If you haven’t spent much time in Tokyo then it’s possible you’ve never seen the plethora of fashion genres that people adhere to. Few styles have made their way out of Japan, such as Lolita. In 2005, Gwen Stephanie brought “Harajuku Style” to the West, making the popular shopping district a household name. While Harajuku remains the “It” place to flaunt your fashionable chops, the types of styles are far more vast than the few that may come to mind when people think, Tokyo fashion.
Culturally, Japanese people feel most comfortable if they can be in a covey and be able to put other people in a familiar group. A person’s last name carries great importance and the company one works for is also held in high esteem. Being different isn’t a problem but being an outsider is generally frowned upon. In fact, the ability to express one’s self is a vital outlet in an often homogenous and career focused city.
Mori is the forest girl style. Her look includes layers, mostly neutral and complimenting colors. She is inspired by nature and looks like someone who lives amongst the trees. The Mori girl often makes her own clothing or uses vintage finds by layering fabrics such as cotton, linen and wool. Her silhouette is soft and she will maintain an earthy manner.
Gyaru is the Katakana iteration of the English word, gal. This style includes many sub-genres that range from typical Juicy Couture type American hip-hop fashion to a pink princess style all the way to dark faced or extremely contoured make-up. Almost anything genuinely girly is represented in Gyaru style. Some Japanese fashion brands that are used to create the perfect Gyaru look are Liz Lisa, Cecil McBee and Jesus Diamante.
Androgyny is possibly the most notable aspect of Visual Kei. Akin to glam rock, this style has been made popular by the bands like X Japan and Moi dix Mois. Visual Kei is boisterous, usually including leather jackets and bright, highly styled hair. Men seem to be the front runners of Visual Kei but women are accepted in this style as well. Bold enough to bring back Rococo with velvet and lace, Visual Kei can’t be missed.
Decora is a style that’s popular among both men and women. It is characterized by loading on as many accessories as possible. Much like Kandee Kids from the rave era, favorite accessories of Decora are pacifiers and toys with blinking lights or ones that make sounds. Often confused with the Fruits style, Decora prefers little or no makeup. Instead they use stickers or paint cute images on their cheeks and wear as many barrettes as possible.
The most notable brand to describe what is Dark Harajuku style has to be Alice Auaa. Often black and always nightmarish, Alice Auaa lives somewhere between a gothic dominatrix and Robert Smith in Wonderland. Not everything can be as extreme as on the runway and people who wear Dark Harajuku style will usually tone down these elements to create an actual wearable look.
Cult Party Kei
Pioneered by the Harajuku shop of the same name, Cult Party Kei uses religious elements and a virginal look. Girls who wear this style prefer layering pastel colors, creams and white with flowing skirts or dresses. Today, the shop is called Virgin Mary and you can shop there for all your lace and vintage bunnies to create the ideal Cult Party Kei style.
Shironuri truly is an art form with Minori as it’s most famous artist. This style is less about the clothes and more about the make-up. Although the fashion is often fanciful, it doesn’t hold to strict rules like many of the other styles. The only requirement being a white face, Shironuri incorporates delicate embellishments around the eyes but the aesthetic can be any style the artist chooses.
Twin style means, enjoying the same fashion with a friend or boyfriend. It can be any style but the trick is not to be exact, just very close. For instance, one could wear a striped top and a solid skirt while the other wears striped pants and a solid top to match the first, both wearing the exact same jewelery. Alternatively, matching tops and contrasting bottoms. A pair of famous personalities in Japan have a short video about it here.
These are just a few of the multifarious genres that make up the ever evolving landscape of Tokyo fashion. Each one may have several sub-genres making it difficult to tell the difference. Even while traveling through the city, you may notice that each neighborhood has it’s own sense of local style. Although these fashion styles are categorized into groups, each person puts his or her own flavor into their style, creating uniqueness and passion for everything they wear.