The New Year is a reminder, albeit hardly necessary, that fashion is never static, punctuated as it by the shift between S/S to A/W and 2014 to 2015. The subcultures are no different, moving, but marked in their own way, whether it is the elusive exhibition, rare guerilla runway, or else in the case of Akihabara fashion’s most public proponent – Akiba Noise – an upgrade to 3.0. The latest installment which opened its doors on the 25th saw fashion designer mainstays of the genre Mikio Sakabe, Rurumu, Noriko Nakazato, Ryota Murakami and M5YKB joined by illustrators regular readers of this site should recognise such as Ai Madonna and Rika-chan, captured by the best of Tokyo’s underground photographers and filmmakers.
In tune with the times this time the exhibition was themed “Post Idol”, a reference to the ubiquitous presence of what was once Akihabara’s own culture in Japan today. Where once idols and their culture were confined to the borders of the Akihabara, except for a handful of mainstream media-safe inoculated iterations, now it is hard to commute without seeing a billboard without one (or more likely more) on, but more important than that is the degree to which the visual language of idols has permeated current popular culture, and given that in the case of the idols these signs are linked to the persona or body, this also has a huge impact on fashion.
Beyond that there is an important gendered phenomena that closely resounds with fashion, in that where only a decade ago you might have to work relatively hard to spot a single girl at a gig, now at mainstream acts such as AKB48 the ratio can veer towards 50/50, and at even underground events the men are now no longer the sole target consumer. It is an odd turn of affairs where in the same way as men’s bishoujo drawing style which was originally derived from women’s shoujo manga, has now come full circle to be popular in women’s media, so too has idol culture, and now we are at the point where there are fashion and idol culture magazines such as Overture popping up and Momoiro Clover Z are on stage with KISS.
But what does this mean for the Akihabara natives who have created what is arguable Japan’s predominant pop culture right now? As you might expect it has driven them further underground, keen to create “Super Domestic” brands and groups that cannot be understood neither on the international stage, nor beyond the boundaries of Akihabara. To present this stage of Akihabara culture the curator, Kotake, chose to present all the exhibits in flat form, allowing no actual clothes or sculptures as before, with video, sound and imagery overlapping across exhibits building to a sense of where the scene is right now.
You should remember Rika-chan from her work on Jenny Fax’s current collection, her deliberately dated and naive style aping the origins of the shoujo manga aesthetics that the idol in the photo is trying to achieve as she applies her make-up.
Another cosmetic metamorphosis this time from Rurumu in collaboration with photographer Ayano Sudo, with the purity of idol culture paired with Catholic images of the Virgin Mary alluding to both the standards we place on young women and the conflict of desire with that to preserve in a state of perceived perfection.
The stone here is the symbol of new clothing line Lucky Room, currently available in Chaos Market in Nakano Broadway, and on the televisions we had films introducing work from the likes of Aiso Momoka and Yuuki Yuki.
In the corner we find a mural to the influx of internet, and in particular social media culture. An odd stranger at what is otherwise a thoroughly domestic feast, but still an important addition to Akiba Noise if it is to accurately reflect the spirit of the times.
Ai Madonna’s work was looking fantastic as ever, she may be best known for her sketches, but her artworks are labors of love – I love how the paint overflows the canvas.
As ever the girls from Dempagumi.inc make their presence felt.
One to watch from the Tokyo New Age – Noriko Nakazato – shone through, her color selection and textures currently acting as a roadmap that the rest of the Tokyo street scene is following.
This was also the only exhibition this year where you could see Mikio Sakabe’s latest S/S 2015 collection, the man himself having eschewed a runway presentation this season. Even at Akiba Noise it was difficult to see his work, presented as it was in multiple layers up a step-ladder so that only the dedicated could see it.
Needless to say it was worth the effort, and even if there is a lot of material from the exhibition that you cannot find online, there is a lookbook available that I advise you to seek out.
Video collection DID presented an “Everyday Idol” in collaboration with designer Ryota Murakami, in which we find a parody of an idol engaged in series of domestic actions, the point being to show what we deny those we claim to admire.
It was refreshing to find a lot of women’s issues discussed in this context, especially as in the urban space of Akihabara their presence and contribution to the culture is very much felt, even if the perception online still rather removes their voices.
The artist formerly known as Borutanext5 is in a state of flux with a new upcoming brand under her wing – definitely one to watch out for.
Aesthetically you can clearly see the shift of the times, with the sherbet pastels of last year giving way to whites and grays, all seen through a reflective digital lens.
So there you have it, Akiba Noise version 3.0, a snap-shot of the post-idol era that will surely make its presence felt throughout the fashion world this coming 2015.
Apologies for the lack of updates – The University of Tokyo is keeping me occupied, but I look forward to sharing my research here soon.