Tokyo’s New-Wave Fash­ion Goths

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY MISTY WHITE SIDELL

An op­po­si­tional move­ment to poppy In­sta­gram fash­ions sees Tokyo-ites wear­ing head-to-toe black.

TOKYO — Hara­juku's wind­ing streets are a coun­ter­cul­ture lit­mus test. The Ja­panese, re­garded for their aes­thetic sen­si­tiv­ity, have in the past of­fered tiered ruf­fles or neon jesters as a fash­ion­able re­ac­tion to our times. But that ex­u­ber­ance here has taken a somber turn. The district is now home to an army of hip­sters dressed in head-to-toe black — a Goth for the new era.

Much like the orig­i­nal Goth move­ment's protest against Eight­ies ex­cess, Ja­panese hip-mak­ers' gloomy looks are a re­ac­tion to so­cial me­dia over­load and a re­jec­tion of the cutesy, pink Kawaii styles that have de­fined Tokyo's style for two-plus decades.

Last year, as re­ported by WWD, the area's streets had shown early signs of sub­d­ual — with fash­ion­able teens wear­ing stream­lined ver­sions of the ebul­lience that was once a Hara­juku sig­na­ture. This sum­mer marked an­other step away from the mixed prints and zany color com­bi­na­tions, with black vin­tage Vic­to­rian mourn­ing tops, over­size tai­lor­ing, lace shirt­ing and dark streetwear com­bined solely for tex­tu­ral con­trast — ap­pear­ing some­thing like a bleak uni­form.

Re­sem­bling the early-Eight­ies fash­ions of Nick Cave and The Cure's Robert Smith, teens layer their black cloaks, heavy eye­liner and the­o­log­i­cal jew­elry with a whiff of ec­cen­tric­ity — an homage to Gothic-in­clined looks by Ja­panese brands like Comme des Garçons, in which Ja­panese Mil­len­ni­als say they have re­cently found new in­ter­est.

The Goth move­ment be­gan in late-Seven­ties Eng­land and made its way to Ja­pan by the end of the fol­low­ing decade. Here, it merged with vis­ual el­e­ments of the punk move­ment, cre­at­ing a new style called Vis­ual Kei — a unique sub­set that en­com­passed mu­sic and dress.

While the dark aes­thetic had fallen from pop­u­lar­ity, it has re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced re­newed in­ter­est. X Ja­pan — Vis­ual Kei's ul­ti­mate band — played a set at this year's Coachella Fes­ti­val, shar­ing the stage with Mar­i­lyn Man­son.

X Ja­pan's looks — a cross be­tween Eight­ies hair bands and late punk — are evoked in im­ages shared by the pop­u­lar street­style In­sta­gram ac­count Drop Tokyo. All-black en­sem­bles — worn by men and women — are ac­ces­sorized with crosses, blackout sun­glasses and an­gu­lar hair­cuts, tak­ing res­i­dence in clos­ets where rain­bow wigs, over­size bows and Lolita tu­tus were once fa­vored.

In Hara­juku — an area where fringe sub­cul­tures and fash­ion bop­pers in­ter­min­gle — there is now a clear de­lin­eation amongst var­i­ous Goth fac­tions. Fash­ion Goths ea­gerly posed for photos with vet­eran skill. Rather than of­fer­ing peace sign fin­gers and a cheru­bic pout, as they were once known to do, the scen­esters' new poses see them sulk­ing. True Goths, how­ever — known for their pi­ous self-re­serve — de­clined to be pho­tographed when ap­proached by WWD.

Some ob­servers say the new wave fash­ion Goth look — worn by Tokyo's teenage fash­ion ad­dicts, more so than main­stream con­sumers — is a move­ment away from “In­sta­genic” style, the bright and trendy fash­ion worn to en­snare likes on the so­cial net­work.

Maina Imura, a buyer for bluechip Tokyo vin­tage stores Pin­nap and Banny, has no­ticed a grow­ing fa­tigue for In­sta­gram among cre­ative cir­cles. She feels these types have grown to re­ject some of the inane prin­ci­ples that de­vel­oped in the app's main­stream as­cent. “Pri­or­i­ties have changed. For the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, it's more im­por­tant to be pop­u­lar in SNS [so­cial net­work­ing sites] com­mu­ni­ties now than in real life,” Imura said of Tokyo's broader dig­i­tal cul­ture.

“I think the cur­rent street fash­ion is ex­ist­ing be­tween the real street and the In­ter­net street,” said Yusuke Koishi, founder of Kle­in­stein Co. Ltd., a cre­ative con­sul­tancy firm that works closely with Comme des Garçons.

