles not only exist in the market but now these styles route in multiple further directions which has therefore dropped the essence of the actual adaptations from the past. To suffice to what I said earlier, there is an example that says that in 1990s, the professionally styled editorials of the Japanese youth fashion cultures were formerly replaced by images of normal youth people who had their own distinctively designer and stylishly creative mind.
The relationship between individuality and conformity does not exist for the Japanese street markets as the rebellious forms of fashion and sub-cultures that Japan follows, like the Harajuku street fashion, do not face the predicament of authenticity. The reason behind this observation and predicament is that the Japanese fashion has self-consciously and retrospectively followed the western subcultures which have been changed here and there as per the choice and history of the Japanese cultures and traditions.
Kawaii is one fashion, where women despite being of any age want to highlight themselves as naÃ¯ve and vulnerable which gives them the liberty of ignoring their social responsibilities, which they are expected to fulfill. The extensive research on the uniforms in Japan helps us to observe this behavior and understand that women there aspire to look young and cute.
The art of deconstruction is what Japan is famously known for. There have been links that have posed to have some parallel competition between the traditional and contemporary fashions of Japan. The art of a dress and the art of dressing have drawn a comparison in itself as the phase of deconstruction plays an important role. The youth at the Harajuku Street have brought in question the meaning of dress in comparison to what the fashion system and society reportedly says. The highlight of their pretense is prevalent in a broader urge for unconcealed theatricality with the intention of it being traced in several areas of Japanese art and life. The aesthetic croon of irrationality is seen as overcoming of any pretence which is so natural in fashion.
Rather than being treated as some outlandish, exotic commune, the fundamental fashion of Harajuku is used for thinking about broader frame of ideas which often relate to the possibilities and limitations of confrontation through dressing. In the broadest sense the studies confirm with the longstanding curiosity about the primal human urge towards body prettification and the association between appearance and truth.
This study of Harajuku street fashion is the idea behind the clothing that has strictly a less utilitarian purpose than it is commonly attributed to it. Thomas Carlyle, a Professor said in his research that the very first utility of clothes was not about covering one's body with fabrics to show decency but it was the ornamentation which predominantly existed among the tribal people which also includes tattooing and painting of any form on the body. This behavior is very much found in sync with a certain supercilious feline groups in Japan.
There were tribes in Japan that occupied space in the areas of Yoyogi Park which performed dance moves and wore garishly shiny robes with plastic accessories like whistle, fake pearl necklaces. They created their own image by being in a vibrant sphere where they attracted a lot of audiences. They performed for the people surrounding that area and became a source of entertainment as they were under a perpetual scrutiny and pleasure of being watched.
Like the other Harajuku subcultures that followed after them, their playful interpretations of place and possessions fashioned into tactics of resistance, prevention and a break out. The extremism of the aesthetic play in Harajuku no longer plays the same role and intensity as it did in the hokoten years, but the area remains an exceptional situate of mutual spectacle where all are positioned under severe public surveillance, and the partition between performers and the spectators is therefore dissolved. Harajuku fashion does not stabilize with the idea of being taken from the historical past of Japan as it has no regard for its authenticity. The sub-culture that we talk about today, the existence of them has not happened in Japan originally. These sub-cultures have been adapted retrospectively with detailed attention on music, dress, dance moves and other stylish elements making an evident identity.
A lot of niche fashions cannot exist side by side but that does not happen with the fashions that create a hype of reality on the streets of Harajuku, where the up-to-the-minute youth rejoices the ostentation of their posed identities and who are devoid of denying that there is nothing more to them than that. For instance, in the near beginning of 2000s fashionable trend for surfer style saw an exponential utilization of dye, fake tan, faux hibiscus flowers and bright blue contact lenses along with rendered sketches of umpteen numbers of Japanese teen caricatures of Californian beach babes which was absolutely new. With this we can observe that there is absolutely no form of innovativeness or a flair for creativity used, but this process has introduced an element of metamorphosis. The Japanese purely believe in the philosophy that says:
"It is not possible to make a clear distinction between the authenticities of an aesthetic original and the authenticity of its copy, when the culture of the Zen arts is about reproduction and repetition as a valued cultural aesthetic".
The pioneering dressers in Harajuku aren't rejecting the already existing costumes available to them, but they have adopted, adapted and altered those fashions making them symbolically contemporary in nature so that they can match up to the trends that are going on in the present. Changing the meaning of a dress in the process of their dressing, Tokyo's street fashion innovators impudently but flawlessly manage to combine traditional Japanese garments such as kimonos, obi belts, kanzashi hair pins and geta sandals with modern avant-garde Japanese couture which gives a contemporary and retro Western fashion look. They often use absolutely new trends using handmade and re-assembled recycled fashion. Their hybrid varieties of images demonstrate the professed Japanese dexterousness which helps in amalgamating uniqueness and custom beliefs of both East and West, without giving up on an indispensable identity that they have created for themselves. The styles are too eclectic to be subjected under a category of a single subculture, but in totality the Harajuku fashion is best described as layered, which predominantly suggests that bodies and identities work on a parallel progress with each other.
