It’s been over a year since our Japanese Street Fashion 2016 article. Considering the speed at which trends, brands, shops, and people come and go in the Japanese street fashion scene, an update is past due.
Harajuku — Tokyo’s one-of-a-kind youth culture neighborhood — retains its long-held title as the center of Japan’s street fashion scene in 2017. There are plenty of other hip/trendy areas in Tokyo and Osaka, but Harajuku remains the leading indicator of Japanese street fashion’s overall health and direction. Trends, brands, personalities, and shops get noticed here first — then spread outward.
Our overall impression of Harajuku’s street fashion scene in 2017 is that it’s noticeably stronger than it was in 2016.
Harajuku welcomes a new “generation” of kids every spring — around the time the Japanese school year starts in April. The majority of these new 16- to 20-year-old Harajuku kids are college students (often attending a nearby fashion, design, or beauty school) experiencing the freedom of young adulthood. Some are high school students who’ve reached an age where their parents feel comfortable with them hanging around Harajuku on their own, and another group have moved to Tokyo from their hometowns all over Japan for work, school, or other reasons.
When a new Harajuku generation arrives, the previous one departs. Those graduating from college or trade school decide it’s time to move on to “real life” and disappear from the streets. The average Harajuku kid spends no more than four years as an active member of the scene. This cyclical turnover of around 20% of the scene’s entire population means that Harajuku’s own personality has the potential to change dramatically from year to year.
Judging by the young people we’ve met on the street so far, the Harajuku Class of 2017 is brimming with creative and passionate young fashion lovers.
This year’s group of kids seems more experimental and excited about street fashion than we’ve seen in the last couple of years, which is good news for the near future of Harajuku. We’ve yet to see a new breakout star like Hirari Ikeda, Juria, Kyary, Peco, or Yutaro. That said, it’s too early to predict what might happen as this new group of kids carve out their own place in the scene.
Over the last year, Japanese street fashion has continued to be influential throughout Asia and around the globe. Look no further than the recent Louis Vuitton Kansai Yamamoto collection, Marc Jacobs controversial Harajuku inspired runway show, Rihanna’s Harajuku-influenced Fenty collection with Puma, and the breathtaking Comme Des Garcons exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.