The Brisbane Harajuku Fashion Walk, a free event for local lovers of Japanese fashion, is back!
Now in its second year, the event is part of the International Harajuku Fashion Day, which sees cities all over the world taking part in a celebration of Japanese street fashion.
The Brisbane leg of the Harajuku Fashion Walk has been organised by Cara Westworth, a nail artist who runs Kawaii Klaws, a business specialising in detailed, Japan-inspired nail art, and Melinda Maxfield, a fashion designer preparing to launch her own brand, SpaceFairy Couture, inspired by kawaii (cute) Harajuku fashion.
Popular Harajuku styles include kawaii, decora, lolita, fairy kei, visual kei, pastel goth, gyaru and mori, but Cara and Melinda say Harajuku fashion is more about a state of mind than any one concrete look.
“Harajuku fashion could be defined more as a symbol of fashion rebellion and creative self-expression, rather than the particular clothing styles which have grown from it, since they are ever-evolving and change frequently,” Cara explains.
“Because of its history, Harajuku street styles grew from a rebellion of mainstream fashions. It’s home to many different subcultures and styles which have spread to influence groups of young people worldwide.”
Like so much of Japan’s popular culture, the history of Harajuku fashion can be traced back to the peculiar culture clash that occurred when US military officers were stationed in the area after World War II.
“At the end of WWII the Harajuku district housed many US military officials and their families. Japanese youths flocked to the area to experience western culture and products sold in the new shops which sprung up there,” Cara says.
“From here a creative cultural melting pot was born, which later evolved into a centre of commerce, creativity, and rebellion of the status quo. Years later Harajuku became known internationally as an epicentre for revolutionary DIY street style culture, where teenagers rejected mainstream fashion trends and instead created their own styles as a ‘colourful act of rebellion’.
“High designer fashion was often mixed with homemade outfits and accessories and individuality and niche fashion micro-trends sprung up from the streets in defiance of ‘top-down’ fashion. Harajuku became a mecca for underground culture and creative people of every kind. Those who were different and weird could express themselves and be accepted here.”
Last year’s inaugural Brisbane Harajuku Fashion Walk was organised in a hurry — Cara and Melinda started putting the event together just two weeks before International Harajuku Fashion Day — but managed to attract a large crowd all the same.
“We were delighted when such a large and varied group turned up because we didn’t have much time to spread the word,” Cara says.
“We weren’t sure how many people would come — we knew there was a sizable lolita community in Brisbane, but as for other subcultures we just weren’t sure. But on the day there were so many styles being represented, including my favourite styles which are kawaii and decora, which are definitely not well known in Brisbane!”
Anyone is welcome to take part in the Walk, but Cara and Melinda would prefer you leave the cosplay at home.
“For those who follow Japanese street fashion and wear it proudly, it becomes pretty disheartening to have random people on the street ask you why you’re in costume,” Cara explains.
“As a result we want to discourage people attending the walk in cosplay where possible because it will make the event seem less like a costume party to the average person if there aren’t so many cosplayers.
“There are some really awesome anime cosplays that fit in really well with the Harajuku aesthetic, which we do encourage, but we don’t want people coming as superheroes or American TV/film characters as they take away from why the walk exists. Brisbane has lots of other events for cosplaying, and we want to differentiate ourselves from them.”
As much fun as the Harajuku Fashion Walk will be, of course, there’s nothing quite like the real thing.
“I have been to Harajuku a few times and I absolutely love it,” Cara says.
“The main street is Takeshita Street, which is always super busy and full of young people and tourists. The whole street is lined with shops bursting with amazing clothing and accessories as well as cafes, crepe shops, collectables and more. Some of the most famous shops like 6% Doki Doki, ROmantic Standard, Nile Perch, Angelic Pretty and Swimmer are located off Takeshita Street and are a bit harder to find.
“Unfortunately Harajuku isn’t as it once was and a lot of locals don’t shop there as often because there are so many tourists — many blame Gwen Stefani for appropriating Harajuku fashion — so you need to be aware of the brands you’re looking for to find them as many of them have moved further away from the tourist trap of Takeshita Street, and some have even left entirely and are now found in other suburbs like Shibuya.
“However, for people who are new to Japanese street fashion, Takeshita Street is a great place to start and chain stores like WEGO do still have some terrific items to complete a kawaii outfit.”
The second annual Brisbane Harajuku Fashion Walk will be held on Sunday 24 July. Meet in King George Square in a street style of your choosing at 11am for photo opportunities, before the walk kicks off at midday. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.