Japan: Decked in this season’s must-have looks of streaming curled hair, high heels and mini-skirts, thousands of girls joined a pilgrimage with an overpowering mantra that screamed “cute” from the rooftops.
In its fourth year the Tokyo Girls Collection, a fashion show turned cultural extravaganza, has quickly become a premier event for Japan’s trend-conscious and economically influential girls and young women.
Held ahead of the mid-March Tokyo Fashion Week, it has distinguished itself by featuring street fashion that real Tokyo girls wear and lets them buy it on the spot.
Nearly 22,000 people, few older than their mid-20s packed into the Yokohama Arena for the show, many of them breaking into cheers as the pink clock chimed the start of proceedings.
Some fans travelled all night to view the one-day show where mini-skirts, slender legs and sexy stockings were a rage. Cute” or “kawaii” in Japanese is the theme word of the Tokyo Girls Collection
Companies let girls log online to buy clothes they see on the catwalk and sold them everything from lingerie to mobile phones and chewing gum.
For businesses and experts, cuteness in Japan has turned into a force with power over the economy and national identity. Cuteness can be seen everywhere from street fashions of Shibuya and Harajuku, Tokyo’s youth districts, to the phenomenal success of Hello Kitty, which started in 1974 as a mouthless cat on a coin purse.
Sociology professor Nobuyoshi Kurita of Musashi University in Tokyo, who has studied the “kawaii” phenomenon, said the word can also imply “acceptable” or “desirable”.
Hello Kitty has been one of modern Japan’s most quintessential exports, now appearing on more than 50,000 products on sale in 60 nations.“Minnie Mouse or They represent what ‘kawaii´ is all about and are characters that never resist or oppose. They barely show their emotion or opinion but are acceptable and desirable because they are a lovable package. And present day ramp models endorse that.
The cuteness phenomenon also shows the delicate transition of gender roles in Japan, which ranks at the bottom among developed countries in studies on women’s equality.
Japan’s population is shrinking, presenting a potential future demographic crisis as a growing number of women stay single well into their 30s or beyond.
In today’s Japan, most people can graduate from university regardless of gender. A few decades ago, women had to struggle so hard to get ahead in a male-dominated world. Cuteness is the key for women who are increasingly educated and successful.
Young girls in particular can sense the changes in society and adjust so they are accepted. Now being cute is the card to survive and as seen with the success of Hello Kitty, the cuteness industry can also forge a new identity for Japan as a whole.