Incessantly borrowing from Japan's affluent visual inheritance, the street fashion is as evolutionary as it is revolutionary. Putting the banal, beautiful and grotesque side by side, their radical self-presentation can be situated alongside the elaborate costuming that has existed for many centuries in Japan, like the geisha's extravagant, artificial beauty or the samurai's complex armor.
Harajuku as a fashion is less about what one wears and how they wear it, the individual usually rises above of what the designers are generating though their knowledge of styles. DIY or rather do it yourself is a phrase that is very common in Japan and thus it gives a new meaning to the dresser of Harajuku and this is often not seen as a pure innovation of styles but the amalgamation of various other styles to make it look like your own. At the Harajuku street the fashion percolates from the minor groups of high-school going kids, who reproduce their own individual dressing to commercial bodies. The dressers at the Harajuku Street are hurdled up in the systems of hyper consumerism in Japan.
The studies say that the relationship between a producer and the consumer is redefined in the street of Harajuku where most of the shops in this street were managed and owned by young artists and students who became entrepreneurs and started their own labels without any particular formal training in the field.
The technology of conventionality in Tokyo, the world's most inhabited conurbation, fosters the fantasy of insurgence in Harajuku fashion. The people in Japan want to look different only within certain parameters of social being and thus it can be confirmed that there is a society of dual existence in Japan where conventionality and individualism both play a significant role in the lives of the followers of fashion. The reason behind this existence is because there is a great prominence of groups and their identities in this country. The most popular criticism in Japan is how each new trend that pours down in the market is seen with the eye of censure. In many additional societies the impish peculiarity of Harajuku would be less dissident, and thus wouldn't have come to subsist at the same extreme. Because of the conventionality in the nature of a costume in Japan, the passion and the pleasure in being individualistic in dressing is heightened.
Fashion's greatest paradox is that it forms a statement of criticism as well as an expression of the desire for sameness. And this is what happens on the Harajuku Street where fashion shakes up the structure despite being challenged by the anti- fashion connotations. In disapproving their antagonism to fashion's dictums, subcultures need to be aware of the fashions that they have been avoiding, by always developing their own identifiable styles in the act of reversion which oft en makes them transform mass sanctioned fashions along their way. The Harajuku fashionistas are using their youthful approaches and greenness in the field of street fashion to their maximum advantage by building an entire new system which the world would eventually follow.
The subcultures have been a subject of change as they have been produced, packaged and delivered to the youth in the form of an identity. The progression of convalescence has been seen as presaging the distinguished demise of every periphery of culture by sanitizing, co modifying, and making the availability of their ideas as a stylish identity. But in Harajuku the process is different where the border line between genuine confrontation and commercial recuperation does not exist as their outrageous styles are habitually very commercially viable and successful. Journalists, designers, manufacturers, forecasters, retailers and pop stars from around the world keep a close eye on Harajuku to keep up with the trends and styles that affect them. While Western post-war subcultures, including the subcultures that were famously accepted amongst the youth had shunned materialism for adhering by the theory of individuality, the teenagers at the Harajuku street were highly unapologetic about the fact that they would not stop from the consumption of any kind as other cultures have.
Youth subcultures originated in Japan, like anywhere else, when generational responsiveness emerged in the minds of the young and their increase in spending on fashion was recognized by the industries in the market. Harajuku style is entangled with entrepreneurship and growth and therefore the teens have no delusions or pretensions of skirmishing capitalism. They are conscious of the fact that a lot of their deep-seated innovations will be recuperated into the mainstream, but since their style is more about dressing up, that arena is rather not being touched upon and is in a secure zone. The amalgamation of their innovations does not weaken their symbolic power of style because they believe in change for the sake of change. They play masquerade with the imagery of past subcultures that are already recuperated, and don't have an urgent fixation with the illusory dream of insurgence found in Western subcultures. Harajuku street style identity is never political or ideological, but simply innovative fashion that determines group affiliation. In similar contexts it has been described that there are no politics behind the Tokyo fashion movements such as the punk movement which came into practice only because it was a fashion and had nothing to do with being rebellious. The same case was for the boy style which had no connection with the rights for women. The normal answer that the girls would give if they were asked about the fashion they woe was because it looked cute. Today no one can say that the sub cultures of Japan had been taken from the west because the origin of it the west was done due to retaliation or a political phase but for the Japanese these points are considered and thus the fashions here have always functioned in a different manner. The major reason that the Japanese did not follow these fashions on the grounds of political influence was that open rebellions in Japan are highly discouraged and disrespected. The teenagers on the streets of Harajuku have an indirect and private resistance and it would be a mistake if they were dismissed as mindless slaves to consumerism as somehow they are open to moments of freedom despite their government not believing in them.
