Stephanie Smith, Part Time Fashion Business

Japan Subcultures springing up from Harajuku have been seen to influence Western clothing and art, has this affected their identity and individuality? “Your underground culture, visual grammar/ The language of your clothing is something to encounter/ A Ping-Pong match between eastern and western/ Did you see your inspiration in my latest collection?”

These are the lyrics to one of the verses in Gwen Stefani’s song “Harajuku Girls”. It explicitly states that Stefani was inspired by the subculture Harajuku and that her fashion line LAMB and subsequent perfume represent them. Her album campaign involved four American Japanese girls dressed in the style of Harajuku as her backing dancers and entourage on the red carpet. Stefani speaking to Marie Claire in 2005 said the idea “came to her in a dream” but is the packaging and making this subculture “mass culture” taking away from the individuality that Stefani professed to fall in love with? Or is the subculture about group identity?

The area of Harajuku has been called the “district of Fashion” for the last few years but the origins of the area help to understand the unusual mix of Eastern and Western cultures expressed here. After the war in 1947, Washington Heights was built to house the American soldiers and along with this, were shops catering for them including antiques and clothes shops. It was to become the venue for the Olympic athletes in 1964, and with that transportation links opened up access to the area. Japan 1

The eighties saw a rise in teenagers congregating in Harajuku around Yoyogi Park on a Sunday which Emily Kubo (2005. The subtle differences between the two were that Celemba’s wore silver eye shadow and the Mambas wore white.Harajuku girls co-opted) said with “their greased hair and smoking cigarettes…symbolised youth decadence and rebellion”. Japan is perceived to be a conformist society with children being brought up 2 .com/2009/07/yamamba-girl. (Yamamba Girls: http://fasionism. which they follow. Therefore to know which group you belong to.blogspot. and did not wear expensive brands. p10)told how their “influence extended far beyond a particular subculture” . The schoolgirls clothed in short plaid skirts and artificial suntans. p7). subcultures such as the “Gothic Lolita” and the Mamba developed. Teenagers expressed this with fashion. p5) said caused “a widespread feeling of dillusionment” changing the social values of the country. For each group has their own specific set of rules regarding their look and fashion. you first must learn the guidelines set out. interviewing a girl in Harajuku wrongly mistook her for a Mamba when she was in fact a Celemba. Yuniya Kawamura (2006. spread the Kogal look and Yuniya Kawamura (2006. Following Kogal.Stephanie Smith. Part Time Fashion Business experienced prosperity in the eighties and the following recession. turning away from the traditional dress and creating new styles. It wasn’t till the nineties when the Kogal movement took place that fashion took centre stage. Street music was exhibited here and many of Japan’s biggest artists started life on these streets.html) Yuniya Kawamura (2006.

For them. In a society where traditional values of loyalty and bowing to your elders are diminishing. This is to develop hard working and loyal adults. are these girls just looking for a place to belong? Sarah Thornton (1995. particularly music. Coming from a broken home. From of the many studies written on the subject.japaninc. work. When asked by Emily Kubo why she comes to Harajuku one girl replied: "I enjoy it. It's just for fun. used the environment to increase her confidence and social skills after being a “hikikomori”. For many of the teenagers. p201) on the ideologies in Subculture said that: 3 . after Sunday. and came up with some interesting insights. the social aspect and creativity of the outfits is what interests them. none are against capitalism. Part Time Fashion Business to have strict rules set out for Chris Perry (2008." (http://www. p5) undertook a seven week study of girls on the bridge. strict rules still exist. p20) did not see the girls as rebels as depicted by Western society but as girls and women who feel trapped by the “institutional pressures of home. no academic has claimed that the girls have an activist or socialist agenda. and school that otherwise dominated their lives”. they go home to their parents and go to school on the Monday wearing their correct school uniform. One particular girl Erina who he met. the bridge allowed her to freely express herself and to interact with individuals who would not judge and who share similar interests. therefore it is interesting that even in a youth subculture. for the largest Louis Vuitton store is nestled down the road from the bridge. which was “young people who sequester themselves in their rooms for months at times”. Perry (2008.Stephanie Smith.

” (2005. Another view is that the creativity shown in the handmade creations are an expression of art. by changing and customising their school uniform they were no longer one of many. From this study. but only 17% believe that group identity is their main focus (question 2). but a distinctive social group. p54) in his essay “symbolic creativity” observed that: 4 .Stephanie Smith. They questioned 66 Japanese students and their results are shown in the appendix. One such group is Ganguro who style themselves on American hip hop with “blackened faces and necks with shimmering makeup. it seems an outsider’s view is that they wish to be individual and different from society but when asked the girls reply that it’s just for fun and for the social contact. Xuexin Liu) By blackening their faces they are idolizing African American culture and setting themselves apart from the rest of society who have pale skin. blond or white hair. As previously stated music is an integral part of the Harajuku movement and what distinguishes many of the groups and brings the members together. aided by websites and forums.” The words “distinctive character” and anonymous help to explain the Kogal movement. Part Time Fashion Business “Subculture ideologies are a means by which youth imagine their own and other social groups assert their distinctive character and affirm that they are not anonymous members of an undifferentiated mass. The answers highlight that Japanese society and their peers see them as going against traditional culture (question 10) and setting themselves out as individuals by going against common social behaviors ( question 9). Charli Kemp participated in a study with several other professors looking into Ganguro culture and how society perceives them. Paul Willis (2006. In 2005.

