Samhita at Feministing links to this Salon article criticizing pop star Gwen Stefani for hiring four Asian women to follow her around. The article’s subtitle neatly sums up its point: “Gwen Stefani neuters Japanese street fashion to create spring’s must-have accessory: Giggling geisha!” From the article:
Real harajuku girls are just the funky dressers who hang out in the Japanese shopping district of Harajuku. To the uninitiated, harajuku style can look like what might happen if a 5-year-old girl jacked up on liquor and goofballs decided to become a stylist. Layering is important, as is the mix of seemingly disparate styles and colors. Vintage couture can be mixed with traditional Japanese costumes, thrift-store classics, Lolita-esque flourishes and cyber-punk accessories. In a culture where the dreaded “salary man/woman” office worker is a fate to be avoided for this never-wanna-grow-up generation, harajuku style can look as radical as punk rockers first looked on London’s King Road or how pale-faced Goths silently sweating in their widows weeds look in cheerful sunny suburbs. [...]
Stefani fawns over harajuku style in her lyrics, but her appropriation of this subculture makes about as much sense as the Gap selling Anarchy T-shirts; she’s swallowed a subversive youth culture in Japan and barfed up another image of submissive giggling Asian women. While aping a style that’s suppose to be about individuality and personal expression, Stefani ends up being the only one who stands out.
The writer’s critique of Stefani seems pretty on-target. The description of harajuku fashion made me curious, so I googled and found some photo galleries: here, here, here, here, and here. The girls seem to be very creative and having a lot of gothy fun. Even the “sexy” outfits seem more like satire or appropriation than like dressing up to attract boys, and there’s a lot of wit going into the outfits. (There’s also some stuff that’s disturbing – a couple of photos I saw showed girls who had made themselves up to look as if they’d been beat up, or dressed like Nazis, etc..)
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