Clothes Wear Us
The identity of male and female is fore grounded in a way as they playfully dress-up in the culture of Harajuku. Valerie Steele writes, 'pity the poor man who wants to look attractive and well dressed, but who feels that by doing so he runs the risk of looking unmanly, but no such pity should be granted to men in Harajuku'. There is a blatant phenomenon that is common amongst men in Japan which would be cross dressing. The men who follow this transformation flock around the streets of Harajuku and shibuya with great amount of liberty and enthusiasm. They groom themselves very meticulously but dress up in an unusual manner with different haircuts and makeup. There have been magazines like FRUiTS and TUNE that cater to the fashions followed by the men who want to dress like women- the transvestites. This magazine caters to the male avant-garde fashion as well as street fashion in which they show men dressed in the trendiest clothes that a man could ever wear and this can happen only in the street of Harajuku.
The Japanese take their culture and fashion very seriously and therefore they believe in the art of performance which is evidently seen in the case of a geisha. They undergo an elaborate and extensive preparation before they appear or behave like geisha. Usually their faces are painted with a thick white paste and the space under the eyebrows is painted in white. The lips of a geisha are usually stained with deep red lipstick which is done in a way that the mouth looks smaller than it is.
Her hair is painstakingly arranged with a special oil so as to resemble a sculptural wig, and her every movement is deliberated and stylized. She is an unapologetically synthetic beauty, a masquerade of sensual femininity. In the words of James McCormick 'she is a costume that fits a woman rather than a woman who fits a costume'.
Many Forms of Uniform
The extremely skewed, personal and corporeal relations people have with fashion are also unavoidably acknowledged on this street. Another way to regard the interaction of individuality and conformity in dress is to subject your attention at the uniforms that are being worn by the teenagers of contemporary Japan, in particular the phenomena of being a fetish schoolgirl uniform. Kogals are an example that have been subjecting themselves to the pedophilic male gaze by wearing the school uniforms despite of the fact that they are no more in school, which also evades a certain configuration of supremacy by creating their own bubble of inclusion.
In Japan official uniforms were introduced as a part of its modernization policies and yet till today those uniforms exist with thoughtful salience. Experts have studied Japan and declared that Japan is a very uniform country with uniformity in its society. The society is uniform where everyone abides by their costumes according to the role they have to play in the society. In Japan the schools follow uniforms in a manner that some schools also dictate in the way the hair is tied, what kind of bags are used, socks and sometimes even the underwear is uniform amongst children. Children around the world use the uniform as a pedestal for building their own sense of identity. In the surveys of high-school students, it was found that the uniform can actually determine idiosyncratic expression where everyone was in the same clothes; the individuality of each person was made clearer and understandable. Uniforms make the wearer visible as a member of a group but offer a veil of anonymity since the body is obscured by the instantly recognizable formalized code.
While the uniform's figurative rudiments might point out a desire for control, inevitability, power, discipline, conventionality or standardization, the actuality is more nuanced. The 'informal codes' of the uniform appear frequently in subversive and licentious contexts. While designed to desexualize the body by restricting movement and concealing shape and flesh, they have long been appropriated in fetish cultures. It is not surprising then that the Japanese culture of official dress breeds a unique fetishism of the uniform, the most widespread example being the adult male perversion for the uniformed schoolgirl.
The Japanese sailor-style girls' school uniform is as iconic as the kimono - there are encyclopedias cataloguing all varieties that several companies produce miniature doll versions, and there's a thriving second-hand market for its collectors. The extent to which the Japanese schoolgirl mania goes up to is that the men want sexual satisfaction from schoolgirls who come from under a specialized agency. There were shops that sold things like the schoolgirl uniforms, underwear and under pants which could also be purchased from vending machines.
The uniform of a blue suit, white shirt and tie for the salary men around Tokyo Station has no intrinsic meaning but masquerades as natural and through its social use becomes invisible. A deconstructionist approach to dressing dismantles this invisibility.
