Street style for men in Tokyo has been getting a fair chunk of the world’s attention lately, and with good reason – a Harajuku boy can rock deconstructed jackets and long skirts like no other. But where are my ladies at? They still know how to innovate, and this is especially apparent in the niche used-clothing styles that are keeping Tokyo’s fashion subcultures on the map. Three of the city’s most popular are “forest girl”, “80s disco”, and “neo vintage mix”, and I set out to find the girls who are making and cultivating these genres into successful new style trends.by Misha Janette
“Well, you’ll find that behind most used stores for women is a male owner, anyway,” said Tavuchi, founder of “80s disco”-style shop Spank! in the Tokyo neighbourhood of Koenji. When Tavuchi opened her shop eight years ago, she found herself among long-standing stores that specialised in men’s premium denim. “I came in with my tutus and toys and they didn’t like that much,” she said. But she stood strong amid the snickers and mumbles, and made her funky, cute, American 80s pop-laden style a new genre all its own. Think children’s printed tees and stuffed Popples. “I didn’t know anyone else who dressed like me in school and I wanted to make friends who did. So that’s why I created my own shop,” Tavuchi said. She now spends half her time
in Japan and half in the US on buying trips, and has opened several branches of her store throughout Japan. “On my buying trips, it doesn’t matter your gender or your hierarchy, as long as you have money,” she laughed.
“It’s fun to cultivate friendly relationships with my customers so I am in the shop nearly every day,” said Kaori Ogawa, manager of Grimoire Almadel in Shibuya, which specialises in used Victorian-style clothing, an offshoot of Tokyo’s popular “forest girl” (or Mori Girl) genre. Kaori is the face of her shop, as well as the visual merchandiser, buyer, designer and accountant. She does all of this in perfectly coiffed and braided hair, stylized makeup, and an outfit with the sensibility of a modern and chic Maid Marian. “The hardest part is when I have to attend business negotiations with clients and I am dressed like this,
which is how I look every day. I can see their doubts whether a young girl like me can handle talking to them,” she said. Despite the hurdles, she has forged her fairytale style into a wildly popular trend, and is now moving into more design work for her store.
Manager, buyer, and director “Coi” has quickly become an icon in the backstreets of Harajuku, where she opened her store, Bubbles, 18 months ago, thanks to an uncanny sense of mixing and matching colourful vintage clothing. “I don’t know what to call my style. I always get asked that question, but … it’s always evolving,” she said. She was in an incredibly unique mix of vintage Miu Miu, giant gemstone and crystal earrings, sneakers and a black LA-style baseball cap. I conjecture that her store just needs a little more time on the scene and Coi’s influence will be more apparent. “Maybe, but I’m just taking it a step at a time,” she said with conviction. She does modelling work, blogs for Elle Girl Japan, and goes on regular buying trips to the US herself. “Sometimes my friend Ari, who is a female shop owner too, will stop by and give me advice. I’m
jealous of the men who can separate the business from who they are and also delegate. I want to do everything myself!” she lamented as she left our interview to work on building her store’s online shop herself.
Tavuchi’s Spank! was one of the earlier purveyors of vintage niche stores for women, by women, and the market has come a long way since then. These girls now are hopefully going to influence a young generation to open shops for new styles that will keep Tokyo streetwear evolving into new genres and keep us on our toes. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.