It was around 15 years ago that Tokyo-based Shoichi Aoki decided to capture the increasingly intriguing street style local to the city’s Harajuku neighbourhood. The decision proved to be a smart one, leading to two photo-books (entitled FRUiTs and Fresh FRUiTs), a fanzine, and a dedicated fanbase. Recently, the photos were put on exhibit at Toronto’s Lakeview Restaurant, which will be closing with a reception at STUDIO gallery on Friday, February 12. I talked to the Lakeview curator (and FRUiTS fan) Rafi Ghanaghounian about his thoughts surrounding the popularity of this iconic street style.
Fruits has achieved a huge level of recognition – what do you think the appeal is?
Like most people, when I first discovered that book it was a bit of a shock. There was no standard to it – no textbook. It’s like everything about fashion was just tossed out the window. All the layering and different textures and patterns all mashed together to make these beautiful pieces, and they just made it work somehow… I think that was my initial reaction to it. Looking more into it I discovered what influenced a lot of these styles. In Japan, things like anime and that counterculture is strong, and you see that in a lot of that. There are things based on characters, like how they dress, that you can see in this style.
Why do you think that this form of street style is specific to Japan? Why has it not taken off in, let’s say, Toronto?
Things can be pretty conservative in Japan, but on the other hand over here pretty much everything is just blue and grey and khaki. There’s no colour. The only time people wear colours or patterns is on Halloween or something. For these guys, it’s a daily ritual – they get up and dress up and go out. It is starting to take off here. I went to this show a few years ago called No Kimono; that was five years ago. You can see now in Toronto more people aren’t afraid of wearing colours or layering, mixing patterns and textures. It’s refreshing to see something like that on the street. As far as why it started there, again I think anime culture has a lot to do with it. There is a lot of colour and pattern in that.