Prejudice and Visibility
While in contemporary Japan all can have at their disposal a cosmic array of preference with regard to outward show, this autonomous idyllic means that everybody is weighed down with the strain of an ever-changing extravagant fashion culture that implies stringent observation and analysis of one's self. This everlasting, cataleptic sense of being visible is only superficially escaped by the subcultures of Harajuku, where the playful norms break into bodily presentation which is given a boost and thus made public. In the culture of Harajuku both pleasure and power are interlinked with each other and both worked on equal platforms in order to perform.
The centrifugal part of the Harajuku street is the photography of the changing cultures. The teenagers here are super excited and pose in the photographs taken by them and they would take photos of friends for hour's altogether. All these whereabouts are documented by magazine photographers who place their cameras on this street to captivate the ongoing fashion trends.
Their publications form a conversation rather than a monologue because they feature images of pedestrians in their own creations who control how they are represented and are given full credit in the publications. Sometimes the photographers alter the shape of reality which they document on the streets and create a distortion in their representation by excluding or including feature that they think are appropriate.
The Politics of Reuse
There are number of magazine publications in Japan that talk about the Kawaii fashion and encourage the approach of do it yourself theory which often leads to making handmade designs. This culture defines the mix matching of second hand clothing which also makes it a thrift fashion which is totally in contrast with the philosophy of the big brands who dictate many of the Japanese metropolitans. It is highly shocking as Japan is a country where almost 40 percent of luxury good around the world is consumed and on the other side it also has a market for thrift fashion which is acts as a doubt for Japan rising to power in terms of fashion.
On the street of OmotesandÅ on the Harajuku corner, the affordability of styles and eclecticism of thoughts is stimulating. Here as I discussed above, the advertisements are done by word-of-mouth while there are other shops that are often unmarked and short-lived, and there is a modest promotional activity done as their budgets do not rise above a certain level. The shoppers there state a triumph in dressing up and children as they are in nature show a spontaneous and unrestrained behavior in their dressing up. They often reuse bulk-produced merchandise in their dress assemblages - for example in the decora look where masses make use of multifarious colorful plastic toys and objects as their accessories which dangle down from bodies and clothes.
Mass-production and the discovery of artificial fibers were two of the most primitive factors which contributed in making fashion a democratic structure. Of late in the counterfeit industry, eBay was able to recycle designer wear and put them in retail outlets of Japan like Rag Tag, and high fashion designers who did relatively cheap lines for chain stores like Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons for H&M. all this has formerly helped in the popularization of high fashion amongst youth in Japan. A multitude of cheaper products like perfumes, jeans, and sportswear carry the tag of being 'exclusive' under brand names to create the aura of the brand being a limited and a high-end production brand.
One factor that accounts for the recent boom in second-hand fashion is that regardless of brand name or price, fashion today is rarely exclusive. The new distinction must therefore come from hand-made clothes or creative and ironic uses of existing styles, to form codes that are accessible to a selected group of people only.
The local designers have started producing limited amount of stocks to maintain the exclusivity of the fashions. This exclusivity is maintained by a furious change of codes that are available to those who can readily grasp them. Being able to find and wear second-hand things in new ways is a mark of independence and a quiet resistance against the fashion system's dictums. They use experimental dressing to correspond with wider societies who have disenchantment with it.
All Dress is Fancy Dress in Japan
The most prominent of the Harajuku style is the indulgence in the art of corsetry and lingerie, but this fashion was more popular because the corsets and the lingerie were worn outside the garments. They think that the under garment on top of the outer garment is an aesthetic appearance on its own, but the original purpose of the lingerie giving a fit to the body has lost its essence. There have been examples where the gaps under the sleeve of a traditional kimono attracts the attention to the under clothes which formerly brings out the complexity of layering. At the high-end of the fashion structure, there is also the top most Japanese label called Comme des Garçons which was popularly known for its deconstructionist fashion in the way it has constantly articulated an expression of undoing of the process of construction with things like loose threads, stitching or lining on the outside of the garments and a general undone/unfinished look. Harajuku fashion, with all its excess flamboyance, differs from mainstream style only in its wild interpretation.
Oscar Wilde rightly quoted the words 'Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth,' he used the mask as a broad analogy for the creative process and so is the case with many parts of the world and specially in Japan it was traditionally believed that a lady of quality should have a fair complexion which evidently would signify that being rich enough does not entail working outside in bad weather conditions like the peasants. Upper class women used whitening creams for their skin as early as the seventh century. They avoided sunlight and often powdered their faces white, and gradually moved to a phase where they used complicated procedures like bleaching and white lead, which had devastating effects.
The value of the white face was challenged by the 'black face' subcultures that emerged in Tokyo's Shibuya district in the late 1990s, which saw the faces of young girls artificially darkened beyond recognition. The Ganguro style followed this trend and soon after they started calling themselves soy sauce which is evidently black in color. The Japanese girls who were fond of blonde hair made no attempts at being authentic. They also wore fake hair which showed that like the transvestites they were only keen on looking feminine and hardly cared about being natural in dressing up.
