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Selling Fruits to the World

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Shoichi Aoki has brought Japanese street fashion to the eyes of the world.

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Thanks to his book FRUITS (more than 100,000 copies sold worldwide), Shoichi Aoki’s street magazine Fruits is now better known abroad than in Japan. The magazine with an almost cult-like following in Japan has been documenting Tokyo street fashion since 1996. JAPANESE STREETS had an exclusive interview with Aoki.

You can’t imagine that this is the photographer of the wildest fashion Japan has seen this century, possibly ever. Simply dressed in a white t-shirt, busily pushing boxes around in his small office, Aoki Shoichi (1955) looks more like a harried graphic designer who has too much work to do.

The Roots of Fruits

Aoki first started documenting street fashion in London in the mid 80’s. “I taught myself how to take photographs from books. At the time Japanese fashion wasn’t free at all. The normal street fashion in the UK was free and really cool.” Inspired by the free street fashion of London the young Aoki decided he wanted to do something about Japanese staleness. “In Japan there was not a single magazine that showed the London style of street fashion. I figured that if I would introduce that kind of fashion to Japan things would change. I also saw the clothes as art and I wanted to preserve a record of this ‘street art’.”

To show the Japanese kids this ‘free street art’ of London, Aoki started Street magazine in 1985. It sold well and introduced the street fashion idea to tens of thousands of Japanese teenagers.

Harajuku Goes Wild

In the early to mid 90’s things were beginning to change in Japan. The Harajuku area in Tokyo had its main thoroughfare closed off on Sundays and this was attracting more and more bands and show offs. The ‘pedestrian heaven’ (hokoten) as it was called became a laboratory and incubation center for new trends in music and fashion. “In Japan everybody had always dressed the same. Whatever was popular was worn by everyone. Everybody would wear Comme des Garçons or Ivy or whatever brand was ‘in’. But suddenly Harajuku became free. People started to feel that it was cool to coordinate your own clothes. Harajuku fashion became really interesting and fun.” He recalls: “You had this small group of trendsetters, perhaps 10 to 20 people. Whenever they came up with something new, others would soon imitate them. But these imitators weren’t as cool as the original trendsetters so the trendsetters didn’t want to be identified with them. To differentiate themselves again they came up with new things. It just escalated. They kept on trying to escape from their imitators right into “decora” (editor: fashion style sporting lots of decorative stuff and strong bright colors). They figured nobody would follow them into wearing clothes that crazy.” To record this creative explosion of fashion, Aoki started up a second magazine, Fruits. Fruits almost exclusively focused on these wild Harajuku trends.

Fruits Magazine Fruits Magazine Fruits Magazine

The Soul of Fashion

Fruits is not your average fashion magazine. It is printed on relatively cheap paper without all the expensive advertising of the mainstream fashion magazines. There are no fabulously looking models which you will never ever meet in real life. Instead there are real people, usually staring zombie-like straight into the camera. The first five years Aoki shot the photos himself, wandering around the streets of Tokyo day after day. It was hard work. “On an average day I’d perhaps shoot 5 people,” he recalls. He didn’t just photograph his subjects he also delved into their souls. Each photo in Fruits contains information about that person’s favorite place in Tokyo, their favorite shop and brand, what they want to buy and the kind of work they want to do in the future. “You start to understand the character of that person a little bit,” Aoki explains. “You also get to see the trends in jobs. Now everybody wants to become a nail artist.”

Think for Yourself

Since he started documenting the Harajuku trends Aoki has seen quite a few changes. “From ’96 through ’99 you had a boom of young designers like Triventi, Beauty Beast and so on. After that ,second hand clothes became the cool thing to wear. Recently you see a a lot of people wearing foreign designers again.” The kids themselves also changed according to Aoki. “They are much freer in expressing themselves and can think for themselves. They even decide their own hairstyles now. In the mid 90’s it was truly revolutionary when people started to dye their hair and choose their own color. You eventually saw all kinds of colors: green, red, anything.”

The Meaning of Clothes

Unlike in the West, clothes are not a social statement in Japan according to Aoki. “Instead of expressing yourself, it is a way of communicating with the members of your group. A message without words. You show your feelings, your awareness of fashion. It has no social context whatsoever. They don’t care at all about how other people in society or how other groups see them.” This group feeling is so strong says Aoki that members of one group will never meet or communicate with members of other groups. “Harajuku girls would never become friends with Shibuya girls. It is a different universe.”

The Future

Aoki wonders about the future of Harajuku. Several years ago the “pedestrian heaven” system which functioned as a germinator for Harajuku’s wild fashion trends was terminated. People living in the area complained about the noise. “Now when something new surfaces it quickly evaporates. There is no place to make it grow. Fashion is like farming, it needs fields. If you have seeds but no fields the plants fade away.” There is nothing to take Harajuku’s place at the moment. “Harajuku is unique. It has Meiji Jingu Shrine nearby, many large stations and a very special spirit. Daikanyama is also good, but it is more of a quiet kind of place. It won’t go wild. It has always been that way.”

But Aoki doesn’t feel hopeless. “I feel something new emerging. I just don’t know what yet. When I see it, I’ll know.”

Books:
Fruits
Fresh Fruits

Kjeld Duits About the Author

Inspired by the stunningly creative street fashion that exploded on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka in the late 1990’s, photo-journalist Kjeld Duits launched JAPANESE STREETS in 2002. This makes JS one of the first fashion blogs on the net, and the very first to cover Japanese street fashion.

Recent articles by Kjeld Duits:

Comment (日本語もOK)

agh! i cant order the fruits mag over the internet cause my computer cant read the japanese!!! . damn. do you know how i could get the fruits magazine?
alexia chuck
Jul 14, 2005 (5088 days ago)
Try contacting Ka Yui (see add on right column): http://www.kayiu.net/
Kjeld Duits
Jul 15, 2005 (5087 days ago)
go to jbox.com there are loads of different magazine subscriptions including fruits
laura
Sep 12, 2005 (5028 days ago)
I love the Japanese Street Fashion the only problem is the people here are so small minded that anyone even tries to do something different they get jumped its so bad! What do you all think?
Claire
Oct 19, 2005 (4991 days ago)
i dunno where you’re from… i’m an aussie girl and i like to wear outrageous clothes… i don’t care what others think, but you do have to have friends who’ll support you i guess
jezi
Oct 20, 2005 (4990 days ago)
i love the “Fruits” series and i love the colours,trnds and culture of japan the clothes are so amazing i love the way they put an outfit together and no matter how outrageous it may seem it still works in a way. they know and understand the true meaning of fashion which is not to wear what your told but to express your self in a way you feel comftable and by mixing culture with trend no matter how old it may be they are indeed creating something new and different. like Jean Paul Gaultier once said “people who make mistakes or dress badly are the real stylists.”

“fashion is after all a form of visal art, a creation of images with the visible self as its medium.” Elizaberth Wilson (Adorned in Dreams)
maria
Jan 4, 2006 (4913 days ago)
japanese street fashion is so great its a way to express yourself,they like what they like and they wear what they like no question’s. ya know! personaly i dont think theres enough diversity, i mean im a pretty wacky kid and sometimes i get criticized for it. BE DIFFERENT!
T
Feb 18, 2006 (4869 days ago)
I’m a 2ND year fashion student, currently studying an HND course in the UK. I am intrigued by the whole japanese fashion street style phenomen. The Harajuku peeps are sooo fashionable and trendy! i admire their bravery and creativeness in the way they dress themeselves! if anyone has any information about this fascinating subject, please e-mail me and share your knowledge!! Even better! If you are from Japan and express yourself in this fashion movement, id love to hear from you!! id be gratefull for any information! thank you! Alice
Alice Chung
Feb 23, 2006 (4863 days ago)
By the way, my e-mail address is: Fashionistali@yahoo.co.uk

Also, has anyone heard of Kyoto Fashion museum?! Been advised to visit the website but can’t find any information on it!!
Alice Chung
Feb 24, 2006 (4863 days ago)
Alice,

I think you mean the Kyoto Costume Institute Another good fashion museum to visit is the Kobe Fashion Museum
Kjeld Duits (author)
Feb 24, 2006 (4863 days ago)
dont u lot think if we had somewhere to jam where everyone had to come with their harajuku styles and stuff.. during the weekends.. people would come? i recon people would love thaT! this way no1 is left out or lookin outraged!! :) email me ladyfizz123@msn.com

ps. i love the Harajuku trendz!
lil fil
Mar 8, 2006 (4850 days ago)
i love this style and have purchased both books i would love to see more people wearing stuff like this i would love to see and organise a fashion show on this style
cat
Mar 22, 2006 (4836 days ago)
just wunderful
blindfold
Jun 2, 2006 (4764 days ago)
tres bon livre !!! vramen t bravo et bonne cntinuation
Anouk
Jun 3, 2006 (4763 days ago)
Fruits is the bomb!!!!!! I wish I could visit Harajuku. Shoichi Rocks. Love ya!
brett
Aug 3, 2006 (4703 days ago)

i wish that i cud have any help from anyone as im doing a project at school and i wud luv any help that ny 1 can give, i need pics etc so plz help

Andrew
Sep 20, 2006 (4655 days ago)

i live in japan now and i feal like the fruits trend is slowly dieing out. people over 25 need to stay creative with there style. fight back aganst buisness sutes! life isnt over at 25, its just starting!

*kodiak-one*
Sep 27, 2006 (4648 days ago)

Hello! I am doing a report on the Japanese Pop Culture’s infleunce and effects on American Pop Culture. I know very much how America’s trends are now stealing their ideas from Japan, I just need some interviews and opinions from those out there seeing and living it! So please e-mail me with your opinions, statements and observations! Thank you! ~haruka uriel at jrock_uriel@hotmail.com

jrock_uriel@hotmail.com
Oct 7, 2006 (4638 days ago)

I LOVE THE FRUITS BOOKS .. FASHION IS AMAZING ,BUT DOES ANYONE NO ANY WEBSITES OF THE CLOTHES OR SHOE SHOPS IN HARAJUKU.XXX

DEBBIE
Oct 14, 2006 (4631 days ago)

i loove the fruits style!
i wish i could put a outfit together and have it look that great, but ive always been a bit fashion incapable :[ id need a little help getting the look i wanted..

laura
Jul 29, 2008 (3977 days ago)

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