A Guide to Popular Japanese Fashion


Shoichi Aoki, the founder of STREET magazine, FRUiTS magazine and TUNE magazine, and the father of Japanese street fashion, was inspired by a trip to Europe. After introducing the European style to Japan, his artistic style was recognized domestically, and his progressive combinations of Eastern and Western styles on the street earned the nickname “Aoki’s ambush.” Whatever he captured with his camera would be the frontline of Japanese fashion. Since then, multiple styles have come from the interaction between acute revolutionists like Aoki and eagerly innovative teenagers. Now, the gates of modern Japanese street fashion have been pushed open for fashion explorers across the globe. Harajuku

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is one of the Harajuku fashion idols that is admired and adored in Japan. Her style excessively adopts pink, fluorescent blue, bows, ribbons, laces, gilt, warm and bright colors that seem to clash for attention. She is a dramatized version of the Harajuku teenagers, who use fusion of the West and East, and colors waywardly selected from the spectrum. But Harajuku fashion is only one branch of the Japanese street fashion tree.

Lolita, Gyaru, Ganguro, Kogal, and More

Another branch is the Lolita style, which adopts Rococo dressing codes from France and turns it into a sweet, luxurious, but sexually distant style that sets the Lolita girls distinctively apart on the street. Gyaru (Japanese for ‘girl’) refers to rebellious Japanese hippie girls who campaign about their boldness with the sheer contrast of skin darkened with BB cream and blond hair, with scandalously short skirts and wide open collars. Ganguro (‘all black’) also rebels against the prevalent beauty standard with extremely tanned skin and blends in exaggerated eye-liners that hint at Kabuki masks. Kogal dictates the classic attires of popular high school girls, with hair dyed blonde or brown, loose socks, heavy makeup and loose uniforms. Apart from those, there are Bōsōzoku (‘gangster’), Decora (‘cute accessories’), Visual Kei (similar to glam rock), Oshare Kei (‘fashionable’), Angura Kei (dark and punk), Cult Party Kei (religious elements), Dolly Kei (doll-like), Fairy Kei (children’s items), and Kimono style (only seen in actresses, singers and idols).


However, currently the most popular style is Mori, which sets the tone with soft, loosely fitting layers of garments such as flowy dresses and cardigans. Mori transcends the plastic, hard, cold, conventional beauty with perfectly measured proportions into one of vaguely nostalgic coziness. It places an emphasis on natural fabrics (cotton, linen, wool) and handmade or vintage accessories that suggest nature: forests, rivers, moss, squirrels, and flowers. The color scheme tends to be light and neutral, but patterns such as gingham and florals may also be used. Mori is currently dominating Japanese magazines, and most of all, the street.

Mori fashion can be intimidating due to the multiple layers and intricate details, which seems beyond the reach of girls who only have five minutes to get ready in the morning. However, there are still ways to try out the Mori style without breaking the bank. First of all, you can quickly accomplish this comfortable look by picking brown or beige boots from places like Zara, Pazzo, or Liful. Take care to select something youthful and casual, and stay away from sexier styles like stilettos. Second of all, you can always use a white T-shirt and a fringe bag in an earthy color. Aim for shirts that are loose and maybe semi-transparent—shirts that delineate the softness and smoothness of your curves, and emit a certain innocence. Or go for sweaters in shades of pearl, alabaster, and cream that are quintessentially Mori. Floral dresses also capture the naiveté of Mori fashion.

Avoid cool colors like navy blue, azure, cobalt blue, all shades of purple except warm ones like lavender, or anything fluorescent. If you are looking for a quick guideline for Mori, pick items in earthy greens, creams, browns, burgundy, sky blue, light grey, dusty pink, and there will be no obvious obtrusion.

Makeup-wise, Mori’s make-up palette ranges from orange to red to pink. Anything outside of this spectrum is not to appear on the face of a Mori girl. I recommend Canmake, which is popular with office ladies and teenagers and has outstanding eyeshadows and blushes; Shiseido, which is famous for skin care; and Anna Sui, which is famous for its perfumes and lipsticks. There is also Cezanne, Coffret D’or, and Hada Labo, which are easily accessible online or on Newbury and can deliver the casualness, comfort, and coziness of the Mori style.

Art by: Morgan Wright