The blatant theatre fashion of the Harajuku Street makes no attempt in hiding the fact that they labor hard enough to execute the performances on their stage. In this street when plays come up there is evidently no room for the backstage preparations such as costumes and make-up. Usually the high school students who take part in these theatrical performances dress up at home and come to participate there. Sunday is the day when all of them are geared up to perform, not only the students of Tokyo participate here but the students from all over the county come here to showcase their costumes. Here there is also no competition of being original as in any dramatic presentation only integrity matters and nothing else. Beyond being posed as self-absorbed, the bravely fantastical and hysterically incomprehensible dressing in Harajuku can be seen as a civic service that exhibits an awe-inspiring creativity in the mundane. The collections embody fantasy and optimism amongst the viewers which ignites a thrill in the environment of this street and fills it with energy.
Trickledown theory of Harajuku.
Change in fashion has repeatedly been explained as a 'trickle-down' result of class replication followed by class repugnance. But wearing the latest style is no longer a dispensation that is reserved only for the upper strata. The drastic change in fashion cannot be stated as a straightforward progression of transmission from the elites to the masses. Some studies have made an accessible alternate model where sub cultural innovations 'bubble-up' in anticipation of them being adapted by emulating marketable bodies.
According to studies fashion is not something that can be promoted in an artificial manner which gives a commercial aspect to the new trends that have just come in the market. The relationship between fashion and so-called anti-fashion is a recurrently dialectical one and therefore there is no coherence in fashion mainstream. There are some trickle downs and bubble ups theories that happen which sometimes moves horizontally or sometimes they just remain where they are despite the difference in culture, class, lifestyle or age groups. Tastes are not purely dictated and we should acknowledge the complexity and idiosyncratic sensual significance of material things in people's lives. People invest on clothes with both individual and collective facets of identity, memory and imagination. Beyond social competition, fashion comes from the primal pleasures of recital, amusement, foundation and annihilation.
On Shibuya Street
The hefty traffic and Shibuya are associated in its history. Shibuya was a diminutive village in Edo period, positioned at the Western edge of Central Tokyo. Because of this location, Shibuya Station on spherical Yamate Line also became the terminal for a subway line to Ginza, a railway to Yokohama and numerous additional railways. Shibuya urbanized with the railways and traffic.
The railway companies also made Shibuya a well accepted shopping town. In 1934, an enormous railway company called- Tokyu Group first built the foremost department store here. This is the company which attracted many consumers who used to merely overtake Shibuya to shop at Ginza. In 1968, its rival Seibu Railway Group opened Seibu Department Store. They also opened PARCO for younger customers in 1973. Tokyu Group retaliated back by opening Tokyu Hands in 1978. This kept on happening for years and this is the way that Japan fought amongst itself to come out to be today's most sought after countries for fashion.
In the streets of shibuya, a very distinct street in Japan, where fashion is at its peak and it proves to be one of the most amazing spots to be in if you are in search for the Japanese culture and how the youth of Japan have taken their history forward. There are a lot of department stores in shibuya here teenagers in group flock around every day. This hub is lively and full of energy due to the fashion carried out here.
The area of shibuya is targeted towards younger generations unlike, the other parts, which are known for being wild and quirky. This area also carries forward the tag of being one of the safest shopping destinations which boosts a lot of energy in the people who come to shop there. This street is also famously known to be an environmentally clean area and a place to be when in Japan. Shibuya street fashion is one of the most fashionable, energetic, modern, and a stylish street which offers the latest trends which are creative and very well thought of. It is one of the most sorted out streets after the Harajuku Street and is also considered youthful in nature and one can easily mingle in with the crowd and be a part of them.
Ganguro fashion which prominently hit the streets of Japan in 1990s had initially hit the streets of shibuya and this fashion was a new rage on its street till another decade. This fashion was just like punk which is like a legendary fashion in itself but which mutated in the form of other new style as years passed by. This trend was popular amongst the younger teenagers and young ladies in their 20s who would dye their hair blonde or orange in colour along with a deep tan and white concealer which was often used as a lipstick. On the streets of shibuya this fashion died away but newer trends kept following it with a tinge of Ganguro attitude yet attached to it. The newer fashions stuck to the basic foundation of the Ganguro fashion which was purely based on freedom and strength. The fashion in the shibuya districts are just not a focus on about being extreme in nature but it is also about the amalgamation of styles and just like how they see life to static rather than just being constant. This street is always looking for something which has a creative aspect and a tinge of novelty in the ideas they put forward in the market.
