I’ve repeatedly talked about the fall of Gyaru. I stated my reasons recently in the NeoGal post. And just in case you don’t feel like clicking back I’m going restate them. Now and then go back to discussing the reasons I’m writing a new article.
Reasons I feel gyaru has problems
Over mori, nails/hair/everything went too over the top and impossible to maintain. Tanning died. Even if you like it, the over mori people who kept up with it all started looking the same. Outrageous yet a bit boring.
The boom of 2007-2009 in gyaru created gyaru but many of them naturally calmed from that era and are moving towards something else. That can be Neogal, but it’s also mega popular Onee gyaru, Mode, or Street casual like Sly. Again all of the other choices than Neogal have many more stores and followers.
The growth of oraora, it’s a way to rebel without as much flashiness. No to mention Ora Ora and psy-trance (saike) go hand in hand which allows people to congregate at raves and music events without the problems of Shibuya.
The K-Pop boom is crazy in Japan as well as AKB48. The new highschoolers who could pick an aging Ayu or older Koda Kumi instead are going with the youth and fun of K-Pop and AKB48. Both which don’t promote gyaru.
Brands were too quick to change their individual style to promote the new hot trend. Soon mode clothing was at every store not just Emoda and Murua and brands started looking the same, Lip Service and Egoist now look like Murua. It ruins brand loyalty and individuality. The sweet dolly boom has created a lot of watered down Liz Lisa, Ank Rouge types like Adree, Secret Honey, recently bankrupted Ricori and more.
Shibuya has been dying since 2008. Dying because of the asshole fake policemen harassing gyaru since 2008. The popular Center-gai McDonalds closed early. Dancing was banned and clubs shrank. There became much less safe-space gathering places for lots of gyaru. Again and again older gyaru lament how Shibuya has died and keep saying “let’s go back” but without any real game plan or safe space.
And those are my reasons and I’m sticking to them.
However Tokyo Fashion tweeted this and it got me riled up again.
Never seen fewer people for the opening of Shibuya 109’s big fukubukuro sale. This’s year’s turnout seems to reflect the collapse of gyaru.
— Tokyo Fashion (@TokyoFashion) January 2, 2015
Reasons I feel that tweet is suspect:
1) Shibuya 109 stopped equaling gyaru. My biggest complaint. Many big brands now how stores across Tokyo and it’s much easier for people to go to their closest store. Shibuya 109 is probably not it because it’s expensive to live in Shibuya or surrounding areas.
So even if you like a brand inside Shibuya 109 on a cold day you’re going to the one that’s less crowded. Liz Lisa even understood this and sent their LLGals to all over stores in Tokyo. They also didn’t offer a 109 special only fukubukuro like they did last year, only a special color way.
2) (As wonderfully pointed out by Atashida) Shibuya 109 is a crumbling old mall.
It was created in 1979 (photo source). Surely it’s a beacon of architecture and seen in many movies as how Tokyo looks, but it’s also a very old mall. It has gone very few renovations because its cylindrical design is limiting. It’s a very narrow mall and feels crowded even on a weekday. Sure the stores themselves go through renewals but the building itself has stayed the same.
On fukubukuro days it’s obscenely crowded. There’s only the option of two elevators and one escalator. For 8 floors that’s a very small amount.
It’s also badly lit
Aging tile and bad lights don’t help a lot of the stores.
3) Shinjuku Lumine EST has been getting all the big names and flashy stores. Shinjuku Lumine EST is directly to connected to Shinjuku station, the busiest rail station in Tokyo. It’s extremely convenient to get to for Western Tokyo dwellers.
Lumine EST has been a mall since the 60s however it’s gone through so many renovations, the most recent being 2008. It’s also a very wide space and gyaru brands occupy the easy access stores that are floor level just outside the East Exit gates of JR Shinjuku station. Less than a minute after stepping outside a train you’re in at Rodeo Crowns without any weather to worry about.
Rady during its renewal. Check out the open area walkways and well lit space.
To translate that to USD Rady made $81,000 in one opening day in Shinjuku Lumine EST at the exchange rate in 2012. In one day!
Rady currently reports profits from only its Shinjuku Lumine store as 60,000,000yen monthly. About $500k a month. From one store. It made newspaper articles. Including back in 2012 when it was known was the 150million yen in one month web brand. Or translated to $1,500,000 a month by 2012 standards. Yup 1.5 million dollars, one webstore one brand.
