Walking down Takeshita street on a Saturday is absolute chaos.
Shuffle down on the left and up on the right is really the only rule in the busiest street of Tokyo’s fashion district. The scent of crepes and candy perfume the the masses as they move through the small spaces, bright colours and loud utterances of irasshaimase (welcome). A fashion frenzy. If you manage to glance around without losing your travel buddy, expect to see a catwalk of Lolitas, contemporary goths, kawaii girls in platforms and pink chokers, punks, hooded anti-social-social-club guys and those who’ve thrifted their way through the 80s. Naturally the area is also littered with K-way wearing foreigners, camera clad and eating rainbow cotton candy. Don’t expect to see too many salary men in these parts, Omotesando perhaps, but not Harajuku. If Harajuku were to have a sugar daddy, Omotesando would probably be it. Omotesando savours the classic luxe suit while Harajuku rocks the streetwear trend. The common thread between the two? Both are styled to perfection. The perfect colour palette and the shirt tucked in just enough or the ribbon tied at precisely the right angle. Specific.
I’ve come to learn that the Japanese way often dictates that the pursuit of an interest must be carried out with intention. Telling a prospective date that you love them is’t uncommon, practising an art every day in pursuit of mastery is the norm, loving a character and owning every bit of memorabilia possible is commonplace. The same goes for fashion. The Lolita girl shops at the Lolita shop and wears head-to-toe frills and floral. Her ribbons tied with intention, her dress co-ordinated with the lace on her socks. She dedicates time to her look. She navigates Tokyo’s sidewalks in impractically perfect high heels and lounges in a lace draped room at home. She lives the Lolita life.
An interesting approach when I consider what I’ve known back home.
In South Africa, style seems to serve as a crucible of culture and influence. While there are those who completely own a style (probably the athleisure look, streetwear or minimalism) the rest seem to present an experimental blur of diversity. The last time I stood in one of my favourite Cape Town bars, I noted that the general style was a fluid image of influence. There were very few obvious looks but more often a collage of pieces from different eras, cultures and aesthetics; an african print top with slacks, sneakers and flat peak. Or a pair of high-wasted denims, an embroidered crop top, hoop earrings and a bohemian kimono.
In Japan, it’s a little different. People often prescribe to a style and own it, all of it. Harajuku’s selection of shops mirror this notion with each one housing a niche look with niche customers. The Lolita girl shops at the Lolita shop. The punk goes to the punk shop. The retro kid goes to the thrift shop. The avant-garde minimalist goes to the obviously all-black shop where you could be told by the owner that you don’t really like black because the lining of your black jacket is pink. Commit.
The approach has definitely led me to question my style in an attempt to understand where my taste fits into the public space as well as into my own life. I’ve settled on calling my look street-kawaii with a hint of Japanese sophistication. You can take the South African out of South Africa but you can’t take South Africa out of the South African, apparently. I’m influenced by too many things to settle on a single textbook look. I’m drawn to contrast; hard and soft, strong and cute, dark and playful.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s beautiful to have the opportunity to live a vision; to fully embrace what you love whether that be a stylised look or an eclectic mix of elements, whether it relates to fashion or not. Nourish “it” with fearless appreciation and enthusiasm.
Go all in.
Captured by the gem of a human, Aaron Schwartz, who casually and unknowingly, allowed me to realise one of my dreams – a shoot in harajuku (I’m a small town girl, don’t judge haha). Thank you for a magical experience!