'FRUiTS' by Shoichi Aoki
Japanese street fashion and the beauty of being different
She presses kohl gently against the contours of her bright asian eyes. As she props her dreads up a little higher... is the purple washout fading already? ... her koi handbag rings. Off to Harajuku, Tokyo's pedestrian playground. Clad in bright pink knee high socks and a pencil skirt she drapes her shoulders with her mother's satin and stealthily makes her way out the back door. Her outfit was carefully assembled to earn attention, in the loudest of senses.
Most of the brightly coloured clothes and accessories which are stocked in the Japanese suburb Harajuku are imported from the United States. Themes such as chic goth, punk and infantilisation are favourites. However designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Milk and Jean-Paul Gaultier, and the occasional Comme des Garcons have also appeared on the streets. The fruits are the youths that wear them... marrying kitsch and glamour in a surprisingly stunning manner. They are 12 to 18 year olds who bask in the grey area between fashion and a living work of art. So much so that Phaidon Press has published an art book devoted to them. Photography and text by Shoichi Aoki.
The fashionistas earned their name from a fanzine which is devoted to the rise of the genre. FRUiTS was originally established in 1994 as on ongoing project by the same Shoichi Aoki who documented the growing culture of street fashion in the back streets of Tokyo through photography. No supermodels allowed... the model is the artist - and this results in a few forward-looking zombie expressions. The book, which was published in June 2001 is brightly illustrated and includes short interviews which give an added dimension to the pictorial. The author not only asks where they shop but also what they do in life and what they aspire to. "You also get to see the trends in jobs. Now everybody wants to become a nail artist."
Adaptation is a strength. Aoki recalls: “You had this small group of trendsetters, perhaps 10 to 20 people. Whenever they came up with something new, others would soon imitate them. But these imitators weren’t as cool as the original trendsetters so the trendsetters didn’t want to be identified with them. To differentiate themselves again they came up with new things. It just escalated. They kept on trying to escape from their imitators right into 'decora' They figured nobody would follow them into wearing clothes that crazy.”
The prestiguous Goth Loli style does not translate into your average dye streaked tongue-pierced teenager. These goths are happy to pose with tourists or with their back casually pressed against coloured vending machines. Sweet Lolita is in general a more playful, and somewhat frivolous look.
Well-meaning, yet sometimes provocative, Aoki explains that the difference between Western culture lies in the fact that in Japan fashion is not as closely linked to social status as much as it is an expression of who you really are. The obsession is with one's own self, as opposed to what the rest of society thinks of you.