The Shibuya 109 Girls Festival 2012 held earlier on May 12th was a total fashion extravaganza! Besides a runway show, attendees were treated to appearances by popular gal models, fashion personalities as well as music performances by Kana Nishino and Korean girl group After School. The runway stage was split into two parts: the first half, “free stage”, included young and up and coming brands like Neon Soda, AGAINST, FIG&VIPER, and mercy; the second, “premium stage,” showcased verteran brands including rienda, SPIRAL GIRL, CECIL McBEE, EGOIST, and LIZ LISA. Those interested can conveniently purchase items from the show here.
And the timing couldn’t really be more perfect for gal fashion enthusiasts. While the Tokyo Girls Collection has long played host to the likes of LIZ LISA and CECIL McBEE, the majority of its runway lineup for the past few seasons has consisted more of contemporary women’s labels rather than recognized gal brands. Despite this, events like the Shibuya 109 Festival make it clear that there’s still enthusiasm for gal brands—both old and new—as well as the Shibuya fashion culture they continue to shape.
Check out event photos below:
So much variety! Additional photos can be found here. Now check out these snaps of models Yunkoro, Natsumi Saito, and Nemoyayo, showing off their 109 Festival style (Source).
Marxy has just released part 2 of his excellent "History of the Gyaru" series. As usual, he does a fantastic job of going beyond the clothes and capturing the backdrop of Tokyo in the 90s, from changing social trends to economic indicators and even the rise of the pager. Mandatory reading for anyone into Japanese fashion.
So how would a new kogyaru recruit figure out how to properly dress in the style? When the kogyaru reached mass consciousness in the mid-1990s, there were still no dedicated “gyaru” magazines that worked with “gyaru” brands to show a step-by-step guide on becoming a “gyaru.”
There was, however, a shopping complex with increasing centrality to the subculture. In the early 1990s, both kogyaru and their older paragyaru-type tanned party-girl big sisters had patronized a store called Me Jane in a generally-ignored fashion building called Shibuya 109. Known later in gyaru circles as just “maru-kyu,” Shibuya 109 opened in 1979 but never achieved any level of popularity in its first decade. Fashion business analyst Kawashima Yoko described its early days as “Like Marui, but worse.” With Me Jane, however, the building finally started to attract a dedicated clientele. Soon kogyaru moved beyond Me Jane and started hanging out next door in a clothing store Love Boat and in the shoe brand ESPERANZA (Kawashima 178). The brands all focused on a sexy, summery style, with shirts, for example, that showed off the belly button.
Shibuya 109’s owner Tokyu noticed this sudden interest in their flailing complex and decided to do a “renewal” of the building in the mid-1990s, asking more stores of the kogyaru fashion variety to become tenants. This turned 109 into the gyaru shopping mecca we know today. As kogyaru wannabees poured into Shibuya, they made a beeline to 109 and essentially understood any store in the building as selling “gyaru” clothing. In this period, Me Jane saw double digit growth every year, ultimately making ¥700 million a year in Shibuya alone (Namba 2006).
GROWZE is new womenswear abel founded by Yukiko and Misaki Kubo, the same Osaka couple behind popular off-brand gal clothing retailer GALSTAR. The brand concept goes something like this:
Women with resilient determination, women who are not afraid to step up to any challenges in life… They are the inspiration to our designers. Basic monotone pattern is enhanced with the carefully selected details, and the sophisticated color coordination completes the signature GROWZE style. GROWZE brand is designed to bring out the refined elegance and self-assurance in every woman.
So what makes GROWZE special? Despite being a Japanese brand, all of their physical presence so far is in the US. What’s that? Yes, ladies, if you happen to live in L.A., then these stylish duds are only a hop, skip, and a jump away, with plans for more stores in other cities in the works. With jackets for $165 and jeans for $130 and inventory being added every three weeks, the price point is markedly higher than anything you’d buy from sister store GALSTAR, but still in line with other fast fashion retailers like Zara and Topshop. Currently online shopping for the brand is only available in Japan. Take a peek at the L.A. store interior:
While they make the proud claim of the “latest clothes from L.A,” it seems like GROWZE still rolls in true Japanese fashion, with a brand blog populated with updates on all the latest arrivals and snaps of stylish shop staff. The vibe of the clothes is always edgy, sometimes playful, and definitely on-trend. Fans of similarly styled Japanese adult gal brands GYDA and FIG&VIPER would probably feel right at home with these clothes.
That in mind, here are some selections from their fashion blogger-esque lookbook and brand blog:
In the end, the most impressive part of all this seems to be the the fact that a Japanese company is making a real effort to expand into a foreign market, not really the clothes themselves. And as the line between East and West continues to blur with brands like GROWZE, part of me wonders what this means for the future of adult gal brands and Japanese fashion in general. Can it really be considered Japanese fashion when the things that often make a brand uniquely Japanese—apart from maybe their business model—start becoming less detectable? Let us know your thoughts!