The sad decline of Japan's street fashion subcultures
What's still trending on Tokyo's sidewalks?
FASHION Japanese street fashion
Pedestrianized Takeshita Street is a neon-lit strip once celebrated for its funky street art and wacky fashion scene. Today you need to look carefully to find the vintage clothing shops displaying their wares, anything from hand-me-down petticoats and lace-trimmed blouses to brushed velvet top hats and tea party shoes.
Wander down Omotesandō Avenue and the contrast couldn't be greater. This wide tree-lined thoroughfare is one of the most exclusive streets in the world. Here, dozens of luxury fashion brands including Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Tod's line the sidewalk, attracting serious high-end fashionistas eager to purchase the very latest designer apparel, whatever the cost.
What do these two shopping destinations have in common? They are both located in Tokyo's vibrant Harajuku neighborhood, known internationally as a center of Japanese youth culture and fashion.
Harajuku is the birthplace of some of the country's most iconic clothing styles. Since the 1980s this fast-moving fashion mecca has served as a hub for dressed-up kids and it's where Japan’s fashion subculture evolved, including the most recognized —Lo-lita.
Far removed from the sexualized Western interpretation of the name, Lo-lita, or kawaii, refers to the Japanese culture of cuteness. The fashion is highly influenced by Victorian and Edwardian children’s clothing, and it's still quite common to see young women adopting this childlike look on Tokyo's sidewalks. Another popular trend is Decora, known for its outrageously colorful and cartoonish attire and matching accessories.
But Harajuku has seen better days.
With each season styles change, and what was once cool is suddenly crass. Eclectic and original Japanese street fashion has declined, with the crossover to modern designer brands and mainstream fast fashion partly to blame. These days Omotesandō Avenue caters to an ever-stylish but more conservative and less experimental clientele. Meanwhile back on Takeshita Street the whimsical Kawaii Monster Café, a themed hangout where crazy meets cute, does its best to embody the spirit of old Harajuku.
Browse the gallery for a look back at the most influential days of Japanese street fashion.