There is a tendency amongst those outside it to think of Akihabara culture as a male dominated one, but everyone who is even tangentially involved with the events, club nights and fashion that actually occur within that urban space, as opposed to the digital space that falsely claims ownership of the culture, knows differently. This is something that has increasingly occurred to me the further and further I have progressed with another project deep into this breed of fashion, and it seems that the time when there is a broadly equal mix of female to male in both creators and consumers is very imminent. The acceleration from the early 2000s that saw the urban space become manifest of male orientated imagery, to the degree of equality you can observe these days has to come down to kawaii culture, and whether that is due to the adoption of kawaii as a male device as we saw with the moe boom, or a more general female assertion in Japanese culture at large is probably only something that is going to be clear in retrospect.
Marking another year in ever-changing Akiba culture we find Akiba Noise, now in its second 2.0 iteration at the 3331 Arts Chiyoda space, set appropriately in a converted school building on the outskirts of the Akihabara shopping district. Looking at the core line-up of fashion from Balmung, Chloma, Borutanext5, M5YKB, Hatra, Rurumu, Mikio Sakabe, Jenny Fax and Bodysong, you know you are in safe hands, but looking beyond that we also found designers outside the Akiba bubble such as ilil and Tarzan Kick from our home turf in Koenji contributing to the scene, united by their outsider status. In the way of art and illustration, the kawaii influence was all the more visible, but as edgy as you could hope for, and probably a little bit shocking for those on the outside.
The video collective DID set the scene with a looping psychedelic affair to show you how some of the more sculptural clothes might be best worn.
Chloma has collaborated with graphic artist Tokiya for one of the more literal robotic figure inspired dresses they have produced recently, as well as an accompanying tote bag:
Moving on to the fashion area we have a scene straight out of the cult Akiba shop Gokai that replicates the saturated urban environment outside the gallery.
This is taken from a new collaboration project between the aforementioned Gokai and designer MIYABI. Together they are M5YKB, and their mix of digital imagery and structures from otaku culture is a sure fire hit.
Needless to say most of the clothes are for women, but as we know from the work of Mikio Sakabe this is hardly a fixed feast.
Balmung’s collaboration project with idol Nemu continues with this bed and pyjamas, as well as a nifty pun.
For someone so inspired by the city it was interesting to see Balmung’s designer Hachi tackle such a private space, but as you can see with a hood such as the above, you can carry a sense of privacy with you wherever you go.
Needless to say Mikio’s muses were out it full force in various art projects.
I thought this piece was probably the most powerful landmark in recent Akihabara culture to date, the mix between the objectified skirts and legs above one of the few feminine objects that is not sexualized by the male gauze was very telling of how this generation is responding to the culture of the last.
On very similar ground is Rurumu in collaboration, where a conventionally female space is created and subverted by the frills at the focal point being rendered worn and sullied.
Here the urban space of the city is rendered in fashion, note how the maid, sailor and AKB uniforms blend with the pipes and antenna.
For many of the younger contributors the idea of uniform is the first that they come to, but even with this reoccurring theme, everyone has a different way of interpreting it as you can see above.
Into the art and illustration area and we find a lot of work produced by idols themselves:
Finally into the shop and there were plenty of subversive twists on Akihabara culture for you to take home, but once again it is rather telling that most were likely to be worn by women – a theory proved once the doors opened and the customers rushed in.
My pick of the day was the deceptively simple work from Borutanext5 who has recently started collaborating with Mikio Sakabe – definitely one to watch.
Stand by for a more in-depth look at this exhibition on the Akihabara Fashion sister site – there is still so much more left to see.