Long before Gwen Stefani put Harajuku style on the map, photographer Shoichi Aoki documented the Tokyo locale’s cult fashion scene in his street style bible FRUiTS. An offshoot of Aoki’s street zine of the same name, FRUiTS recently celebrated its tenth anniversary and is still thriving as a monthly magazine, paying tribute to the original style of Japan’s young and restless. We spoke to the photographer about his cult following, the overflow of street style blogs and the part he played in making Harajuku girls famous.
You introduced London street style to Japan with your initial publication STREET. How did you get started?
During a trip to Europe – namely London and Paris – I noticed the difference between what people wore on the streets of Europe and what they wore in Tokyo. I knew at the time that what was happening was important and I needed to show this to the people of Japan. After I published STREET, the Harajuku kids responded to it by experimenting in their own way with fashion and created the scene I documented in FRUiTS.
It’s been over ten years since FRUiTS (the book) was published. How has the Harajuku street scene changed since then?
The ‘original’ FRUiTS fashion is completely different but the ideas and sense of style are the same. Arguably, the best time was when Harajuku had the ‘pedestrian heaven’. No cars were allowed and everyone came to hang out and share with each other. Unfortunately, this only lasted for a year after FRUiTS magazine came out.
Since you started, there has been an overwhelming wave of street style photography blogs
and publications, but yours still stands out as different. What’s your take?
I’m moved emotionally when I find perfect street fashion. I consider street fashion as a kind of art, like music and photography. I feel that most blogs treat street fashion as a tool for personalities, market research and attracting customers. I’ve just started my blog ‘Pleasure of Street Fashion’ and will start another blog about Harajuku fashion soon.
What’re the current trends in Harajuku? Who, what or where is influencing Japanese teenagers today?
It’s really interesting right now. There are a lot of genres, not one thing in particular. I don’t have any interest in trends and there isn’t really just one in my opinion.
Have you visited anywhere else you think is comparable to Harajuku or is it truly one of a kind?
London in the 90s – Portobello Market was the best. Better than Harajuku then and now. It existed before the movement here.
Are there any plans for a third FRUiTS book or a Street/Tune publication?
The two books that are out now are a mix of five years’ worth of photos I shot in no specific order. Now, you can buy the iPhone/iPad APP ‘FRUiTS Mag’ and download all of the new magazines, which is really great for people in any country who can’t buy them. Someday soon we will have the back issues up for sale as well. I also plan to make a book of old STREET photos from the nineties… I wonder if I’ll get in trouble for shooting Anna Wintour without asking? I didn’t want to waste time finding out! I also have plans for a TUNE app and a TUNE book. Finally, I am shooting a new magazine at the moment that will be called STREET.RUBY and will feature the new look from Shibuya.
Words: Frankie Mathieson