The Harajuku girls have created their own world.Stephanie Smith. or someone from a pop group. signs and symbols through which individuals and groups seek creatively to establish their presence. identity and meaning”. a presence in Tokyo and have subsequently become as culturally relevant as any other part of the city. and Identity in Clothing said that: “The consumption of cultural goods. 5 . The signs and symbols are for example. Each girl’s clothes follow the rules set out but each one is unique. Magazines such as Fruit have developed this cultural relevance and some girls see having their photo in this publication as an achievement. and who she is aligned with. which character a girl chooses to imitate when she is a Cosplay. Diana Crane (2000. Harajuku girls. many take days to sew and create. This signal to the rest of the group. Gender. p26) discussing identity and fashion in her essay Fashion and its Social Agendas: Class. especially the youngsters. her identity in the group. from tradition and enables them to make choices that create a meaningful self-identity. such as fashionable clothing. were establishing their identity. and the variety of lifestyles available today liberates the individuals. performs an increasingly important role in the construction of personal identity.” This view collaborates with the theory that along with social advantages the Harajuku girls are breaking away from traditions with their clothing and liberates them from their parent’s generation. whether it be because she is dressed as a Manga character. Part Time Fashion Business “Most young people’s lives are not involved with the arts and yet are actually full of expressions. By using fashion and art.

couture looks to the street and vice versa. are dressed individually but 6 .Stephanie Smith. group identity. The bubble up theory proposed by Herbert Blumer in 1969 works with this subculture and shows how consumption of this fashion is trickled up into the Western World. Amy De la Haye (1996. Designer Miwa Sakashita was not surprised as “all the trends start in Harajuku and go everywhere”. Fashion houses watch this district closely for ideas and inspiration. p46) from the Victoria and Albert museum said that: “In the modern world. The cultural map is turned upside down. It comes from social pressures and unstable economic conditions and is helped by technology in creating social communication and presence. The girls here. which has been developing since World War Subsequently when the Western world see them as inspiration this is seen as recognition by them and is therefore welcomed.japan-talk. creativity and new ideas and inspiration.” This small area contains individuality. Part Time Fashion Business http://www.

Gelder. their identity remains strong and valid. 3rd ed.Sub Cultural style from the forties to the nineties. as part of a group. so the same can be said of streetstyle. The Subculture Reader. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. Their identity is not compromised and they will evolve just as their passions in music and art evolve and with that using bubble up theory. Houston clothing) says in a DVD about the clothing line.1st Ed. for now they are unaffected by the influence they have on others but Ted Polhemus (1994. and are pleased to be recognised by Western society. (1998). The Social logic of Subcultural Capital. belonging. P. London: Routledge 7 .Stephanie Smith. London: Sage Publications De La Haye. Storey. A Dinguall. it is their home. p12) warns that just like designer goods’ value is lost when counterfeit goods are sold. (`1995). C. These girls are now the trendsetters." Stefani (2005. (1997). There was this whole Western inspiration. Part Time Fashion Business recognise each other as one of a group. "I saw kids in Harajuku that were totally about self-expression and having individual style. away from other influences and consumerism. (2006). western fashions will follow.A Reader. where they belong. their identity is there. M. It felt like I had come home. Bibliography • • • • Maffesoli. London: Victoria and Albert Museum Willis. (1996) Surfers. In J. who it is difficult to find an overall motive so allowing their “visual grammar” to speak for itself. “"It was like I landed on another planet. S. (1996) The Time of the Tribes.The Decline of individualism in Mass Society. Skinheads and Skaters. They offer an escape from reality. In K. The bubble up process will mean we see further collections with Harajuku influences and more designers and artists like Gwen Stefani will visit and be inspired by this intriguing group of people. In conclusion. Soulies. whether as individuals or as a group." This is exactly how the girls hanging out in Harajuku feel. even for just one day. Symbolic Creativity. even more so with the recognition they have received. Cambridge: Pearson: Prentice Hall Thornton. but yet there was this traditional Japanese style.

