Is Harajuku Still Dead?: FRUiTS, What Happened Next?
In 1997, Shoichi Aoki launched FRUiTS magazine, a publication that would become the world’s guide to Japanese street fashion. However, in 2017 this same publication that chronicled Japanese street fashion, pronounced that it was dead. “There are no cool kids to photograph” Aoki was quoted and the internet exploded. Everyone, including The COMM, chimed in with their two cents about what to make of his statement. Did it mean that people no longer dress up in cool styles? Or that street styles were becoming so lame that Aoki didn’t deem them worthy of snapping?
FRUiTS wasn’t Aoki’s first magazine. In fact, after shooting STREET for several years in the 1980s and 90s, Aoki decided to shift his focus back to Tokyo. The concept of magazines like STREET, FRUiTS and Tune (published after FRUiTS) was documenting subcultural styles on the street. Aoki noticed that fashion was no longer relegated to the catwalks or solely for the eyes of the higher echelons. Fashion was on the street, worn by real people in real time. The fun and fresh style of the youth of Tokyo caught the attention of people around the globe. The publication continued to gain traction in Japan and eventually Phaidon press published a photobook of the best of FRUiTS. It was translated into English to make it accessible to a wider audience. This was how most people were first introduced to FRUiTS. Many years later, with the popularisation of the Internet, snaps from FRUiTS have spread across forums like LiveJournal and have been reblogged countless times on Tumblr. The digitisation of FRUiTS had begun.
Image courtesy of i-D Vice.
Fast forward to today and you’d be hard-pressed to find a copy of FRUiTS in your local independent bookstore like you used to be able to. Nowadays, the easiest way to see a snap from FRUiTS, as with many other subcultural styles, is online—especially via Instagram. Aoki saw an opportunity to move FRUiTS online and join the rest of the world of Instagram. He created one Instagram for FRUiTS and one to showcase the entire archive. The account is run by Chris Tordoff and boasts an impressive 80k followers. @fruits_magazine_archives. The account posts photos daily of snaps taken by Aoki in the 20 year run of the magazine.
“What Instagram has done is catapult contemporary Japanese street fashion…into the global consciousness in a way that traditional magazines could only dream of.”
It’s quite a sight to see the gradual evolution of styles, the rise and fall of micro trends, and the unknown faces that grew to be street fashion superstars. But is something lost in the transition from print to online on a medium like Instagram? In Chris’ opinion, Instagram doesn’t fully capture the complex and nuanced narrative of Harajuku. “The magazine had an aesthetic that both harked back to the old British punk zines of the 70s, while at the same time, perfectly encapsulating the DIY spirit of the Harajuku kids within its pages. It was unique, rough and thought provoking,” says Chris. You can imagine yourself strolling through Harajuku when you open up a copy of FRUiTS, but not when you’re scrolling through an Instagram feed. That being said, Instagram’s influence on Japanese street fashion definitely has its positives. “What Instagram has done is catapult contemporary Japanese street fashion … into the global consciousness in a way that traditional magazines could only dream of.”
Instagram has not only changed the way we discover Japanese street fashion, but also our perception of it. There’s been a rise in “aesthetic” accounts on Instagram. Images of well-known Japanese places or people from the 90s coupled with a brief but informative caption. For Chris, as long as the content compels the individual to delve further into the history of Japanese street fashion, then the Instagram account is doing its job. In fact, it’s thanks to Instagram that current generations are even into FRUiTS at all! Chris noticed that the follower base transitioned from hardcore FRUiTS fans of the print, to new Gen Z fans who are finding it via Instagram. Some Gen Z think the looks are timeless, but others are not so positive, declaring that some of the trends documented in the magazine are “tone deaf” and that they just cannot believe certain style choices ever existed.
Image courtesy of Otaquest.
In print and on Instagram, FRUiTS captures the nostalgia of Harajuku and freezes it in time. Most think of signature styles like gyaru, Lolita and Decora which came about in the 1990s and 2000s. Chris has also noticed this trend, but he hopes that @fruits_magazine_archives will help to broaden our perspectives of FRUiTS and Japanese street fashion by showcasing the fashion—“warts and all”—even if some images aren’t exactly what people expect.
So, what is next for the FRUiTS archive? From 2005 onwards, Harajuku experienced a lull in creative fashion and went through a normcore period of beige, drab outfits. But, Chris is hopeful that this won’t affect people’s genuine excitement for street fashion. “We fully intend to keep the Instagram feed going as long as people enjoy consuming it!” But if you’re interested in getting a print copy, keep an eye on the FRUiTS instagram account. Aoki has started releasing Yearbooks containing the best street snaps from each year.
FRUiTS magazine has had an interesting run. From being a global success and becoming the go-to publication for Japanese street fashion, to becoming a nostalgic entity in the age of the Internet. The FRUiTS archive account has certainly opened up Japanese street fashion to a new and younger audience, but it also let’s older fans relive their first encounter with Harajuku culture. Hopefully, the digitisation of FRUiTS leads to other magazines like KERA and Zipper following suit, so that we can enjoy and reminisce about the styles that made us fall in love with Japanese street fashion.
Written by Choom.
Featured image courtesy of i-D Vice.