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24th September 2012

Welcome to October: Harajuku Lovers

Elizabeth Harper looks at the increasing importance of Tokyo Fashion Week and what it has to offer this October.

The end of British Summer Time is upon us and there is an increasing sense of doom pervading these Mancunian streets. The catwalks of New York, London, Paris and Milan have had their say in the fashion stakes and you would be forgiven for thinking that there are no more sartorial delights to keep us upbeat and optimistic in the face of dreaded winter. However, I would like to bring to the attention of all fashion fanatics the news that there are still shows and designers to get excited about even this late on in the fashion calendar.

The fashion weeks of Tokyo, Moscow, Belgrade and Dubai are all scheduled to take place this month. These may not be as prestigious as the big four fashion capitals; however that is what makes them exciting. Of course we get silly about seeing the big guns in action: Chanel, Versace, Dior, Vivienne Westwood and Louis Vuitton etc. Yet there is something equally (if not more) thrilling about leaving the safety of the big four and not really knowing what to expect. Even though they are big in their own countries, these events do not seem to attract much international coverage. This has resulted in the likes of The Independent affording them an ‘underdog’ status. Everyone loves an underdog, so for the next few weeks, we’ll be giving you a background of the designers, culture and who to look out for as we venture off the beaten track into fashion’s emerging capitals.

The rise of Tokyo as a contender for fashion capital status has been inevitable, and this October, its fashion week will see 40 brands showcasing their work. Tokyo is renowned for its Harajuku district, a haven for the lover of avant-garde dressing. A whole subculture of young people live here, dressing up in cartoon-esque punky outfits, congregating and socialising on the Jingu Bashi bridge and parading the streets in their extravagant and decadent attire. It is little wonder that the city has captured the imagination of the likes of Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani, the latter of whom has created songs and clothing lines paying homage to Harajuku, and for a period of time had a posse of Harajuku girls to accompany her across the globe. She went as far as to nickname them Love, Angel, Music and Baby.

There is something inherently free spirited and eccentric in the Tokyo street style with Lolita, Hello Kitty, fairies and glam rock proving to be important recurrent themes. The vibrancy and colour on the street has been refined and translated onto the catwalks through the work of Kamishima Chinami, and Naoashi Sawayanagi.

Naoshi Sawayanagi

Although Japan’s biggest fashion exports Issey Miyake, Yojhi Yamamoto and Comme Des Garcons exhibit elsewhere with a much more Western eye for style, Tokyo fashion week’s selection of designers reflect and refine what is current and desirable on Japanese streets. Many have studied fashion abroad and worked for large labels in Europe and America, for example Yasutoshi Ezumi who attended Central Saint Martin’s School of Design in London before contributing at Alexander McQueen and Aquascutum. It is extremely telling that he has gone back to his home country to show in his capital city. Tokyo is becoming a concentrated melting pot of talent and the world is taking note: it is not only the Japanese who are flocking home, they are bringing with them wide-eyed and bedazzled Westerners desperate for a taste of their vibrant clothing culture.

Love or hate her gaudy and ornate style, Italian born Anna Dello Russo is notable for her continued contribution to Japanese fashion. Since 2006 she has been the editor-at-large and creative consultant for Vogue Japan. As a woman who will quite happily wear a pineapple hat, she clearly lives in touch and in celebration of the Harajuku mood. Interestingly, American Apparel, who are quick to publicise that their clothing is all-American and made in ‘downtown LA’ will be showing at Tokyo fashion week for the first time this October. Although paradoxical, this move is actually incredibly shrewd. The city it appears is a designer’s heaven. The markets are constantly propelled by its youth culture on the street. Therefore in Tokyo’s case, there will always be a customer for your clothes as long as you meet their flamboyant needs. American Apparel’s metallic gold leggings and glittery leg warmers will be selling like hot cakes in no time!

Fashion week in Tokyo is more than just a bunch of designers showing off their work and raking in money. It is a cultural event, where the city’s fashion is characterised and driven by its people. There is little wonder then that the legions of enamoured admirers, looking to it as a source of inspiration and fashion democracy, are growing.

Street Style on the Catwalk in Tokyo
Elizabeth Harper

Elizabeth Harper

Fashion Editor

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