One of the most important places in the Shibuya Street is the 109, a fashion building which caters to amazingly youthful and stylish teenagers and attracts crowds easily. The most daring and wild sides of the street are boutiques like candy, centre Gai and Koen Dori which bring out an energizing vibe which is pleasingly attracting the youth.
The most interesting part of visiting this street is that it will make both overtly fashionable and less fashionable people feel alike with rich and energetic youthful vibe inside them when they are on the street. Along with these people are the alternative fashion minded gurus who would like to keep to themselves and also dress likewise. Shibuya is known for rekindling the spirit within the youth through their fashion which is carefree and above all a very individualistic in nature.
The center of youth fashion and culture
the most spectacular thing that happens on this street is at the intersection of the four roads that go to the fashionable and stylish clothes shops. There are people walking in from all directions when the lights go green but the most surprising thing is that no one ever bumps into another person. This fact has been mentioned here purely to suggest that despite of the hysterical movements of people towards each other there are well thought of precautions which the Japanese government has taken and thus this fact has probably amazed me everything is planned, not just fashion.
Shibuya is a convenient place to admittance from all directions, and today it is the most important hangout spots amongst youths. The students who live near this street and also the other youths of Japan make the most of this place by experimenting with fashions and cosmetics along with accessories in an extreme form from this street.
The 109 department at the shibuya street is one of the most flashy and commercial neighboring suburb of Harajuku street. Here the people act as major players in innovating novel and fashionable sensibilities which eventually become iconic in nature due to celebrities who follow it. In this street it is not normal for the fashion houses to give an opportunity to charismatic salesgirls as forecasters because they believe in formal training in the field. This poses as a difference between both the streets- the Harajuku and the Shibuya Street. The people who undergo a formal training can be positioned in the departmental stores as designers, merchandisers, sales person, stylists, models and marketers as per the qualifications they have achieved.
Difference between shibuya and Harajuku
Shibuya- here girls and boys in their mid teens and above shop for sexy fashion and do not wear cute fashions at all, unlike the Harajuku people. Here the youth is more fascinated and attracted to the fashion brands existing in the market and b the top models of sexy fashion magazines. The youth of Japan are known for trying hard to create one's own individuality through fashion and thus the youth on this street also abide by the same rule. They create their individual sense by dressing in a sexy manner but on their own terms and conditions. They pair up branded clothing together and I suppose that their disposable income would be higher than the shoppers at Harajuku. Not that I think that shoppers at Harajuku do not buy branded clothing as I also think that the Japanese youth saves money only to shop and nothing else apart from gadgets of course.
Harajuku- here the groups or the individual youth follow a specific fashion style that has been adopted from the past like gothic- Lolita and punk. Here the youth is willing to buy clothes from the streets because they get inspired by musicians from the past and their fashion sense surrounds the trends that are ongoing and that are further merged with the fashions of the past. The street of Uhara on the Harajuku Street is called the black alley as it has casual clothes on its disposal. Lot of people here at Harajuku also get influenced by the kei culture which means doing something and thus like I said people here create their individual recognition through the clothes they wear but in a lot of difference than the youth at shibuya. They also get influenced by what they see I magazines and thus follow trends accordingly.
Despite of the fact that there are differences in both these streets, people of Japan and the outsiders form a perception that these two streets have much more common factors than differences. Both these streets highly cater to the youth of today and equally the streets are flocked with these teens. The fashion differs in a very minute way but like I mentioned earlier, the impact of street fashion in Japan is ultimate and thus both streets also get inspired from each other.
Japanese youth culture
As any typical youth of any other country, there was need for a new identity among the youth who wanted to look separate from the ones who dictated by standard social norms. The Harajuku street fashion expresses the costumes the youth would wear on this street. Harajuku fashion is a form of self- expression and is a way to advertise a specific community identity.
All the developments of recent Harajuku street fashion are done with guerrilla marketing. The limited edition along with the designers created an environment in which the Japanese kids have been able to co-opt foreign styles, creating something particular, and a kind of fashion nationalism.
Shopping has always been an integral part of the Japanese characteristics and a particular way to assert identity among the youth. The development of youth culture has accelerated the rate of trend turnover in Japan. The youth of Japan are highly fashion conscious and would enjoy being cool despite being a nerd. The fashion oriented youth in America or Europe might just fall under the category of being playful and frivolous when it comes to fashion, but the kids in Japan are very serious about fashion. Their combinations and matches are chosen with deep insight rather than on impulse dressing. They treat fashion with a lot of respect, especially boys and thus there is a magazine dedicated only for the hairstyles for them. This means that even boys in Japan are highly conscious about what they wear and how they look.
