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

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

Stephanie Smith. strict rules still exist. Perry (2008. no academic has claimed that the girls have an activist or socialist agenda. the social aspect and creativity of the outfits is what interests them. Part Time Fashion Business to have strict rules set out for them. One particular girl Erina who he met. therefore it is interesting that even in a youth subculture. For p201) on the ideologies in Subculture said that: 3 . particularly music." (http://www. after Sunday. and came up with some interesting insights.japaninc. the bridge allowed her to freely express herself and to interact with individuals who would not judge and who share similar interests. which was “young people who sequester themselves in their rooms for months at times”. and school that otherwise dominated their lives”. In a society where traditional values of loyalty and bowing to your elders are diminishing. they go home to their parents and go to school on the Monday wearing their correct school uniform. p5) undertook a seven week study of girls on the bridge. none are against capitalism. 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. When asked by Emily Kubo why she comes to Harajuku one girl replied: "I enjoy it. From of the many studies written on the subject. work. are these girls just looking for a place to belong? Sarah Thornton (1995. for the largest Louis Vuitton store is nestled down the road from the bridge. For many of the teenagers. used the environment to increase her confidence and social skills after being a “hikikomori”. This is to develop hard working and loyal adults. Coming from a broken home.php?articleID=1454#) Chris Perry (2008. It's just for fun.

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. by changing and customising their school uniform they were no longer one of many.Stephanie Smith. 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. but a distinctive social group.” The words “distinctive character” and anonymous help to explain the Kogal movement. but only 17% believe that group identity is their main focus (question 2). From this study. aided by websites and forums.” (2005. In 2005. p54) in his essay “symbolic creativity” observed that: 4 . blond or white hair. Another view is that the creativity shown in the handmade creations are an expression of art. They questioned 66 Japanese students and their results are shown in the appendix. Paul Willis (2006. 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. One such group is Ganguro who style themselves on American hip hop with “blackened faces and necks with shimmering makeup. 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). As previously stated music is an integral part of the Harajuku movement and what distinguishes many of the groups and brings the members together. Charli Kemp participated in a study with several other professors looking into Ganguro culture and how society perceives them.

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

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

In J. S. The Social logic of Subcultural Capital. London: Sage Publications De La Haye. belonging. who it is difficult to find an overall motive so allowing their “visual grammar” to speak for itself.Stephanie Smith. Symbolic Creativity. The Subculture Reader. it is their home. It felt like I had come home. 3rd ed. London: Victoria and Albert Museum Willis.1st Ed. whether as individuals or as a group. away from other influences and consumerism. P. "I saw kids in Harajuku that were totally about self-expression and having individual style. (1996) Surfers. even for just one day. for now they are unaffected by the influence they have on others but Ted Polhemus (1994. where they belong. even more so with the recognition they have received. 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. A Dinguall. their identity is there. (2006). Houston clothing) says in a DVD about the clothing line." This is exactly how the girls hanging out in Harajuku feel. western fashions will follow. p12) warns that just like designer goods’ value is lost when counterfeit goods are sold. 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. (`1995). Gelder. but yet there was this traditional Japanese style. their identity remains strong and valid. (1996) The Time of the Tribes. London: Routledge 7 .The Decline of individualism in Mass Society. These girls are now the trendsetters. There was this whole Western inspiration. Cambridge: Pearson: Prentice Hall Thornton. (1998). They offer an escape from reality. In K.Sub Cultural style from the forties to the nineties. C. M. (1997). as part of a group. Storey.A Reader. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. “"It was like I landed on another planet. In conclusion. Bibliography • • • • Maffesoli. Part Time Fashion Business recognise each other as one of a group." Stefani (2005. Soulies. so the same can be said of streetstyle. Skinheads and Skaters. and are pleased to be recognised by Western society.

