Your Daily Serving of FRUiTS

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.

Do you consider this style to be costume or fashion? What do you think the difference is between costume and fashion?
I think most of it is fashion. There’s certain elements of design in street wear as opposed to costume, which is a bit more theatrical. I mean, these are very functioning pieces of clothing. There are more sects of this scene that are more costume-y, but I think in Fruits’ cases, it is all genuine, everyday clothes. A lot of them are made or manipulated, so they’re bought off the rack and cut up into something new. Accessorizing is huge; dyeing your hair and all that type of stuff that can help express how you are feeling that day.

Gwen Stefani has been accused of co-opting the Fruits and Harajuku style. Do you agree? Why or why not?
I say go with it. You know, she knew it existed, everyone knew it existed. I remember when I first did this show it was huge press for me because all of a sudden everybody knew what Harajuku was, and that was fantastic. The more people who know about this scene the better it was. There is that thing where, you say, she accessorized herself with four Harajuku girls, that they were just kind of accessories like her earrings or something. They just followed her everywhere she went; but it is great that she knows that it exists and she loves it. I think she genuinely loves it, so it’s good there.

Do you think dressing this way is about uniqueness, or conformity? Can it be both at the same time?
One can say when you have teenage angst or whatever, you’re “not conforming” with hundreds of other non-conformists. There’s that wanting to be an individual, separate from the group. But these Fruits guys, they know that there’s a whole bunch of other people interested in the same thing. They’re making their own stuff, they’re doing their own stuff, it’s just what they wear on the outside is kinda who they are on the inside. I don’t think they’re too concerned – in fact, they might find it comforting to know there’s a group of people who will appreciate and enjoy your type of clothing.

Do you follow runway fashion? Do you ever see a Fruits influence on designer clothing?
I do; I have a few friends that do regular stuff. When I do work with them, I challenge them a little bit – like, let’s create sculptures as opposed to the regular stuff. Again, that show, No Kimono, there were three designers involved in it and there’s stuff in what they do as designers. The clothes they created were very artistic. I think I see Fruits influence more in the street than I do in the runway. Runways are still pretty conservative, I find. You also have the independent fashion shows, like Toronto’s Alternative Fashion week, that are not so much copying what these girls are doing in Japan but more the idea of creating things for yourself. Just seeing that whole DIY stuff, whether it’s craft-making or dressmaking, more and more people are making their own stuff. I think it’s great that there’s this influence.

4 thoughts on “Your Daily Serving of FRUiTS

  1. This is great! I’ve always had major fruit-envy but lacked the cojones to rock, say, a full-on goth lolita or teddy look in Montreal.

  2. I can’t say I’d ever want to dress this way (indeed, it would start to get boring if everyone was doing it), but I LOVE that other people want to.
    The girl in red and white is absolutely adorable – I admire anyone who can pull off a serious expression while wearing… that!

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