Do you love following fashion trends and are you fascinated by its evolution? Then you should visit Tokyo. Japan's capital city is a true fashion mecca, and no one style defines it. Take for example street fashion: It's colorful, quirky and constantly changing.
From cartoon-cute styles to dark goth designs, Tokyo has always delighted in pushing the boundaries of modern street fashion, refusing to be categorized by easy definitions. Just a quick walk through Harajuku, the town's most forward-thinking street fashion district, reveals a feast for the eyes and senses through an ever-evolving landscape of cutting-edge styles.
The scene often can — and does — shift in the blink of an eye, and what's hot one moment may be passé the next, but here are a few of the most current names and styles in 2016 to help you plan for some great people-watching and maybe even some shopping.
In simplest terms, "kawaii" means "cute" or "adorable," describing a distinctively Japanese look that focuses on innocent, youthful style and whimsical designs (Hello Kitty is a perfect example). Although the kawaii market has been predominantly cornered by teenage girls up until now thanks to an influx of doll-like short skirts, anime-inspired T-shirts and flirty accessories, boys are now staking their claim to a new breed of kawaii style all their own. These days, it's not uncommon to see young men proudly sporting headbands, gender-fluid clothing and even makeup, blurring the lines between what is expected of male and female fashions. Fashion icons Ryucheru, Genking, Toman and a string of other bold "genderless" kawaii boys are leading the way for other males who aren't afraid to explore the more feminine tenets of the style.
It's not difficult to spot a kawaii look. You'll see primarily pastel colors, cartoon prints and fuzzy accessories. Kawaii boys want to look cute, but not overly revealing. They like to wear layers — think plaid pleated miniskirts over leggings and cardigan sweaters atop lacy undershirts.
The brainchild of 20-something Japanese "It girl" Tetsuko Okuhira (or "Princess Peco" as she's affectionately known to her adoring legions of fans), Peco Club fashions cater to an audience of kawaii-savvy young ladies through bubble-gum pop creations like colorful shirts, distressed denim, cutesy prints and kicky skirts.
Although the wide-eyed style icon is decidedly Japanese, Peco's blond hair gives her look a dash of American flavor, making her clothing all the more accessible across international cultures that seek to emulate the kawaii style. And to distinguish herself from other kawaii lines and designers, Peco's wares have just enough punky hardcore attitude to take the edge off their sugary-sweet first impression.
Sharing the neighborhood with a wealth of contemporary street fashion shops and trendy boutiques, Bubbles has established a reputation for distinctive retro style in the five years since it's been open, which has dovetailed into production of Peco Club and the store's own exclusive kawaii lines of clothing.
Headquartered in the Harajuku street fashion epicenter with two additional outposts in Shibuya and Osaka, Bubbles features a thoughtfully vetted treasure trove of vintage clothes and shoes that includes leggings, 1980s American concert T-shirts and plenty of fun, funky accessories.
Speaking of accessories, Tokyo boutiques carry an array of out-of-the-ordinary additions to round out any modern street fashion wardrobe. This year's well-dressed street fashionistas are modeling patterned art stockings with toenail details pre-painted right on, pink sparkly baseball caps and Japanese kanji prints on everything from shirts to bags to jewelry.
Completing the look
No Japanese street-chic look would be complete without the appropriate makeup. For kawaii, this means big mascara-fringed eyes, pink-flushed lips and rosy cheeks. "Hangover makeup" is also hot at the moment — an avant-garde look that consists of smeared eyeliner and red under-eye shadow or blush complemented by wet, messy hair to create a just-rolled-out-of-bed look. Yes, on purpose.
Other Japanese fashions
If street fashions aren't your style, there are at least four other districts to tantalize your eyes and perhaps your wallet.
The Ginza district is where you'll find the city's most prestigious collection of high-end shops from the world's most renowned designers including Armani, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior and Gucci. Tokyo is a bastion of high-quality, sophisticated clothing lines including elegant handbags, reimagined European-style menswear and professional outfits for working women.
The Shibuya district is known for its trendy fashions. Visit Shibuya 109 shopping mall for 10 floors of the hottest fashions geared to a younger crowd via the shops’ competing music and vibrant displays.
The Omotesando district is known for sophisticated international brands as well as Japanese boutiques. The Daikanyama district is a high-class residential area peppered with unique, sophisticated boutiques.
There is something for everyone in Tokyo.
For more information on where to find fashion options in Tokyo, see the Official Tokyo Travel Guide: http://www.gotokyo.org/en/.
—Amy Lynch for Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau