Outside of Harajuku, people have an image of groups of people who wear colorful clothing. Blobs of them. In crowds. They wear a plethora of colorful hairclips. Tutus. Elegant dresses with tea party shoes and poofy skirts. On the internet, people film video vlogs (vlogs for short), on the internet and make the fashion seem all the more tangible and real.
But the reality is, at least according to fellow J-Fashion YouTubers Hello Batty and Cathy Cat, the groups of are thinning out due to tourism.
Some argue that it is the end of an era, now that popular Japanese Fashion magazine, Fruits is closing down for business. Fruits was created in the late 90’s by photographer Shoichi Aoki, according to an article on the New Yorker by Jessie Wender titled Japanese Street Style. In the 2012 article, Aoki states: “The act of people wearing clothing has value as art, and it has become my life’s work to document this phenomenon.”
Now, five years later, what has changed? On Tokyo Fashion’s Twitter, the user stated that Aoki “only said there are less people he wants to photograph.” In another tweet, they continue and say “He never said that Harajuku sucks or that there are no fashionable kids left. Infact, he is still shooting in the streets of Harajuku right now.”
YouTuber Ashlyn Smith, 21, has not been to Harajuku before, but she does
“notice that street fashion in Japan has definitely mellowed out. Street snaps look like they could be from San Francisco.”
Smith, also known by her online alias, Vanilla Bear, is one of many alternative J-Fashion YouTubers. Smith is known for having lolita fashion themed videos. She has over a hundred videos on her channel, which began in 2012.
Lolita fashion is a Victorian-inspired fashion which came from the streets of Harajuku and in recent years, has gained popularity in the west because it has been becoming more accessible outside of Japan.
Popular Lolita fashion brands in Japan such as Angelic Pretty and Baby the Stars Shine Bright have popped up in California and New York. But at the same time, there is a hint of the businesses declining, as the Baby the Stars Shine Bright Store in Paris is closing.
27-year- old YouTuber Hello Batty travelled to Harajuku and believes people are just getting older and fashion inevitably will evolve. As she picks up a Fruits Magazine, she points to an image and notes “a huge lack of alternative fashion like this,” and points to a colorful image of 90’s fashion, of a couple wearing oversized shoes , vivid colors, and big splashes of plaid.
She notes in a video that Fruits had a “dated feel” and did not have much of a social media presence, which she believes had an impact of their closure. She also adds that Harajuku, specifically Takeshita street, the “hub” of Harajuku fashion, has been becoming a tourist driven place. Tourists like taking pictures of people in the fashion, sometimes without permission.
Smith , much like Hello Batty, believes that tourism had an impact on alternative J-Fashion: “I can also see and agree with the international recognition of Harajuku contributing to gentrification and tourism pressures. Living in Silicon Valley, I know first hand how small, independent businesses and brands get forced out because of demand and high rent.”
Smith is part of one of the many alternative j-fashion communities that are across the globe. Even though the alternative fashion scene is changing, people are still dressing up and expressing their own styles. Many of the groups meet through Facebook and are still active, with hundreds of members.
Fashion is ever-evolving. Smith states how she has changed her own style over the years:
“When I started out wearing Lolita, I was much more sugary sweet with bright pastels. I have always loved classic sweet, such as Innocent World’s pastel pieces.”
“I definitely wear more muted pastels and have shifted to more classic pieces that sweet. I’ve purged a lot of pieces that scream Lolita and instead wear pieces that are easier to wear in public or pieces that make me feel like an elegant historical lady.”
Alternative j-fashion Youtubers have been multiplying in recent years—j-fashion related videos are uploaded by multitude of YouTubers every week.
J-fashion YouTubers are from across the world, from places such as Sweeden, to Japan, to China, and America. YouTubers who speak in different languages sometimes use subtitles to bring in English speaking viewers.
A well-known j-fashion Youtuber in her twenties named Lovelylor is believed to have started the trend of J-fashion YouTubers, with her “Shit Lolita Says” series. In the skit series, individuals who wear Lolita fashion go about their extraordinary lives and have amusing interactions with others. The jokes made are relatable to those who are in the fashion and on average, have over a hundred thousand views.
In a recent video, Lovely Lor discusses how her style changed over the time. Lovely Lor was influenced by her fashionable mother as a child. Her mother knew how to sew and put together Lor’s outfits. Lor alternative fashion for a long time and in High School, began to really express her own personal style. She used to be “scene,” and dress in a style known for its punk influences and choppy hair.
Overtime, Lovely Lor eased into Lolita fashion by wearing rockabilly clothing and then slowly began wearing fairy-kei. Fairy-kei is a popular alternative j-fashion known for its pastel colors and dozens of hairclips.
Smith remembers the people who inspired her to begin a YouTube channel. She watched j-fashion Youtubers such as “Princess Peachie and Shelby Cloud religiously. and wanted to be like them.” She desired to “to make something creative, interact with other lolitas exchange advice, as well as make friends.
Alternative J-Fashion Conventions such as Rufflecon and Nightfall have also sprouted up in the west, encouraging growth of j-fashion. According to a Rufflecon staff member, over five-hundred people registered for the event. The convention has been growing each year and was the very first alternative j-fashion convention in the North East.
Fashion has impacted Smith’s life. She states: “Fashion in general has helped me express and explore my creativity, help me make an effort regarding my appearance and style, and really introduced me to so many of my friends. It has also taught me about relationships – even if your significant other doesn’t like your hobbies, they still need to be able to accept your passion and support you.”
“Fashion has gotten me into the world of social media and digital marketing, which is where my career is headed now,” she says.
Is J-Fashion dying? Like any other category of fashion, it is destined to change and evolve over time. People who have worn the fashion have been becoming older and changing their styles. Maybe to an extent, alternative J-Fashion is growing up, too.
(cover image of Fruits magazine via i-d)