Harajuku: Tokyo Street Fashion

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    Rin from Angelic Pretty, Shibaken from Cotton Candy, Rikka wearing Juliette et Justine

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    Yuki and Rin of Baby the Stars Shine Bright

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    Left to right: Shima of Tokyo Bopper; Ai of Nile Perch; Saori of Jane Marple

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    Left to right: Mai and Chie of Atelier Pierrot; Kanna and Natsuko of Wonder Rocket

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November 19, 2015 - April 03, 2016
Honolulu Museum of Art

Exhibition Overview

In 1990s Tokyo, a style combining the kawaii (excruciatingly cute) of Hello Kitty culture and British new wave emerged in the streets, finding a particular home around the Harajuku train station. American pop star Gwen Stefani brought the fashion trend into the global mainstream when she introduced her Harajuku Girls backup singers and her LAMB design line. Twenty years on, the Honolulu Museum of Art looks at the current trends and far-reaching influence of Harajuku: Tokyo Street Fashion, presented by Hawaiian Airlines.

After two years of planning and research, textiles curator Sara Oka has organized a playful look at a whimsical world that has had a serious effect on fashion—influencing designers, merchandisers, and other industry leaders around the globe. Hawaiian Airlines Presents Harajuku: Tokyo Street Fashion is a snapshot Harajuku’s alternative modes of dress, lifestyles and blends of cultures—resulting in a transitional world of fashion colliding with fantasy that continues to evolve.

Harajuku was a place for public gatherings, where teenagers congregated to meet with friends who dressed in the latest crazes. A wide range of subcultures, some with clear distinctions has since fragmented into smaller groups. Neighboring districts of Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro were also recognized as hot spots for specific genres. Select shops and small boutiques grew out of this hybrid of combining original handmade items and altered ready-made brands.

Oka has rounded up Harajuku’s distinct looks—Lolita, Mori Girl, Kawaii, Decora, and Fairy Kei—and presents them as complete outfits on mannequins, staged and accessorized by genre—and enhanced by street photos by museum staff photographer Shuzo Uemoto and videos of Visual Kei bands.

The looks:

Lolita: The princess-like Lolita look channels a Victorian doll—with ruffled dress, a bonnet, ribbons, and flat shoes accessorized with a feminine handbag. A small umbrella is often hidden under a blonde wig. Highly influenced by such British cultural touchstones such as Alice in Wonderland, Lolita followers spawned the establishment of brands like Jane Marple, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, and Angelic Pretty that are mainstays of this fashion genre. Darker variations include Gothic Lolita and Steampunk Lolita, which will also be included.

Mori Girl: “Mori” means forest, and this genre has its followers looking like they live in a sun-dappled glen with Bambi. They wear a natural, woodsy assortment of vintage earthy colors and layers, often integrating elements of crochet, knit and lace. Dolly Kei, an offshoot of the Mori Girl mode, incorporates the flavor of Eastern European folk costumes in jewel tones. Mori Girls rifle through vintage boutiques, second-hand stores, thrift shops and flea markets on the hunt for elements to create the battered, worn, yet elegant look.

Kawaii, Decora and Fairy Kei: These are another major aspect of Japanese culture encompassing entertainment, food, fashion, and toys that affected personal appearances and behavior. Kawaii means “cute” or “pretty,” while Decora, short for “decoration” is dominated by the use of pastels or bright colors in an array of hair clips and bows, in an excessive application of layering accessories including furry toys and plastic jewelry. Unicorns and rainbows are cherished motifs and, not surprising is the inclusion of trademarked American products such as Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony.

The streets of Tokyo, where millions of people intersect every day, provide a background for this intensified face-paced and ever-evolving progression of fashions and trends. By incorporating inspiration from other cultures remixed with those in Japan the resulting assemblages provide a multitude of derivations. The power of youth and members of a subculture of common values, attitudes and norms is credit to an innovative lifestyle of radical, outrageous and sometimes subversive attitudes. While some remain marginal, global awareness has increasingly multiplied, significantly altering the growing impact on designers, merchandisers, and other industry leaders by expanding their significance to Europe, the United States, South America and Asia, showcased here in Harajuku: Tokyo Street Fashion.

Read curator Sara Oka's notes on putting the exhibition together.


Stylized models in the gallery
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays; 10am-2pm
See models wearing Harajuku fashions.

Schedule exceptions: Dec. 5, 10am-noon; Dec. 15, no model.

Appearance by Tokyo street fashion star Minori
Nov 19, 10am-noon, in the exhibition

Minori practices the art of shironuri, which means "painted in white," a traditional style of makeup used by geishas and Kabuki actors. She is a key figure in Tokyo’s street fashion scene (she has appeared in Vogue and is regularly covered by the blog tokyofashion.com) and will be featured in the upcoming exhibition Harajuku: Tokyo Street Fashion, opening Nov. 19. Visitors can meet Minori, dressed in her full street regalia, in the gallery.

Growing up in the country, Minori was struck by the beauty in nature, taking inspiration from the patterns on leaves, shapes of flowers, and grooves in the bark that has become her signature style in revolutionizing her application of shironuri. She creates her own fashion and coordinates her makeup which has become more than just a style, but has since evolved into a way of life.

Tokyo Bopper meet and greet 
Nov 19, 2-3pm
Stop by the gallery to meet staff from Tokyo Bopper, one of Harajuku's hottest fashion shops.

Shironuri Demonstration by Minori
Nov 20, 6-8pm, Honolulu Museum of Art School, FREE

At this free event, Minori will demonstrate how to apply shironuri on a model.

Appearance by model Misako Aoki
Jan 28, 10 am-noon, in the exhibition, free with museum entry
Jan 29, 6-9pm, at ARTafterDARK: Kawaii Hawai‘i
Misako Aoki is a model and president of the Japan Lolita Association. She is also a part-time nurse by trade but works her schedule to be part-time Lolita as well.  She was at one time sponsored by the government as the Kawaii Ambassador but has since branched out on her own.  She travels the world making appearances at tea parties and other Lolita sponsored events. 

ARTafterDARK: Kawaii Hawai‘i
Jan 29, 6-9pm, $25, free for museum members

Misako Aoki will be featured in the exhibition gallery for picture-taking with guests.

Bank of Hawaii Family Sunday: Mori and Steam
Free fun for the whole family! Explore the exhibition and be inspired to create some of your own fashion accessories. 

Lecture: Eternal Maidens and the Power of Cute Fashion: From Conversations with Japanese Lolitas | An Nguyen
Feb 25, 2016,  5-6 p.m., 
Doris Duke Theater, FREE
Visiting scholar An Nguyen's talk focuses on the people who wear Lolita, with stories and profiles that shed light on why they choose to wear this fashion style through an exploration of philosophy, aesthetics, and social networks.


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