As the lyrics of “Harajuku Girls” from Gwen Stefani’s first solo venture, Love, Angel, Music, Baby, so vividly proclaim: “Work it, express it, live it, command your style. Create it, design it. Now let me see you work it. You bring style and color all around the world – you Harajuku Girls.” However, these aren’t merely lines out of a song, it is the literal truth. The Harajuku Girls do indeed bring style and color all around the world via Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Lovers line, and this spring, fans met these living vogue palettes of fashion up-close and personal.
Excitement swept across the internet in late March when it was announced that Gwen Stefani’s famous backup dancers, the Harajuku Girls would be touring a number of Macy’s department stores in California to promote Harajuku Lovers. This news sent fans of all ages into a frenzy. Stefani in recent years had established herself as a queen of pop as No Doubt’s front woman, and is now a force in the fashion world, as evidenced by her quickly growing fashion empire. Through her Harajuku Lovers line, she has brought a piece of the Japanese culture to the forefront of Americans’ minds and more importantly their closets. Conceptually, the line is an amalgamation of the Shibuya, Tokyo area of Harajuku in Japan and Stefani’s backup dancers. She has created a hybrid of Harajuku fashion to create her own vision of a street wear line.
Harajuku Lovers was launched in 2005. The items are created at a Los Angeles based company, Jerry Leigh. The forty-five-year-old firm mainly produced sportswear adorned with Disney and Warner Bros. characters, that is until Harajuku Lovers came along. The line consists of everything from handbags and wallets to shirts and shoes, as well as accessories and stationery. It is a line for children, adults and everyone in-between. Many celebrities don the apparel and even their famous offspring — including Shiloh Jolie-Pitt and of course Stefani’s son, Kingston Rossdale.
A celebrity sized bank account however, isn’t necessary to afford it. In fact, it differs from Stefani’s other line in that the price points are much lower, making it the accessible alternative. The line can be found at such high-end stores as Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom. It can also be purchased at trendy boutiques like Hollywood’s Kitson, which also acts as a photo-op dream for the omnipresent paparazzi — think Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
Fans of this fashion line have even more to look forward too. In September Stefani will launch five new fragrances for her Harajuku Lovers collection, “Love,” “Lil’ Angel,” “Music,” “Baby,” and “G” for Gwen Stefani. Each perfume will be presented in the form of a doll based on herself and the four Harajuku Girls.
Fans of Stefani’s music are supporting her fashion lines which, by the way, have taken in over two-hundred-million dollars since their inception. However, it takes more than star influence and an affinity toward an artist’s music to translate into success in the fashion arena. You need serious artistic vision for that. The world has seen what happens when celebrities attain licensing deals. Sometimes their fashion makes a statement, and sometimes it is simply a matter of slapping their name on a product for financial gain.
It is questionable, if celebrities with their own fashion lines can actually sketch or sew their designs. Stefani is one of the few who can. In fact, on occasion, she will even sit in with her staff and help to sew her creations. Epic. She learned to sew at an early age and while criticism may ensue with Stefani’s celebrity-turned-designer peers, she is the real McCoy. She has achieved success by employing her design prowess to create fashion that stands on its own merit. It is innovative, unique and demonstrably indicative of her style-icon status. Her high-end, L.A.M.B. line has made stellar headlines at New York fashion week repeatedly and promises to continue to do so – not an easy feat for any designer.
On April 15, numerous people of all ages and cultural backgrounds arrived at Macy’s to meet the Harajuku Girls. The event director for Macy’s at the Pleasanton Stoneridge Mall, Monica Gubrud, did a wonderful job ensuring that this event ran efficiently. Eager fans waited in line with their specially designed limited edition Harajuku Lovers bags. Many of the Harajuku Lovers designs revolve around Stefani’s lyrics and Kawaii depictions of herself and the four Harajuku Girls.
Since the 1970s, Kawaii, or cuteness, has become a major facet of Japanese popular culture. It can be seen in every area such as entertainment, clothing, personal appearance, behavior, mannerisms, and the like. The visual grammar of the line’s collections is what distinguishes it from its competitors. Perhaps the Harajuku Lovers tag line says it best: A Fatal Attraction to Cuteness. For patrons of the line, it is exactly that.
The excitement was palpable as fans, dressed head-to-toe in T-shirts, hoodies and tennis shoes bearing the likeness of their idol, waited for the girls to arrive. At an event such as this, you wouldn’t anticipate witnessing forty-somethings buying Stefani’s sixty-eight dollar Candy style “Fatal Attraction" canvas tote, but believe me, they were there too, along with the teenagers and twenty-somethings. The DJ played Stefani and No Doubt songs for our listening enjoyment.
On a table lay a display of Stefani’s signature scent “L”. Sales associates, wearing specially designed L.A.M.B. cheetah print coats, passed out “L” samples to everyone waiting. At around three-thirty the girls arrived, eager to meet the fans and looking bishoujo vogue in their outfits with their Stefani-given monikers emblazoned on their caped sweaters. Angel, who is currently on tour with Madonna, was not able to attend due to illness. Nevertheless, Love, Music and Baby participated in each signing and stayed until each and every fan had the chance to get an autograph. They smiled, posed for pictures, and genuinely enjoyed engaging with the fans. As adolescent girls stood in line with their mothers, it was evident that this was a bonding experience, something that they can enjoy together and fashion that they can both appreciate.
Despite the excitement and enthusiasm that this line has created amongst its fans, there has been some dispute over what this line represents on a cultural level. There was controversy surrounding Stefani’s Harajuku Girls amidst the release of Love, Angel, Music, Baby. Stefani had been accused of being an Orientalist by her use of these Asian girls in her videos, stage shows and now her Harajuku Lovers line.
One must guffaw at such claims. It seems counterproductive to criticize something that was intended to shed positive light on another culture, and to accuse Stefani of the very thing that she is so vehemently against – racism. It does make one wonder if her accusers were speaking of the same Stefani who sang the empowering lyrics against sexism and racism on “I’m Just a Girl” and “Long Way to Go.” It is well documented that Stefani has been vocal about the need to end sexism and racism and other global issues, as all fans know. Harajuku Lovers has been successful in part to America’s open embrace of what it represents: another culture and freedom of creative expression. The line has credited the Japanese culture for its contributions to the world of fashion. And four years after its launch, it is well on its way to do more of the same. Super Kawaii.Powered by Sidelines