Translated by Ellyn Barnes
Shibuya-kei: The Forefront of Fashion!
Written by Kazuyo
Shibuya-kei is often used to describe the very latest fashion. Here we explain the origin of the phrase and explore Shibuya-kei music/trends.
Shibuya-kei, literally "Shibuya style", is often used in Japan to describe those leading the frontline of fashion. World-famous celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Jeremy Scott are attracting attention for their Shibuya-kei fashion and have been spotted many a time shopping in the area.
But what exactly is Shibuya-kei? And what are the latest Shibuya-kei trends?
What is Shibuya-kei?
Shibuya-kei refers to a movement that originated in the district of Udagawacho, Shibuya and encompasses art, fashion, and a lifestyle, all centered around music.
In the early 1990s, Udagawacho's streets were lined with an array of record shops, big and small, including famous music store Manhattan Records. These stores raised a generation of music-literate artists who, making use of their talent and expertise, created an entirely new sound. This new genre, which blended and reconstructed past music, was a huge hit especially in Shibuya and came to be known as Shibuya-kei.
The Background Behind Shibuya-kei Music
Japan in the late 1980s saw the beginnings of a rock-band boom, the likes of which had never been seen before. Although these bands produced amazing rock songs that had a real impact, they didn't have much creativity when it came to musical composition. In response to this, Shibuya-kei music, as a principle, paid particular attention to the composition of its songs.
It's important to note that the term Shibuya-kei does not just refer to one particular style of music. It covers a wide range of different genres, all of which have urban roots, such as House, Hip Hop, Soul, and Lounge music. The most well-known groups include Flipper's Guitar, Pizzicato Five, and Original Love. Other famous artists you may have heard of are Kenji Ozawa, Kahimi Karie, and Scha Dara Parr.
In the early 2000s, Shibuya-kei music sadly fell into decline. However, there are still many fans of the genre's sound, which has a timeless, universal appeal, and Shibuya-kei has continued to influence the music scene.
Artists from this era were the icons of their time. Even now, they are talked about not just for their music, but also for their album cover designs and fashion style. Thus, the phrase Shibuya-kei fashion came to be used to refer to the latest trends, and fashionistas began to flock to Shibuya. Now, the phrase Shibuya-kei alone has become synonymous with the fashion scene.
What is Shibuya-kei Fashion?
Over the years, Shibuya-kei has evolved with the ever-changing fashion scene. However, one thing has remained unchanged: the supporting pillar of the Shibuya-kei subculture, fashion mall Shibuya 109. It's no exaggeration to say that items that sell well in this one building will soon become popular across the whole country. And it's not just clothes - you can also find shoes, glasses, wigs, and even stationery here.
Next, we'll introduce the current Shibuya-kei fashion trends found at Shibuya 109 (as of September 2015) and where to buy the latest items.
Shibuya-kei Ladies Wear
The characteristics of current Shibuya-kei ladies wear can be generally divided into two facets.
Source: Fig & Viper Official Website (Japanese only)
The first is Neo Gal style, which is always one step ahead of the rest of the fashion world. It's all over social media platforms such as Instagram and takes inspiration from overseas trends, the latest of which being white-bleached hair or dyed purple locks. You can find Neo Gal items at Fig & Viper in Shibuya 109.
Adult Gal-kei and Karakuchi Cool-kei
Source: Moussy Official Website
These season-inspired styles are cool and sexy, rather than cute. Outfits combine feminine items such as pumps to an overall boyish look, creating a casual yet clean silhouette. You can find this kind of style at Moussy in Shibuya 109.
That's it for our discussion on Shibuya-kei. Next time you're hanging out in Shibuya, keep an eye out for the latest fashion trends - they'll soon be popular in your town, too!
Address: Kifune Building, 10-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Closed during the year-end and New Year holidays
Accepted credit cards: JCB, VISA, DC, MasterCard, American Express, and Diners Club
Nearest Station(s): JR Shibuya Station
Access: 6-min walk from Exit 3A
Pricing: ¥3,000 (average cost of a new record)
Phone Number: +81(0)3-3477-7166
Official Website: Manhattan Records (Japanese)
Address: 2-29-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10:00–21:00 (stores) 11:00–22:00 (cafes and restaurants)
Closed January 1
Wi-Fi Available (visit the information desk for an ID and password)
Accepted credit cards: Vary by store
Nearest Station(s): JR Shibuya Station
Access: Seconds' walk from Exit 3A
Pricing: Varies by store
Phone Number: +81(0)3-3477-5111
Official Website: Shibuya 109