Book Review : Selling Japanese Fruit to the World
Saturday, March 19, 2005 Posted: 11:03 AM JST
I love the work by my fellow photographer Shoichi Aoki. Like me, he shoots the cool trendsetters on the streets of Tokyo. Since he started his magazine FRUITS in the mid-90s he has taken countless of photographs of the coolest street fashion that the world has seen sofar. The best of these shots are compiled in his book Fruits.
Aoki first started documenting street fashion in London in the mid 80's. He has told me that he taught himself how to take photographs from books. At the time Japanese fashion wasn't free at all. Inspired by the free street fashion of London the young Aoki decided he wanted to do something about Japanese staleness.
In the early to mid 90's things were beginning to change in Japan. The Harajuku area in Tokyo had its main thoroughfare closed off on Sundays and this was attracting more and more bands and show offs. The 'pedestrian heaven' (hokoten) as it was called became a laboratory and incubation center for new trends in music and fashion.
"In Japan," Aoki told me a few years ago, "everybody had always dressed the same. Whatever was popular was worn by everyone. Everybody would wear Comme des Garçons or Ivy or whatever brand was 'in'. But suddenly Harajuku became free. People started to feel that it was cool to coordinate your own clothes. Harajuku fashion became really interesting and fun." He recalls: "You had this small group of trendsetters, perhaps 10 to 20 people. Whenever they came up with something new, others would soon imitate them. But these imitators weren't as cool as the original trendsetters so the trendsetters didn't want to be identified with them."
"To differentiate themselves again they came up with new things. It just escalated. They kept on trying to escape from their imitators right into "decora" (fashion style sporting lots of decorative stuff and strong bright colors). They figured nobody would follow them into wearing clothes that crazy."
FRUITS shows these 'crazy' trends in all their details. The book has virtually no text, just page after page of exquisitely printed color photographs. Aoki's photographs are unique in that he shows the full body, from head to toe, in actual street situations. This is much better than shots done in the studio. It is like photographing animals in the wild opposed to photographing them in the zoo.
Full body shots makes it possible to not only see the pants, skirts, dresses, coats and sweaters, but also the shoes, socks, stockings, hats and wild hairdos in all their glory.
Short descriptions explain what each person is wearing, their age and their 'obsession'.
If you want to put to rest the myth that Japanese people are not creative and original, you just have got to read this book. You'll find it a great inspiration.
Fruits by Shoichi Aoki
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