The History of: Decora
If there’s a street style that has come to almost define Harajuku it is Decora. The average person would be able to spot this style from a mile away! Decora fashion is an explosion of colour and accessories. It’s the perfect embodiment of Harajuku’s effervescent spirit. How this style came about is a bit complicated and has an origin story full of contradictions. Read on to find out how Decora fashion seemingly came to be.
Decora, from the word “decoration”, is a colourful, playful style which appeared on the streets of Harajuku in the late 1990s. The most stand out feature for any Decora look is the accessories, be it a plethora of 100 yen shop hair clips, or wrist bands going all the way up your arms. Typical makeup is way too minimalist for Decora, so instead stickers and gems are used to amp up the look. The outfits are usually made up of handmade items of clothing, but if you were to associate the style with certain brands they would definitely be Super Lovers and of course 6%DOKIDOKI.
Image courtesy of wattention.com
6%DOKIDOKI, founded by Sebastian Masuda in 1995, has become a staple of Harajuku fashion and culture. If you’re familiar with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu you might know that it was Sebastian Masuda who was the creative director and stylist behind the music video for her hit single PONPONPON. It might seem as if 6%DOKIDOKI has always been the source for crazy, out of this world clothing, but back when the shop debuted this wasn’t exactly the case. He opened the shop with the intention of selling his and his friends’ artwork but when that venture fell through he changed direction completely. He began to sell vintage clothing and other miscellaneous items that the young Tokyoites later incorporated into their outfits. Everything from toys, ribbons and even curtains were turned into accessories and reimagined as fashion. This, according to Masuda, was the start of Decora. After seeing the rise in popularity of this style, Masuda began creating accessories which catered to the Decora youngsters’ style needs.
At the same time as the opening of 6%DOKIDOKI, TV personality and singer Tomoe Shinohara was making waves as a style icon. Her style is often cited as a major impact on Decora fashion and Sebastian himself says she was an influence for the boom of Decora fashion. Her fans mimicked her style and became known as “Shinorers”. Like Shinohara they often wore clothing usually worn by middle or elementary school kids, along with her signature bunny hat and pigtails. But it wasn’t only her style that people mimicked. Her childlike personality and voice were infectious. Shinorer and Decora fashion is often referred to interchangeably despite their originators insisting that the styles are different. According to Shinohara, Shinorer style utilises colourful primaries while Decora is more about cyber and fluorescent colours. Since then Decora has evolved to include a variation of colours, but it always stays true to its vibrant stylistic roots.
FRUiTS magazine launched in 1997 by Shoichi Aoki, is responsible for bringing Decora Fashion to mainstream attention. While waiting for stylish young people with unusual clothing in Harajuku to photograph, he came across Aki Kobayashi who he featured on the cover of the first issue. She talked about how she handmade her own accessories which inspired people who read the magazine. A little over a year later in 1998 the Decora movement exploded onto the streets. The publication of FRUiTS in English by Phaidon Press brought it to international recognition, particularly in the early 2000s. An early issue of FRUiTS showed an image breaking down each part of a Decora outfit in detail, from how to layer vests over t-shirts and where to buy accessories. FRUiTS wrote, “Decora took the world by storm two years ago. There’s an increase in a new breed of Decora fans, created by young girls who have said, ‘I want to wear Decora’.” This image captures what Decora fashion looked like at the time. It had rapidly evolved from what it was in 1998 and had become a standalone, stand out style! Contrary to Masuda and Shinohara’s statements about Decora and Shinorer style overlapping, Shoichi Aoki is adamant that Shinorers and Decora are not the same.
Decora’s popularity has visibly dwindled in Harajuku since its heyday in the 90s. But the online and international community has made sure to keep the style alive. Most recently, a Neo Decora fashion walk has been taking place in Harajuku.
Although we don’t have all the answers to exactly how it began, the style didn’t come out of nowhere. As with many styles, there were overlapping influences and as a result Decora was born!
Are you tempted to try out a Decora look?
Written by Ash
Featured image courtesy of japanbullet.com