New Harajuku at Junya Watanabe

Junya Watanabe opened with the raucous proto-propaganda of Grimes’ last single, ‘We Appreciate Power’, which she claimed was based on North Korean prop-pop group Moranbong, but in reality sounded like a teen-angst J-Pop song. It was perfect for the girl that was conjured up on the runway today. She was a love letter to old-school Harajuku, East-meets-West, doll-eyed, big-haired, and stomping in silver cowboy boots — truly eclectic style.

Shoichi Aoki’s iconic FRUiTS magazine closed its doors in 2017 due to a lack of interesting street style, heralding the end of an era. In a piece at the time for Quartz magazine, Aoki claimed, “In Tokyo there is a kind of flow of energy when it comes to fashion. Harajuku is the source of this flow. If you picture it as the source of a river, then recently there have been factories erected on its banks, and businesses have appeared, but they have stressed the limits of this little fountainhead.” And it only takes a minute of walking down those iconic streets in Tokyo now to see this change. Gone are the Lolitas, replaced by cookie-cutter stores selling fake Supreme and Trukfit.  When I was there last summer, I was shocked to hear that the obscure punk and J-Pop sweetness that blasted out of the doorways had been replaced by Lil’ Wayne and Young Thug — a sign of the times indeed.

Watanabe’s twisted sisters came out two-by-two in coordinating outfits that referenced one another, and defied easy categorization. All manner of alternative wardrobe staples became flowing dresses; Aran knits, leather Perfecto jackets, college sweatshirts, bomber jackets, denim truckers, and many more, almost all layered over drainpipe jeans with cowboy boots. It was the masterful construction to the garments that made all of this possible, and work, and not seem trite. When he sent down two blazers that had flowing silk backs, it was invisible from the front view that the backs were made from different materials, and the jackets held perfectly their structures, a formidable task.

Perhaps Watanabe can save us and make the kids of Harajuku fashionable again.