The recent closure of legendary 20-year-old Harajuku magazine FRUiTS is just the latest development in the Tokyo street fashion photography scene, which has witnessed noticeably more conservative and less colorful threads over time; a proliferation of social media accounts and networks now documenting said evolution online; and the disappearance of outlandish trends like ganguro (ガングロギャル) that extended to bleached hair and dark make-up. In an interview with Fashionsnap.com, FRUiTS founder Shoichi Aoki cited a lack of suitable subjects to photograph as the reason behind the magazine’s shuttering. Perhaps Aoki’s project late last year – a book dedicated to the Decora fashion movement in Harajuku that offered 4,000 images from 1997 to 2002 to financial backers – was a foreboding of the inevitable.
“Before the memories fade, I feel it is my duty to preserve them as a record,” Aoki said of that project. “To visualize the history of Harajuku street fashion.”
This got me thinking back to the year 2006 and what would become the first of many trips to Japan over the ensuing decade. Heading to the thoroughfare separating the shopping enclaves from the Meiji-jingu Shrine on a Sunday afternoon would typically result in watching the antics of a visually engaging group of Gothic Lolita girls and other cosplay characters. They were posing not to be photographed (some really didn’t want to be captured on film), but to play dress-up and escape a dreary suburban weekend.
As Aoki alluded to, these girls – now young women – and their threads are mere memories captured in 2-D format. What became of them? Where are they now?
Four years later in another part of Harajuku, that spirited playfulness could still be seen on the pedestrian-only strip of Takeshita Dori spilling into the department stores lining the shopper’s paradise of Omotesando. Despite a more muted color palette, there was no less panache with animals, ruffles and knits galore.
To cite an oft-used quote: “Fashion comes and goes, but style is eternal.” It remains to be seen what trends will next hit Japan’s capital, where street photography was de rigeur long before The Sartorialist and others joined the global fray. Creativity still prevails at the semi-annual Tokyo Fashion Week collections, although largely remaining within domestic borders. But with a rapidly aging and shrinking population, the youth-centric neighborhood style of Harajuku may completely transform into something else, with the ghosts of its previous pedestrians swirling into an evaporating history.