Sister brand for petite clothing Michell Macaron made 5,100,000 yen on its first day also in Shinjuku Lumine EST.
Even though both founders are ex-Ageha models which is tied to gyaru. They opened it near the hostess quarters in Kabukicho. The more Ageha-centric area of Tokyo. Shibuya 109 wasn’t on her radar. Rady only decided to do a pop-up shop in Shibuya 109 once for a Hello Kitty event last year.
Both brands are part of the Agejo lifestyle promoters, the thing often discussed as a dying movement.
Coincidentally Lumine EST has cheaper rents than Shibuya 109. That must drive a lot of brands away from Shibuya 109. Shinjuku Lumine EST also houses brands that may be too old for the younger Shibuya 109 crowd, but the aging Oneegyaru can also buy and mix into their wardrobes. Like Honey Salon by Foppish or Lily Brown or Mercury Duo. It’s another reason someone may choose to flock to Lumine over 109.
When people tell me gyaru is dying I tell them the Onee brands aren’t hurting. Rienda, Datura, Rady, and the like are all still being loved by an aging set of gyaru that still have money. You tell me if making $81,000 is in one day is dead. Rady is clearing house and ex-Ageha model Shizuka Mutoh herself founded it. The aging gyaru is where gyaru brands should be looking.
4) The rise of on-line shopping. Who wants to wait in line for a fukubukuro when you can order them all online. Weeks before they come out. Brands have all recognized this and that’s why there’s been such good online fukubukuro sales, through big markets like runway channel, fashionwalker, mobacolle and Shibuya109’s own net shop. They’re still getting the profits and don’t have to as heavily staff their stores which means less overhead. Meaning brands are making more money if they do it online. You think they don’t realize this??
While brands I have no doubt understand that the well dressed and clever shop staff sell more merchandise, they know most buyers in early January are only heading to a store for one thing: fukubukuro.
5) I’m damn sick of gyaru being a target when its just a symptom. Reporters are so quick to point out the problems of gyaru fashion to the lagging Shibuya 109 sales, the magazines shutting (previously discussed) or the closing of brands (more on this later). Instead there should be a much broader talk about how teen fashion brands are hurting in Japan and brands in general.
I’m confident many lolita brands are holding on because of
1 – An aging commited audience who can still afford and stick with them. (Youth moving to adult fashion now)
2 – They have shut down their expansion desires closing their San Francisco, Shanghai and Paris shops. Instead concentrating on the stores they have. Or offering pop-ups overseas to sell items in Paris and New York.
3 – Events like tea parties across the world that help promote and give buyers a reason to buy and wear their brands.
4 – Create a group of lolita heads for brands that promote the brand and act as pseudo-producers.
5 – They looked to a Western audience and helped make ordering easier to foreign buyers.
Lolita has been smart across the brands and yet I bet if there were peaks at their sales records it’d be a steady but not growing situation. Marui One which used to be the lolita beacon in Tokyo is no longer. Marui Annex is now rising in its place but fills only two floors with lolita brands (this may be because of competition with Harajuku stores of the same brand).
If you want to distance hime from gyaru and lolita Jesus Diamante has closed stores and La Parfait is only online.
Harajuku punk and rock brands like Banana Fish and Black Peace Now all bit the dust in 2013. ManiaQ the Fairy kei brand closed after 15 years. Several big stores in Takeshita are closing or have closed and popular tights brand Avantgarde is closing their shop in Harajuku.
…and yet you do not hear peeps about the death of Harajuku fashion even though Takeshita has been bulldozed to make room for a Monki and other fast fashion. Misha Janette tackled the problem with Harajuku in a three part series. Yet it leaves me thinking that its a bit narrow, all fashion is hurting.
But to sum up this part, gyaru hurting is a symptom not the full illness. It’s just an easy target and a narrow one.
Gyaru Dying article in Yomimuri
So I did reply to Tokyo Fashion and tell them I disagreed, and they sent me to an article bout Shibuya 109’s woes which I appreciated. However I’ve got bones to pick with it, too. So let’s go into it shall we?
Originally published for the Yomimuri Shimbun the title is Japan sees a decline in Gyaru fashion style. I’m going to refute some items in it and agree with a few.
