This month, Japan celebrated the beginning of the new Reiwa era. Heisei, the former era, lasted for 30 years (from 1989 to 2019), and between economic boom, recession and globalization, saw the emergence of many different and fascinating fashion trends and subcultures. If some of them disappeared quickly, some others keep inspiring young people in Japan and in the world. As the new era just started, let’s throwback on the trends that emerged during the Heisei period.

From the late 1980s to early 1990s : Bodikon, Shibukaji and Punk.

The first trends to appear in the early Heisei period are “bodikon” and “shibukaji”. Bodikon comes from the english “body-conscious”, and is characterized by short and body hugging clothes, sexy and colorful, inspired by the disco and symbol of women’s emancipation. Meanwhile, Shibukaji (from “Shibuya” and “Casual”), casual and elegant, came from the youth enrolled in private high schools hanging out in Shibuya.

Punk was also quite popular during this time. Harajuku was full of leather and bomber jackets, rock’n roll and mohawks. Famous designers Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto were very popular and influential, and even though nowadays it is quite rare to witness punk subculture in the streets, they are still quite popular among young Japanese people.

Credits : Gail Mooney

The 1990s : Gyaru, Lolita and Visual Kei

The 1990s saw the emergence of many new and eccentric trends, such as Gyaru, who started in the early 1990s until the early 2000s. Inspired from the west, with tanned skin, mini skirts, fake eyelashes and nails, bleached hair or voluminous wigs, gyaru (from the english “gals”) would hang out around Shibuya where the famous 109 tower was the fashion center of this trend. A few other minor trends appeared from Gyaru such as Ganguro : distinguished by an even darker tan (almost black), white makeup and bleached hair.

Credits : Tokyo Fashion

The 1990s also saw the popularization of Visual Kei, with famous bands such as X Japan and Luna Sea. These rock bands with a strong visual and elaborate makeup and hairstyles created a new alternative trend.

X Japan

The Lolita trend appeared at the same period. Born in Harajuku in reaction to the Shibuya Gyaru, Lolita is all about femininity, cuteness and innocence. Voluminous Victorian style skirts and dresses with crinoline are the main components of this style. It evolved into many different sub styles such as Gothic Lolita, Classic Lolita, Sweet Lolita, etc.

This subculture has now almost disappeared, but still continues to exist in Harajuku and is still popular among some young people in different countries.

Credits : Tokyo Fashion

2000-2010, Dekora and Fairy Kei

In the early 2000s, two very colorful trends appeared. Dekora, from the word “decoration” is mostly about using as many cute and colorful accessories as you can, to add to your already colorful outfit. The Fairy Kei style is a bit similar, but distinguished by mainly using pastel colors with an emphasis on the kawaii side, with a lot of cute accessories. Like the Lolita subculture, it has now almost disappear, but you can still witness it sometimes around Harajuku.

Credits : Tokyo Fashion
Credits : Tokyo Fashion

The past few years have seen some new trends emerging, such as Genderless key : where the frontiers between masculine and feminine are blurred, giving birth to many androgynous looks on the streets, and boys to adopt a more neutral, or feminine look.

Credits : Tokyo Fashion

What will be the next trends of this new era ?

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