From Gothic Lolitas to Yoyogi Rockabillies, the Tokyo neighborhood of Harajuku is a wellspring of some of the world’s most unique and extreme fashion trends. Rife with restaurants, shops, and cafes, it’s a hangout ‘hood for the city’s youth, whose style is confined to uniforms from elementary school through to high school graduation.
And, perhaps to rebel from such strict sameness, they spend their weekends seeing how far they can push the limits. One of the oldest and most pervasive Harajuku style groups is Decora, characterized by a pursuit of kawaii, or “cuteness,” which is expressed in massive piles of hair clips, face bandaids, creative layering, and a mishmash of colors and textures.
Don’t let “cute” confuse you: There’s nothing delicate or elegant about Decora. It’s bright, it’s loud, and it’s in your face (or rather, on your face, via a Hello Kitty bandaid). Though the style can appear as frivolous as a Halloween costume, there’s a real statement behind the bevy of barrettes. In the face of pervasive group-mindedness, a rigid social order, and cultural reticence, the Decora have figured out a way to break free.
In the first episode of Refinery 29‘s new documentary series, Style Out There, host Asha Leo travels to Harajuku to meet with street fashion superstars, like 90884 designer Kurebayashi, Junnyan, and Shoichi Aoki, the founder of FRUiTS magazine, to peel back the rainbow-colored stickers and uncover the depth behind Decora.