In Harajuku, clothing is a reaction to the immediate reality of the street. This is a democratic idolatry prevalent there. Celebrities, fashion icons, designers, stylists, shop staff, hair stylists and publicists enjoy a great deal of notoriety in this street. Photographers of huge Japanese fashion magazines like fruits and tunes are posed all along the street to capture the ongoing fashion adorned by the youth. On this street, the styles keep coming and going in a matter of flashes. The youth moves in and out of these styles with amazing agility.
The fashion at Harajuku and Shibuya are highly distinct from each other in terms of fashion trends and styles though they are only two minutes away by train from each other. Takashi- Dori is another part of the Harajuku Street which catered to food items but eventually culminated into being a fashion product stores.
The Harajuku street was born when the first boutique, late night restaurants and cafe's opened in that are to give the people there the feel of becoming the most hep street in Tokyo. After the Olympics, the Harajuku influenced youth and began to develop a unique sensibility and stylishness that distinguished them from groups hanging out in Tokyo's other shopping areas such as Ginza. Any and every one from a designer to makeup artists who wanted to become a part of Japan's fashion industry flocked to Harajuku. The street offered a charged atmosphere that mesmerized the young men and women.
The young designer's collections were at least one-third copies of that season's international designs, which were typically highly sought after by the youth in the domestic market. The collection would be easily mistaken for the overseas brands and thus would be sold in wholesale to small shops. To name a few brands that existed during the 1960s were Okawa, Comme des garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, Mastuda's Nicole. These brands originally existed on the streets of Harajuku and then came out to be influential names in the world.
As the Harajuku boomed, with the growing numbers of young designers manufacturer's and retail outlets for this new fashion scene, the small labels into what came to be known as designer character by the mid 1980s. Harajuku still maintains its unique, close knit neighbourhood feel something that is extremely unusual for a Japanese city. Its identity is still about selling the Japan's most modern culture, its trends, stylishness and a certain kind of dream- a sense of possibility.
Japanese street fashion magazines
Once upon a time it was the fashion magazines that ruled the country's fashion, but today teenagers themselves create their own styles to make a fashion impression and are thus represented as fashion followers in the media.
During this time there was a boom in the industry of media where street style magazines offered youngsters to recruit teenagers as editorial staff, just looking at the way they dress and carry themselves. The FRUiTS magazine that launched itself in 1997 was started to document the emerging street fashion movements which totally focused on the outfits of the wearer and the detail of the same, with minimum advertisements. The photos also gave out details of the wearer who was spotted wearing the fashion on the street. The business magazine named WIRED has had a regular column in its magazine since the time it started, about the Japanese Schoolgirl Watch, trying to follow up of their fads.
Japanese street fashion and adaptations of its culture has been prominent among the youth of Japan since decades. There are many subcultures that the Japanese youth follow and each of them dress according to their own choice of the category they choose to dress like. The fashion districts of Harajuku, Ginza, Shinjuku and Shibuya have a huge number of youth who flock out there during weekends and pick out clothes from these streets. A few styles that the youth in Japan follow will be mentioned here;
"The Lolita style in general represents the world of childhood, the time before girls achieve their womanly sexuality" Tanaka said, a Lolita fashion researcher.
Lolita as a fashion sprung to the surface of Japanese streets in the late 70s and stayed on from then on. The inspiration has been taken from France and the United Kingdom with the touch of rococo and Victorian eras. The Japanese have adapted to these periods and brought down the fashion to being in the form of cuteness, positivity and pure class. Lolita is considered one of the most recognized forms of street fashion, not only in Japan but also in other parts of the world today. Large amount of people have followed it throughout the world today. This style came to be popular in the leading cities of Japan like Tokyo and Osaka where people accepted this fashion readily. The fashion in Lolita is pretty restricted unlike the other fashions like punk and Kawaii. The basis of all other fashions that emerged in Japan is taken from the Lolita fashion but with its own creative difference. There were many boutiques in Japan that started Lolita fashion as their core but went on to other contemporary lines after a few decades. Some of these boutiques were- the stars shine bright and pink house. During the initial days of Lolita fashion emergence, the music groups who liked this fashion would promote it while they performed and thus this fashion started gaining popularity amongst the youth. Lolita, in USA connotes with being sexual but in Japan this fashion was not linked with looking sexy but it was mostly related to elegance and cuteness. This began as a street fashion nearly two decades ago but has now entered the mainstream movement of fashion and clothing by the youth. This fashion has also become popular and taken on the ramp which has made this style all the more famous to the outside world. The women who follow this fashion live in the world of fantasy and immaturity and refuse to grow into an adult which is taken as a rebel against certain age groups in the society.
