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January-March 1999

Harajuku Fashion

Japan's casual fashion brands are enjoying something of a boom among the younger generation in Europe and North America. More and more of these brands have opened outlets in London over the past two years, and the volume of clothes imported from Japan has increased dramatically. Many young Japanese designers now preview their collections in Paris and have their clothes sold in boutiques there. Fashion magazines, too, are focusing in on Japanese brands one after another.

Casual wear by Japanese designers has won raves for its highly original, playful designs as well as for being well tailored. Some of the most popular brands are Evisu Jeans, known for a white wavy mark on the hip pocket, and the psychedelically colorful Hysteric Glamour.

Most of the brands that are now the rage overseas, though, are not so well known with the general public in Japan. But they are the favorite brands among the young people who hang out in Tokyo's fashionable neighborhood of Harajuku. Many of the designers who create these brands, too, spent their younger days there, and even now base their activities in the district.

Harajuku is a small neighborhood in central Tokyo. Its streets are lined with shops that exude a slightly different air from those seen in the average Japanese city--chic cafes, fashionable gift shops, and stylish boutiques.

One of the district's biggest landmarks is Laforet Harajuku, a fashion mall filled with popular name-brand boutiques from the basement floor all the way up to the sixth floor. It is the hub of the Harajuku style. Every weekend, young people in their teens and twenties gather in front of the mall to show off their own fashion; many magazine photographers come to take shots of these youths, while scouts from model and talent agencies roam the area in search of future stars.

Another popular location in Harajuku, especially among teenagers, is Takeshita Dori, a narrow 350-meter-long (1150-foot-long) street crowded on both sides with boutiques, variety shops selling character goods and fashion accessories, and other stores. Here, even young people can buy what they want on a small allowance, since the goods sold here are all fairly cheap. There also are specialty shops selling lines of goods carrying celebrities' labels, a shop full of Print Club machines, delicious crepe stalls, and much more--enough to keep you entertained all day long. On Sundays and holidays, the street becomes so crowded you can hardly walk!

Harajuku is now home to a unique fashion culture that is followed by young people not only in Japan but across national borders. If you ever visit Tokyo, make sure you include Harajuku in your travel plans--you'll be able to quickly find out what the most recent fad is among Japanese teenagers.

Photos: ( Top) This little shop is wildly popular among fashionable high-school girls; (above) Takeshita Dori is crowded even on weekday afternoons with young people.