Total sales at Shibuya 109 fashion complex in Tokyo, dubbed a gyaru fashion mecca, peaked at 28.65 billion yen (about $289 million) in the year ending March 2009. But its sales for the year ending March 2014 are projected to be 18.8 billion yen, or about 60 percent of the 2009 figure.
No denying the numbers. Sales are lagging. It’s an old mall (see above). However I reckon numbers across all teen oriented malls are down. 2013 figures say La Foret made 12.9 billion yen. Edit: Sales reports for LaForet for 2012 were 13.1 billion yen. So a tick down from the year before. Japan Times stated for Japanese department stores “annual sales at major department stores have fallen continuously for the past 13 years.”
But does that mean Shibuya 109 clothing sales have weakened or its clientele are leaving for nicer and nearer stores of the same brands?
Stores closing and bankrupt
“Love Boat” shop on the first underground floor of the complex closed its doors…. Three days later, Orches Co., which operated a popular “Lip Service” shop at the 109 complex, filed for court protection with a debt of 6 billion yen — though the shop itself is still in business there.
Love Boat closing is a big sign however the company seemed to be making some not-so-smart choices. They had a four story mega mall in Harajuku that was both out of the way and overreaching for the brand as shown by Tokyo Fashion. Four story mega mall? The rent alone must’ve been huge much less to make a profit with such a niche series of brands. Craziness! I thought it was craziness when I saw it. Love Boat also put out very basic and boring designs for 2010 onwards.
When people talk about clothing companies close I often wonder did a) they financially screw up? b) did they drive away customers with bad designs?
I’d like to point to Love Boat and say yes to both. They were boring and too easy to jump onto trends (see problems above) and yet their prices didn’t reflect the basicness of their clothing. Love Boat closing is sad however that doesn’t mean Love Boat left Shibuya 109. Actually LDS and b-gyaru brand LB-03 (which means LOVE BOAT – 03) which also sells Dance by LB-03, are both still in Shibuya 109. Both brands are still popular with their group (to note: LDS also operates a store in Shinjuku Lumine EST).
Lip Service parent company bankruptcy is interesting. However I wonder how much that has to do with brands that aren’t Lip Service. Orches also owns Juriano Jurrie and JSG. JSG is now defunct and hung on way past the time when haade was a big movement in gyaru and not the biggest of its time. Juriano Jurrie was a discount rock brand that never really had an identity after that 2010 rock boom. It no longer has brick-and-mortar stores and just sells via the webstore.
Orches has smartly restructured with a clean on-line site and keeping Lip Service and discount brand Ciel by Lip Service as their heads. And now they only have Lip Service actual stores. By the way Lip Service has 28 actual stores in Japan and 10 overseas in China and Hong Kong. That is a heck of a comeback.
Four Points to Declining Gyaru
I believe there are four reasons for gyaru fashion’s rapid decline. First, the number of gyaru themselves dropped due to the low birth rate. Secondly, young women came to spend their time and money not in Shibuya but at shopping centers like Aeon Co. malls in their local areas. Thirdly, gyaru also became attracted to “fast fashion” brands such as H&M and Forever21, which respectively entered the Japanese market in 2008 and 2009. Finally, middle and high schools started tightening rules including bans on dying hair brown after a period of relaxed education policy.
Bolded by me.
1. Low Birth Rate – To me is the most BS argument and its used always in discussing any declining thing in Japan. I do think low birth rate is hurting Japan but it should hurt all of teen fashion. Not just gyaru. And the low birthrate didn’t kill 2009 sales in Shibuya 109, I’m calling BS. If you’re comparing a 20 year change then sure.
And just because I’m going to say maybe a key demographic is a 16 year old girl. So 2009 would be 1993 born and 2014 would be 1996. Japan birthrate was 1.46. 1996 was 1.38.
1993 and 1996. Look at that chart. It’s a blip. Which is why I call BS. 2005 babies will be concerning but I don’t feel that age is YET problematic for teen fashion. Use declining birthrate in 10 years and over a larger span of time.
But again this across all teens, so all teen fashion SHOULD but will be hurting. Gyaru isn’t the only style in town. Maybe elderly fashion will be awesome and they’ll be some Japanese Advanced Style blog?
