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Column "My Cool Japan"

Fashion Director/ Journalist/ Blogger

What is Tokyo's "Fashion Crime Rate" ?

Fashion Director/ Journalist/ BloggerMisha Janette

When people ask me the defining characteristic of Tokyo and it’s colorful unique fashion scene, I tell them this: “The fashion crime rate in Tokyo is the lowest in the in the world.” This is the main reason Japanese subcultures in fashion have thrived. What does that mean? Let me explain:
I was in New York City for fashion week a handful of years ago for the very first time. Like any young girl would be, I was full of trepidation but excited. At the time, Lady Gaga had just broken out in the pop music scene like a Trojan Horse in platinum hair bows, and much like her, I too felt an affinity toward expressing myself through fashion. I strapped on a pair of sculpted Masaya Kushino shoes, a bulbous knit Somarta dress in blood red, and topped my head off with a couture Nobuki Hizume hat that had feathers which poked wildly into the air. I was headed for the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology for an exhibit on the current state of Tokyo street subcultures. I felt like a million yen in that creative outfit (channeling my inner Isabella Blow). But the two-block walk was less than a walk in the park.

“Hey lady, what Halloween party are ya goin’ to?”

“Yo, you that Gaga chick?”

Some taxis even slowed down when passing me just to get a glimpse. Much to say, I felt like an animal at a zoo, and the rest of the week I made sure to tone it down lest I garner more unwanted attention.

This brings me back to Tokyo. A few weeks later I was wearing something very similar for Tokyo Fashion Week. But this time, I needed to ride the train. I wondered if people would be staring the entire ride. I was practically wearing an eye magnet. And they are humans after all, sometimes people surely can’t help themselves… if they called me Lady Gaga I could offer my signature.

However, tt was so easy, like making instant curry. Not a soul looked twice, asked me about my “costume” or felt the need to question who I was, where I was going or why.

The fashion “crime” here is low. While in many other countries who do not have so much thriving subcultures, it is high. You may hear the term “fashion crime” and think I am talking about faux-pas, but it’s the opposite (a fashion faux pas is in the eye of the beholder, afterall). In Japan, it is part of the culture to let strangers be-it is of no business of anyone to question another.

This is why we have so many wonderful, unique, thriving subcultures in Tokyo, especially in Harajuku and Shibuya where they find a community. Shiro-nuri artists (with faces painted completely white) can ride the train and feel safe, just like a Neo-gal can. In this way we have gyaru, forest girls, lolita, goth, fairy and more subcultures.

This totally unique culture is a way of thinking and learned early on in education.Therefore, while it is very admirable of those abroad who love to don Japanese fashion and parade around in it in their home country, nothing can compare to being in Tokyo and not constantly having to be ready to physically- or mentally- justify yourself to the world.

Without this culture in Place, we wouldn’t see an evolution of street style in Japan. This is the country that gave us the Kigurumin genre, after all. There will be no arrests made in regards to fashion here in Japan, and it will only allow more genres and fashion subcultures to truly thrive.


Misha Janette

Fashion Director/ Journalist/ Blogger
Born in Washington State, USA. Graduate of Bunka Fashion College. Named by the UK’s Business of Fashion as one of their BoF 500 – the 500 people shaping the global fashion industry. She is gaining fame as a fashion director for creating extremely imaginative worlds through integrating art with cutting edge fashion, and she has collaborated with media companies and artists both domestically and worldwide, including having worked on tour costumes and styling for Nicki Minaj. As a fashion journalist, she contributes articles to a variety of magazines and newspapers around the world. She started her bilingual blog Tokyo Fashion Diaries to spread the word about the Japanese fashion scene worldwide. She is known as one of the world’s top bloggers, and as a creator, is active in TV, radio, and on the DJ scene.