Wild About Harajuku!

by Dino-Ray Ramos
Friday Mar 18, 2005
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While listening to Gwen Stefani’s new album, you’re probably wondering what the hell she’s talking about when she constantly makes reference to the term, “Harajuku”. More than that, you’re probably wondering about those four Asian girls that have been following her as if they’re attached to her hip. Mrs. Stefani-Rossdale is doing nothing but introducing America to the wild Harajuku style that has been present in Japan for years.

Home to Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, Japan has produced some of the most prestigious names in the fashion industry and is considered one of the most prominent places in the world for avant-garde fashion. One of the biggest trends with vibrant Japanese youth is the progressive, fashion-forward concept of Harajuku.

Whether your city is big or small, there is always some sort of stylish hot spot that people can retreat to for a taste of local trendsetters. New York has Soho, Los Angeles has Rodeo Drive and Tokyo has Harajuku. In the effervescent neighborhood of Harajuku, pop culture bursts at the seams.

The fashionable district invaded by cool cafés and hip boutiques can be found in central Tokyo. Perhaps the most distinguishable characteristic of the neighborhood is Laforet Harajuku, a brand-name laden mall that serves as a Mecca for Harajuku style. Laden with discount boutiques and accessory shops catering to the youth is the street, Takeshita Dori, the prime place for the Harajuku-ites to not only showcase their self-made character-driven styles, but also to sell them.

The fashion phenomenon that is named after this popular district is very difficult to explain without being seen. Basically, it can be summed up as style and unique subculture based a personal overall attitude of chicness. There is no particular format for Harajuku style, except that it’s a means of self-expression. The evolving Japanese street fashion can include everything from the latest Lolita/Goth trends to vibrant anime-like couture.

Without a doubt, some of these outfits (that are often handmade by the wearer) can be mistaken as Halloween costumes. A spiky collared punk rock superhero, a quaint furry bunny with a pleated mini, Zombie-esque brides with extreme platform heels, bonnet-crowned milkmaid Lolitas and cyber sexy nurses with blue lipstick donned with legwarmers are just the tip of the iceberg in what you will see if you get the chance to visit the unbelievable spectacle.

Even though the popular Japanese street isn’t laced with brand names, many stores sell clothing to help the creative fashionistas construct their personal style. Milk and Metamorphose, both located in the Laforet area, are two boutiques that sell retro women’s fashion including the latest trend of Gothic Lolita gowns and playful baby doll skirts.

For many, secondhand clothing is an unbelievable staple for creating the perfect outfit. Throughout the sea of shops, Rag Tag, Closet Child, and Brand X provide bountiful amounts of secondhand garb. For some contemporary punk rock wear, both males and females can choose to shop at stores like Nudy Boy and Sexy Dynamite London. In addition, stores like the psychedelic Hysteric Glamour, Zenmall and Popland not only provide a fun name, but also supply young Harajuku men and women with an endless supply for their clothing arsenal.

The kaleidoscopic hybrid fashion that has an undefined start date and a handful of pioneers has not lost its steam. Young teenage men and women continue to reinvent the definition of a Harajuku kid by having a trend within a trend. The Harajuku style is a veritable cornucopia of mix and match style. The Japanese street fashion contains countless eccentric elements from necessities of bright vivacious hosiery to funky clunky plastic jewelry. Other commonalities include the mixing of various patterns of stripes, plaids, argyles and polka dots as well as crossing fashion styles. The style is fresh, innovative and something you wouldn’t necessarily see in the latest pages of Vogue.

Maybe—just maybe—there will be some sort of westernized Harajuku style. With the help of Gwen Stefani, the style has made a presence for itself in the United States. In the last season of “America’s Next Top Model”, Tyra took the girls to Japan to introduce them to the foreign land of brilliant fashion and pop culture. In one of their missions, they had to create a Harajuku outfit and present it to the designers at Milk. Needless to say, the concept is basically experimenting with so many ideas to see what works for you and what can possibly cultivate into a trend.

Even so, the outlandish and adventurous fashion undertakings that can be seen on the streets of Tokyo may not be something America is ready for—but perhaps that’s a good thing. For this style to stay in Tokyo, it maintains its novelty and gives a creative distinction of Japan. The style is certainly unmatchable.

Although it can be overly flamboyant, the Harajuku kids are oblivious to the opinions of others, creating styles that define their personal creativity, with unintentional inspiration for fashion designers around the world. There are no boundaries with their style, which is something that many fashionably self-conscious people can learn from these young Japanese trendsetters. The current kids that display this unconventional fashion trend will most likely grow out of the phase, but fortunately, they will pass the style torch onto to their younger successors, giving the Harajuku style a never-ending legacy.

Dino-Ray is a Bay Area-based journalist (both freelance and full-time) who is a film fanatic, fashion snob, hip-hop head, pop culture junkie and everything in between. Still not convinced? Check out his blog


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