2. Staying away from Shibuya 109 and closer to home – I completely agree that this is happening. Popteen Cafe opening in Chiba LalaPort is a big example of this. However this ignores that gyaru brands have expanded way past Shibuya 109 and many malls cater to their needs (again Shibuya 109 doesn’t equal gyaru). That doesn’t mean a decline in gyaru as the article is titled, it means instead its easier for teens to get their fashion. That seems like anti-decline to me.
3. “Fast Fashion” brands Forever 21 and H&M have moved into Japan – I do see this as a problem. I see it as a problem to all ages of fashion. However many gyaru and lolita brands encourage brand loyalty through novelties, meet-and-greets and other items. I do believe many people across Japan are buying less of brands and more of a mix between fast fashion and brands. So the profits will decline. Gyaru brands also are quick to change their style to this Zara, H&M basics style and it hurts the brands themselves.
4. Stricter high school standards – Something I hadn’t considered and I think is a valid point. However Japanese schools do have a variety of choices on dress codes. A lot of girls who are interested in gyaru however go to Blea high school. And many girls interested in alternative teen fashion dress up only on weekends. However I think the desire to be flashy has declined among youth.
Popular Fig & Viper producer Alisa Ueno in an interview for Blea said she went to a strict high school but outside of it she said “I want to be free! I want to be more fashionable!” I just don’t feel like this is currently how many teens are thinking now, one of the reasons I think is AKB48 and other teen singers (as pointed out above).
The Rise of Larme
According to a recent survey conducted by WWD Japan on 150 young women in Tokyo for its September 8 issue, conventional gyaru fashion seems to have “grown up” into girlie or other types of fashion. Young women today apparently prefer less makeup and simple fashion with undyed hair.
150 isn’t a big sample size, but I do agree. However there are brands within Shibuya 109 that are catering to that and many brands inside Shibuya 109 itself have moved to much simpler fashion and quieted make-up. I think gyaru brands are accepting this trend. Even inside big holdouts such as MA*RS and DIA there is a change in how they are flashy. The hair is less big and the nails are often gel. And I’ve talked about this before in 2013 …is the new gyaru
The spread of social networks is also said to have made them seek more realistic styles.
The initial print run of girlie-style fashion magazine “Larme,” which was launched in September 2012, totaled 35,000. But with print runs now at 200,000, it can be said that the current trend of late-teen fashion is summed up in the magazine.
This is true and I think many gyaru brands will try to fit into Larme magazine. The sweet gyaru fashion will turn to Larme to get its style across and I feel this is not problematic.
However, I think this article ignores across the whole board the economy and the flow of fashion along with the other reasons at the top I believe gyaru is declining.
The Japanese economy is taking a hit in general
To me this is one of the bigger ignored problems when talking about Japanese fashion. Especially those brands and magazines that concentrate in Japan.
Sure Larme magazine is doing well when other gyaru magazines have failed. There were too many magazines and they did some big mistakes to bore their target readers. Larme magazine has a successful formula for now and is building popular model icons and doing brand collaborations which helps them bring in ad revenue. I’d also like to note that Larme’s model age is a bit older than youth fashion. Risa being 25, Amo 23, and Yui Kanno at 27.
But Japanese articles often dance around the issue of the poor economy. Discussing the poor economy seen as not being friendly to the government and the press in Japan actually aren’t as free to say what they want. The poor economy makes these articles like Japanese SalaryMen have less pocket money. This trickles down to teens who also want to shop. Fewer teens, less pocket money. Easy math.
Fashion has a natural flow of expansion and extremes to contraction and lows
Currently I think there is a contraction in fashion and a low. Will globalization hurt this and continue this trend? I’m unsure but I feel this is across all fashion. There’s a need for a more low-key approach to style. Minimalism? Otona Kawaii? Sides of the same coin that mean a restriction and simplicity to how people are viewed.
I started writing this post at 2:00 and it’s now 7:00 and my hand hurts and there was lots of rambling.
Maybe Definitely I made a few mistakes. However I wanted to clarify some issues I’ve found with how gyaru fashion and in general youth fashion is being portrayed and why there’s more one way to look at the issue.
Edit: added a few more details and such, still a ramble. TLDR? Basically: It’s not just gyaru. All youth fashion has troubles, malls stop being fashionable as they get old and less trendy, the brands and genres aging with their customers are successful ones, and brand expansion and success should be determined by clientele and economic woes.