Thursday, February 9, 2017

What the Closure of FRUiTS Magazine Means for Japanese Street Style

After two decades spent documenting the street style of Japanese teens across an impressive 233 issues, FRUiTS Magazine announced this weekend that it had printed its last copy. While the much discussed death of print media was perhaps a predictable cause of its demise, the actual reason for the magazine's closure that its founder, editor and chief photographer Shoichi Aoki gave was altogether more surprising. In an interview with Japanese site Fashionsnap, he said, simply, that "there are no more cool kids left to photograph."

Founded in 1997, FRUiTS was the definitive publication that championed Harajuku's colourfully dressed youth and provided a reliable and authentic record of emerging street trends and genuinely interesting dressers, in contrast to the contrived street style circus of fashion week peacocks. Recognised by its legions of readers as the magazine that introduced them to the saccharine, brave and frenetic world of Japanese fashion, FRUiTS will be sorely missed by the deserved cult following it has amassed. While fans of the magazine took to social media to decry its loss, some cited the magazine's insistence on photographing the same kids over and over again as the reason for its failure - commenting on a news article on Japanese culture site Spoon Tamago, Alan Yamamoto said that FRUiTS had become a "popularity contest", and that despite the magazine's closure "there's still so much fashion on the streets [in Tokyo] it's unbelievable." Misha Janette, founder of Tokyo Fashion Diaries, called the magazine's loss a "death blow to the already waning Japanese street scene", and called for more to be done to protect and nurture the area's style heritage.

The closure of a publication like FRUiTS is a bitter pill to swallow for many longtime fans of Japanese street style, but in many ways its demise has been a long time coming. However tempting it is to wax lyrical about Harajuku's unique cachet of cool, it's impossible to deny that the district's golden age has long passed. Historically regarded as an underground hotbed of street style that most foreign magazines would die to document, the area's magnetism has been numbed by overexposure and gentrification for quite a while now. The Hokoten pedestrian paradise that provided a nurturing crucible for Harajuku fashion was shut down in the late nineties, and although the area's girls and boys diffused over the surrounding square mile for the next two decades, things have changed. The reality in 2017 is that if you come to Tokyo hoping to see tribes of teens in the eye-grabbing garms and kawaii Decora that made FRUiTS famous, you're likely to be disappointed.

The Camden-esque transformation of Harajuku into a souvenir-saturated tourist trap means that instead of the trendsetting locals Gwen Stefani sang about in the early 00s, you're more likely to see white people dressed in tired lolita getups haunting the streets. There are still the odd shops like Dog, and 6%DokiDoki hidden close to Takeshita Street that cater to FRUiTS-worthy kids, but they are few and far between, and most of Harajuku now feels decidedly un-Japanese. Although the area has tourism to thank for its success in part, this has ultimately been the cause of its overexposure. (...)

Despite the increasing dominance of the high street, and the sentiment Aoki's statement suggests, Japan isn't facing an all-out style apocalypse; compared to most fashion capitals, Tokyo is still spoilt when it comes to achingly stylish dressers. In the past, kids paraded down Omotesando intending to get their picture taken, and managing to get into a magazine like FRUiTS was considered a great honour. If that was the case, then where are they now? These days, time spent on self-promotion is better invested online, and the lives of Harajuku's next generation play out on Instagram.

by Ashley Clarke, i-D | Read more:
Image: FRUiTS