Gelder. (p26-30)Chicago: University Press Perry. 3rd ed. (2007). (2009).htm (Accessed 15th June) • Robinson. (pp215238).com/p/articles/mi_m0NTN/is_64/ai_n14813550/? tag=content. Harajuku: Rebels on the bridge.. London: Thames & Hudson ltd • Sewing. (2005) Harajuku girls co-opted: everyone imposes their own interpretation on the so-called Harajuku girls. [Online] Available at http://www. E. 10th Issue. K. http://fasionism. (2008). and Identity in Clothing. 1.[Online] Accessed at http://www. Available at http://www. Yamamba Girl. B.files. London: Sage Publications • Gordon.14. Fashion and Post Modernism. [Online] 17th Nov. Accessed 15th June • Love. Gender.japantalk. (pp83-104). (2008) v=SZQEgbKGVJg. (2006). Cambridge: Pearson: Prentice Hall • Stefani.stm (Accessed 15th June) Kubo. (June 2005). [Online]. C.uky. Reader.mpl/features/3455179. (2005) Subculture-The Fragmentation of the Social. Gwen Stefani: I am a very different girl to what I used to be. Accessed on 15th June • Kawamura. Despite their recent rise to fame. T. [Online] Accessed at http://www. Fashion and its Social Agendas: Class. G. Accessed on 15th June. Hurry up and Save Me. who are the real girls behind the Hollywood obsession?.html. In J. http://highvoltageart.blogspot. Music. (2006) Japanese Teens as Producers of Street Fashion. Storey.The Concept of the Subculture and its Application. (2005) The Hip Hop Impact on Japanese London: Sage Publications • Polhemus. Harajuku Girls plus lyrics. (1997). 6. Accessed 15th June Crane.chron. In K. S..1st Ed. D.col1 (Accessed at 15th June) Schiermer. [Online] Accessed at http://findarticles. E.scribd. Accessed on 15th June • 8 .bbc. [Online] 3rd July. University of Copenhagen Accessed 15th June Marie Claire USA. Part Time Fashion Business McGowan. Available at http://news. [Online] (2009) Japan’s Fashion Rebellion Goes West.. (1994) Streetstyle. BBC World Service. Accessed at http://www. (2010) Fashion Victims On the Individualizing and De-individualizing Powers of Fashion.M. (2003). X... (2002) What’s behind the Fetishism of Japanese School Uniforms. 2. Baby. (2004). Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. (1947).com/2009/07/yamamba-girl. http://www. London: Routledge • Wilson.wordpress.nxdscrapbook. Angel. Yale University Fruits Magazine..Stephanie Smith. (2007) Key Issues in Critical and Cultural Theory. London: Open University Press • Jenks. The Subculture Reader.html (Accessed 15th June) • Houston Chronicle. Y. N. (2005) Japanese Chic: From Couture to Geisha Glam.

Stephanie Smith. Part Time Fashion Business 9 .

and mass media. 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. and didn’t call low culture. The last subject I looked into was subcultures. the word in itself was hard to understand. “Cultural Theory and Popular Culture” and “The Subcultures Reader”. 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. I wish to focus my essay on this but to do that I needed to learn how subcultures developed and the focus behind them. and the idea that men gave up the rights to dress outlandish and beautiful had never occurred to me. What I found was that subcultures were an expression of creativity and art by youth and progressively art and subcultures overlapped. in particular the evolution of the dress in upper classes via hoops and corsets. To gain a general overview I looked at two Readers. I started reading “The Culture of Fashion. 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. 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. Several subjects raised in the lectures interested me. I learnt that I considered most high culture.Stephanie Smith. A New History of Fashionable Dress” to gain a wider overview of the topic. Part Time Fashion Business Reflective Writing One of the Key topics that have raised difficulty for me was the Great Masculine renunciation. especially in this age of metrosexuality. culture. Just a part of everyday life and now realise how influential all cultures are. Therefore it was worthy of note 10 .

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

com 12 . 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.blogspot.Stephanie Smith.

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