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).