The History of: Girly Styles. Larme-kei and Fairy Kei (Part Two)
Both pastel and retro, elegant and frumpy, Harajuku’s feminine fashion flourished throughout the 2010s. Fairy kei fans dug through thrift stores and stitched together vintage 80s pieces in order to create the perfect combination of dreaminess and childhood nostalgia. Meanwhile, Larme wearers studied their beloved LARME magazine to curate their mature, romantic and girlier take on French style. Larme and Fairy kei are among one of Harajuku’s most exported styles, taking on an enthusiastic international fanbase. Let’s talk about the story of how these girly styles evolved!
Both Larme and Fairy kei share the origin of having a couple of small creatives inspire an entire fashion movement. The dream for many creatives! For Larme kei, the pioneer was Haruna Nakagori who eventually became LARME magazine’s Editor-in-Chief. Her position as an editor for Koakuma Ageha in 2008 gave her experience in fashion styling and working for a publication. Koakuma Ageha, issued from 2005-2014, was a gyaru magazine. Influences from gyaru can be seen in Nakagori’s styling work, especially the girlyiness of hime-gyaru that LARME’s style shared, especially in the lace trim and shades of pink.
Nakagori found her styling work drifting to a more subdued, mature look. This new style was aimed at the decline of gyaru, as women in their 20s thought they matured from the alternative fashion. Not coincidentally, Larme was relatively more suitable for office wear.
The first time Nakagori pitched her idea for LARME to the publishers of Kokakuma Ageha, it got lost in the paperwork. The second time, she pitched LARME to Tokuma Shoten Publishing instead, appealing for a “sweet and pretty girlie fashion picture book”. It was a hit! “I knew my magazine plan would sell well since there already were Web and social network communities of women favouring sweet and pretty things. There were also models who like girly fashion”, Nakagori said. LARME’s style, instead of merely reflecting current trends, interprets them in a “Larme” way. Nakagori wanted her styling to be distinctive from the rest. When you look at an outfit, you can instantly tell it’s from LARME using key accents such as bows and pearls, and colours like black and muted pastels.
At only 26 years old, Nakagori had already sold over 200,000 copies of LARME in three years. By introducing fans to the world of the “Larme girls” — with popular models such as Risa Nakamura and Amo — the magazine showcased both fashion and lifestyle. Each LARME magazine, like their original pitch, was a storybook about a “cultured girl” who loved “reading and going to art galleries”.
While LARME magazine was the authority for the feminine fashion, curated vintage stores paved the way for Fairy kei. It wouldn’t be until 2004, after Sayuri Tavuchi graduated from Vantan Fashion School, would she open the vintage store Spank!. Here Fairy kei’s characteristic look began to emerge. What made Spank! unique was Tavuchi’s curation of a dreamy, kitschy 1980s wonderland. Spank!’s shelves were lined with colourful plush animals and 80s toys, and lined wall-to-wall with peignoirs, American t-shirts, and pastel sweaters. In addition to selling vintage clothing, Tavuchi designed her own clothes, often made from vintage fabrics. When Spank! first opened in 2004, fashion magazines labelled these pastel 80s lovers as “Spank! Girls”. Three months later, Zipper magazine coined the term “Fairy kei”. From Zipper, the term “Fairy kei” was picked up by Cutie before spreading to other magazines. Like with LARME, publications were integral to Fairy kei’s growth, creating a movement that all started with a small store in Tokyo.
Fairy kei’s was first at its peak in the early to mid 2000s, until it gradually fell out of fashion for a short period after 2010. However, pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu reignited a love for it, even having Tavuchi design costumes for her song “Yume no Hajima Ring” in 2014. Several other indie brands opened in Harajuku, offering different takes on the style. Nile Perch used subdued silhouettes and colours for a dreamy aura, while Listen Flavour and Milklim embraced the 80s pop origins with colour blocking and graphic tees.
Today, Spank!’s popularity is still going strong, updating their online store and media with new handmade creations regularly. Because of the emphasis on thrifting, DIY, and upcycling, Fairy kei is accessible to anyone willing to put in the creativity and time into it. With new Fairy kei indie brands popping up around the world, Fairy kei continues to evolve.
In the 2000s new styles such as Larme and Fairy kei spread through the streets. Fast forward twenty years later and both styles still have a loyal following. With LARME magazine back in circulation and Spank! in a new location in Nakano Broadway perhaps we will see a revival in these girly styles.
Written by Selina