Covered from head to toe in aggressive and vibrant colors, a common phrase is perfectly embroidered smack in the middle of all the beautiful mess behind Harujuku. “Please kill me,” it reads loud, clear and in defiant glitters. Playing dress-up in the midst of the monochromatic suburbs of Tokyo, for decades people with a rebellious streak in their spirits would riot in a guttural soundtrack of hardcore techno and punk, all in the form of threads. Wearing clothes as a way to give the grey areas of the city a big finger, these people have managed to find a way to cover themselves as their own version of a technicolored dreamscape.
Brands such as 6%DOKI-DOKI and Mind Your Own Business are one of the many leading the tug of war between the freedom to be loud and the mass obsession for all things minimalist and Uniqlo. With a fashion movement fighting for a cause to be more than just unique, people like Mademoiselle Yulia prove that Harujuku is alive and kicking to this day.
“I want to change the negative image of mental health issues. And I think it is doing that. It uses those negative feelings that everybody has, whether it be some darkness or sadness, and makes it cute.”
But beyond the mass hysteria of teal and pink lies an unnerving undertone of dread. Like the cult classic sunglasses from John Carpenter’s 1988 film, They Live, we’re given our own pair to look beneath the cracks of Tokyo, and we see it for what it is: a sinister make-over, masking feelings of a darker underlining happening on Tokyo’s street scene. Like a fashion forward mental clinic, we’re given a heavy dose of teen angst and clinical edge as Tokyo’s way of putting on a brave face. Refinery29’s new “Style Out There” series got vision cleared as they dig deeper into Yamikawaii by visiting the heart of Harajuku’s subculture, Kuua Oyasumi and Bisuko Ezaki.
**TRIGGER WARNING**Tokyo's Harajuku street might be most well-known for cartoon characters, sparkles, & rainbows — the hallmark of its "kawaii," or cute, aesthetic — but more recently a darker subculture has emerged. In an offshoot style called yami kawaii, disturbing imagery of syringes and bandages live alongside baby pink lace and anime characters. We head in to discover who the tastemakers of yami kawaii are — and what drew them to it in the first place.
Posted by Style Out There on Monday, February 5, 2018
According to Style Out There’s host Connie Wang, “Westerners think kawaii means cute, but literally, it means the ability to be loved. It’s not a descriptor as much as it’s a request.” These are the feelings that inspire brands to mix and match their depression to the next fashion trend, an uncomfortable reference to the city’s vulnerable mental state, reflecting a topic that is otherwise too sensitive for the public to talk about. “People see mental illness and depression as being the same as an injury. They see a troubled person needing reprieve, and take it as a sign of weakness,” Bisuzo Ezaki continues, “I want to change the negative image of mental health issues. And I think it is doing that. It uses those negative feelings that everybody has, whether it be some darkness or sadness, and makes it cute.”
With a country that has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, somehow it’s no longer a shock that it ends up being a capital for both fashion and emotional suffering. Yamikawaii, or sick cute isn’t like your early 2000’s emo phase – there are no images of you wearing all black with Linkin Park’s words, “I’ve become so numb” embedded poorly at the photo in an effort to sound deep. Yamikawaii chimes on the peoples negative truth and turns their unspoken frustration into a fashion icon, proving how people really do wear their hearts on their sleeves.
Whether covering up their wound with glittered band-aid is a good thing or not, one thing remains clear: people find different ways to either say they need help, or cope. While others show subtle signs of depression, Tokyo shows it by looking sickly cute. Perhaps it’s time they are given the chance to feel how they look – but it has to start with how we open up ourselves to people and their feelings. Put your heart out, leave narrow minds to dust at your closet in Tokyo and the rest of the world, cause there’s only room for looking good inside and out.
By: Casa Bianca