So­cial me­dia has given fash­ion fol­low­ers direct ac­cess to an au­di­ence, and thus they no longer need to prom­e­nade in out­landish looks to be pho­tographed for street-style blogs. With cre­ative in­tent skew­ing more to­ward dig­i­tal am­bi­tion than real-life ful­fill­ment, Tokyo's gen­eral style has been caught in a cre­ative rut.

The dark styles come at a time when Ja­pan's Kawaii cul­ture, now main­stream, has be­come un­ap­peal­ing to those with a higher un­der­stand­ing of fash­ion. A sub­cul­ture no more, Kawaii style has be­come some­what de­rided — its in­fan­tile-fem­i­nine aes­thetic now con­sid­ered an in­ap­pro­pri­ate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Ja­panese fash­ion, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the #MeToo (or #WeToo as it's been diplo­mat­i­cally called in Ja­pan) era.

Imura felt that “Kawaii isn't a fash­ion thing any­more, it's more of a pop-cul­ture thing. I don't know if it's the right thing to rep­re­sent Ja­panese fash­ion.”

Ac­cord­ing to ob­servers, black style is the cu­mu­la­tive re­sult of these cul­tural changes. Al­ways look­ing to flout con­ven­tion, Tokyo's fash­ion fa­nat­ics have cal­cu­lated their own an­ti­dote to un­sa­vory shifts in so­cial pri­or­i­ties — out­wardly re­lay­ing their con­tempt through fash­ion.

“By wear­ing black it's pos­si­ble to elim­i­nate your own per­son­al­ity and be more in­vis­i­ble. It's about not wear­ing ‘In­sta­genic' fash­ion; it's about wear­ing black to clean one's self of the in­di­vid­u­al­ity you may have when wear­ing col­ors,” said de­signer Noriko Nakazato, a Ph.D. can­di­date at

Tokyo Univer­sity of the Arts fo­cus­ing on con­tem­po­rary el­e­gance.

“When there is no big [over­ar­ch­ing] trend [like Kawaii], peo­ple go back to black. It's the safest. It's also the most anti-Kawaii thing,” said Maiko Shibukawa, cre­ative di­rec­tor for van­guard Tokyo bou­tique The Four Eyed, which set up shop in the red light district of Kabu­kichō in an ef­fort to “not be­come one of those [Kawaii] Hara­juku stores.”

Adding fuel to the pop­u­lar­ity of black is a re­dis­cov­ery, among fash­ion­able Ja­panese Mil­len­ni­als, of home­grown fash­ion tal­ents such as Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake, Yo­hji Ya­mamoto and Junya Watan­abe. Early in their ca­reers, this cre­ative band — once known as the Karasu-Zoku (crow tribe) — had toyed with Gothic un­der­tones and all-black de­sign, pop­u­lar­iz­ing this aes­thetic on Paris' run­ways through­out the Eight­ies and Nineties.

Koishi says the all-black trend is Kawaii's next it­er­a­tion — an in­evitable swing­ing of the pen­du­lum, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing how Kawaii's frilly fun was in­tended as a re­ac­tion against Karasu-Zoku's dark aus­ter­ity. “Kawaii fash­ion it­self was against high fash­ion and sta­tus quo so­ci­ety. Kawaii fol­low­ers got older, their val­ues changed. The orig­i­nal Kawaii de­sign­ers are now fol­low­ing the Nineties high-fash­ion de­sign­ers. Peo­ple who did not fit in with high street Nineties fash­ion orig­i­nally,” he said.

Shibukawa, a keen ob­server of style, has no­ticed her own re­newed in­ter­est in these de­sign­ers. “I see peo­ple wear­ing all black right now — to me, that's the peo­ple who like Comme des Garçons and Yo­hji. It is com­ing back. Maybe 10 years ago, Comme didn't mean much to me, but now it's like the Nineties are back kind of thing.”

Koishi elab­o­rated: “It is sur­pris­ing for my gen­er­a­tion, but there are many young peo­ple who did not know much about Comme and Yo­hji un­til re­cently. They did not learn about these brands from mag­a­zines, though. It's come through so­cial me­dia. Their first en­counter with the big la­bels like CDG and Yo­hji is not very direct — they en­counter them via in­flu­encers or a new la­bel. For me, these brands are the in­fra­struc­ture of Ja­panese fash­ion, but for teenagers they are merely brand new.”

Tokyo's army of fash­ion goths, dressed in

all black.

X Ja­pan per­forms

at the 2018 Coachella Fes­ti­val.

Early Ja­panese goths spot­ted in

Hara­juku, 1997.

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