The Harajuku culture focuses on Lolita fashion as it draws a feminized aesthetic look from the Victorian dolls that are accessorized with ribbons, laces, embroidery, bonnets, corsetry, frills and ringlets in the hair. It is usually the females who make the Lolita fashion more predominant however there are few men on the streets of Harajuku who adopt the bloomers, bows and stockings which is an ideal dress code of Lolita men.
It is one of the most famous among other Lolita fashions has been able to draw attention from other parts of the world. This kind of fashion has been inspired from the Victorian Goth style which is characterized by dark colours, bats, spiders and Goth icons. The Japanese, though being inspired by other cultures, make these fashions look original by adding a twist of Japanese culture in their dressing. In this fashion, the young girls pull off knee length skirts with petticoats underneath. Their blouses would have the look of Victorian era, having laces and ruffles on the hems. The look is complete with knee length socks paired with boots and accessories like bonnets and brooches.
This style is clearly visible in the streets of Japan adorned by number of teenagers. This fashion is also seen at concerts and anime conventions throughout Japan and Europe along with USA in the frame. The market for this kind of clothing is increasing as there are a lot of girls sporting this look in America and Europe. In Japan, Goth is a very minor subculture with few followers, partly because the emphasis upon visual identity in Japanese youth culture makes other factors such as music and literature less important and perhaps this happens partly because Christianity and Germanic culture are not integral parts of society.
It is more of a fantasy based dressing which is childlike and is connected to fairytale themes, baby animals and there is a lot of innocence in their dressing up. The most popular feature of sweet Lolita is the hello kitty which has pastel colours along with muted colours like pink, white and powder blue. This fashion is popularized as cute as it consists of large head bows, purses which look cute with pastels hues, parasols and stuffed animals which make the look more childlike and innocent. This is the exact opposite style from the classic Lolita and therefore it suits the younger generations more than the older ones. Since the followers of fashion are more from the younger generations, it is more likely that this fashion has more popularity than the classic Lolita look. Even the makeup is naturally toned which balances the outfit along with bouncy curls and stylishly tied up pony tail. The style of the sweet Lolita stands out as it is all about being pretty and modest. Wearing a blouse underneath the jumper is a must for a sweet Lolita dresser. This childlike innocence of the Lolita started in the 80s and was pioneered by many bands who were inspired by the bell shaped skirts which gave an aristocratic elegance to the wearer. The fabrics used in this style a variety of influences from the fruits, flowers and animals and accessories like bows, laces and ribbons. Many eatery places have sweet Lolita's as their mascots. This whole characteristic of being a Lolita is more about a lifestyle and being more feminine. Additionally, outfits will include things like gingham, colourful prints, lace, ribbons, and bows that emphasize cuteness above all other design elements. Often taking themes and references from Alice and Wonderland as well as imagery of cake and fruits, the design plays to a younger mentality.
Shoes will also usually have a much shorter heel than most other Lolita styles because of that childlike nature, and jewellery is heavily influenced by fantasy themes, using cherries, hearts, cakes, ribbons, and bows for accessorization. Purses and bags are similarly catered to a younger mindset with stuffed animals and hearts for accessories.
It is a form of fashionable subculture in which teenagers dress mixing the punk look with the Lolita fashion. The silhouette of the original Lolita is intact while the colours and accessories differ. It also looks like a deconstructed and a crazy look but the youth who can carry it off well, do maintain it with a fashionable approach. They are heavily influenced by the western punk fashion but the Japanese have made it look cuter in a few aspects they adapted. It was a great roar during the 2000s along with other fashions like the gothic Lolita.
This style is often more casual-looking than other Lolita styles. A typical outfit will have a mini top hat, a simple cut sew with a deconstructed Lolitaesque print, a pleated tartan skirt and chunky platform boots. Sometimes Punk Lolitas will be seen with nekomimi (cat ears), although it's considered Cosplay by the majority of Lolitas. The overall look of this style is quite edgy and at the same time also cute. The influence of this style is taken from the standard punk style with hints of psychobilly. The color schemes that this style adheres by are rather in contrast to each other than a balanced color scheme black and red, black and white are the two major combinations worn by the youth who follow this style. Usually the western punk style has more of solid colors that represent the punk style but here in Japan prints such as checkerboards, diamonds, spider webs and leopard prints are considered for punk. Prints of roses, crosses and skulls are also popular amongst the wearers along with a small amount of laces and frills attached to their outfits. Several fabrics are used to create layers which have on symmetry. Leather jackets and short skirts denote the look for punk- Lolitas. Punk Lolita is the only style among all the fashion prevalent in Japan that sports leg and hand warmers. The accessories donned by these