japantalk. Accessed on 15th June • 8 . Available at http://www. who are the real girls behind the Hollywood obsession?. (2005) Harajuku girls co-opted: everyone imposes their own interpretation on the so-called Harajuku girls. (2009).jpeg. v=SZQEgbKGVJg. Accessed on 15th June. (1994) Streetstyle. Yale University Fruits Magazine. Baby. London: Thames & Hudson ltd • (2005) The Hip Hop Impact on Japanese Culture. K. The Subculture Reader. D. [Online] Accessed at Cambridge: Pearson: Prentice Hall • Stefani. [Online] Accessed at http://www.. [Online] Available at University of Copenhagen Kinsella. Available at http://news. (2006)..A London: Sage Publications • tag=content. (2005) Subculture-The Fragmentation of the Gwen Stefani: I am a very different girl to what I used to be. Storey.stm (Accessed 15th June) Kubo. (2007) Key Issues in Critical and Cultural Hurry up and Save Me. (2008). Accessed 15th June • Love. (2007). 6. Harajuku Girls plus lyrics. Harajuku: Rebels on the bridge.htm (Accessed 15th June) • Robinson. [Online]. In J. J. (pp215238). (2010) Fashion Victims On the Individualizing and De-individualizing Powers of[Online] Accessed at http://www. Music. [Online] 17th Nov. E. T. (2009) Japan’s Fashion Rebellion Goes West. (2008) Accessed 15th June Marie Claire USA. N. (1997). London: Routledge • Wilson. Accessed on 15th June • Kawamura. Part Time Fashion Business McGowan. Gelder. X. Angel.col1 (Accessed at 15th June) Schiermer. and Identity in Clothing. (1947). Y. http://highvoltageart.M. Accessed at http://www. Fashion and its Social Agendas: Class. S.chron. (pp83-104).com/article/marie-claire-us.Stephanie Smith. (2002) What’s behind the Fetishism of Japanese School Uniforms. [Online] 3rd July. C.. (2003).14. http://www.blogspot.The Concept of the Subculture and its Application. Yamamba Girl. Fashion and Post Modernism. Despite their recent rise to fame.1st Ed.html (Accessed 15th June) • Lin. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. 3rd ed. B. Accessed 15th June Crane. BBC World Service. (p26-30)Chicago: University Press Perry. (2005) Japanese Chic: From Couture to Geisha Glam. In K. 10th Issue. Gender.. [Online]. (2006) Japanese Teens as Producers of Street Fashion. Houston Chronicle. C. http://fasionism. G. London: Sage Publications • Gordon.nxdscrapbook. (June 2005). (2004). London: Open University Press • Jenks.mpl/features/3455179.

Stephanie Smith. Part Time Fashion Business 9 .

especially in this age of metrosexuality. The last subject I looked into was subcultures. The idea that clothes portrayed someone’s class and that we can see how classes developed through articles of clothing as accurately as documents was thought provoking. These included Class and Gender Subcultures. By further research I wished to relate the modern dress to these fashion developments but most of the literature concerned historical facts and not how we could learn from them. “Cultural Theory and Popular Culture” and “The Subcultures Reader”. A New History of Fashionable Dress” to gain a wider overview of the topic. I started reading “The Culture of Fashion. I wish to focus my essay on this but to do that I needed to learn how subcultures developed and the focus behind them. What I found was that subcultures were an expression of creativity and art by youth and progressively art and subcultures overlapped. To gain a general overview I looked at two Readers. I wished to make it as modern as possible and from popular culture I have come across the Harajuku fashion and how Japanese teenagers mixed subculture fashion with traditional outfits. culture. and mass media.Stephanie Smith. Several subjects raised in the lectures interested me. Part Time Fashion Business Reflective Writing One of the Key topics that have raised difficulty for me was the Great Masculine renunciation. Just a part of everyday life and now realise how influential all cultures are. and didn’t call low culture. the word in itself was hard to understand. Therefore it was worthy of note 10 . and the idea that men gave up the rights to dress outlandish and beautiful had never occurred to me. I learnt that I considered most high culture. in particular the evolution of the dress in upper classes via hoops and corsets. The difference between high and low culture was difficult to grasp at first and how some academics considered certain things high and certain things low.

Due to this being a modern subculture. After a long phone call to my boyfriend I realised I was quite passionate about the subject and that the Western world were still relatively ignorant on the causes. Part Time Fashion Business that the Victoria and Albert Museum commissioned an exhibition on subcultures and a book which one of my quotes came from. There seemed to be many points of view and all were relevant. I was overwhelmed at first and didn’t know where to start from. I look forward to the next culture studies module. Finding many academic readings on subculture this was the essay topic I chose and started to look at images relevant to it. and their importance. looking at when titles were written and therefore how relevant they are. In future I have learnt that talking through the conflicting views with an outsider helps and puts everything into place. hopefully will be increased by hearing I have another niece. I chose a mixture of traditional photos and Harajuku images to compare and contrast them. 11 . Therefore I searched the internet for images of Harajuku fashion. was important as well. Working from my research folder. My sister is due to give birth the day I hand this essay in. The Victoria and Albert book was inspiring but the images focused on surfers and nineties fashion mostly. It took longer than normal to complete but by the end of the essay I feel I have put across a fair reflection of the girls on the bridge. I delved into the world of Harajuku and its influence on the Western world.Stephanie Smith. So I reread the articles and books and decided to start the essay. and next time will not feel bogged down by sources and references which I was this time. I became so confused I felt like not starting the essay at all and changing the subject completely. and the excitement of handing this in. The images chosen are relevant to my course as Fashion houses and designers have their roots in Harajuku.

com 12 .Stephanie Smith.blogspot. Part Time Fashion Business Stephanie Smith Part Time Fashion Business Introduction to Cultural and Historical Studies Summer 2010-0616 Tutors : Emmanuelle Dirx and Mark Armstrong http://fantasiajapan.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful