Written by Hilary Keyes
Laforet Harajuku - The Place For Exclusive, Innovative Style!
Japan's youth - and many international celebrities - have long made the pilgrimage to the fashion capital that is Laforet Harajuku. A visit here is a one-of-a-kind experience!
If Takeshita Street is the face of Harajuku, ever-changing and updating, then Laforet Harajuku is its heart - a steady, constant source of pure innovative fashion. Home to international and domestic fashion brands right across the style spectrum, Laforet is an excellent place to find unique, incredible fashion items that aren't available anywhere else in the world.
Today I want to introduce you to Laforet Harajuku overall and tell you more about my top 3 picks for the most individualistic fashion and experiences at Laforet.
There is one important thing to remember at Laforet Harajuku: No photography is permitted inside Laforet. Leave your cameras in your bags or in a coin locker at the station and enjoy seeing the amazing creative works with your own eyes.
Laforet Harajuku - An Overall View
Image courtesy of Laforet Harajuku
This six storey modern building has been a beacon of youth fashion since it opened in 1978. Separated into half floors by wide staircases, Laforet Harajuku goes from the B 1.5th up to the 6th floor, with the 6th floor being home to the Laforet Museum, which is an event space.
Overall the boutiques at Laforet tend to be targeted towards women in their twenties and thirties, but there are many stores with men's fashion and unisex shops as well.
B1.5F - B1F
Hosting major Gothic and Lolita fashion brand shops, these floors feature elegant Victorian-inspired pieces, steampunk fashion and crazy, pop-punk styles.
B0.5F - 1.5F
Make-up and accessories fans will love these three floors selling everything from traditional kimono to electric green lipstick.
Newly renovated in 2015, the second floor has cosmetic shops, pop-up shops, a food court and a rest space. The rest space has free Wi-Fi and USB hubs where you can charge your various devices for free.
2.5F - 3.5F
The stores switch it up a bit from here. Western and Japanese brands mix to create styles ranging from vintage American to hip-hop, funky casual and office chic.
4F - 5F
Here the fashion moves more towards the young professional age - jeans and tailored shirts, socialite-style dresses and more formal items tend to be the offer on these floors.
A Selection of Three Recommended Shops
Now here are three stores that offer goods and services that I strongly recommend to young fashionistas visiting Harajuku for the first time.
An international and Japanese cosmetics brand select shop, Beautik opened in August of 2011 and has quickly become a must-visit shop for anyone looking for something special when it comes to beauty items. Their name, a combination of the words 'beauty' and 'boutique' indicates that what they sell is truly hand-selected and one-of-a-kind.
The quality of their cosmetic items would make any make-up artist happy, and the funky accessories and stockings sold here distinguish themselves through their original, very appealing design. Whenever I need to get ready for a big event, I come here first.
One of the great services offered at Beautik is their nail service. For 500 yen you can have your nails painted (in 1 or multiple colors) or for 500 yen extra, have a design added to them (making a full set 1000 yen plus tax). They exclusively use uslu Airlines nail polish, a German brand that you can also purchase in the shop.
I tried this service and was really impressed with their work. The staff make it look so easy to do the designs, and the nail art lasted nearly a full week afterwards without a single chip! If you make a reservation in advance you can have gel nails in one or multiple colors done for 1500 yen, with designs costing an extra 500 yen.
Another service offered at Beautik is the one-point make-up service. For 500 yen, using professional quality cosmetics and brushes, they will help you to try out a new make-up style. For example, if you purchase a set of the amazing hand-crafted false eyelashes available in the shop, they will help you to put them on and give advice about how to style them in the future as well. The one-point make-up service takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on the point (eyes, eyebrows or foundation & cheek), while a full-face make-up consultation takes 20-30 minutes and costs 1500 yen.
If you want to find a new style or try beauty items that you may never see overseas, then Beautik is the first place that you should check out.
Also opened in August of 2011, Laichi, a Japanese and Western brand select shop, combines clothes made in Japan with overseas designs, creating an exciting, one-of-a-kind sense of style. According to the staff, the name "La Ichi" comes from a combination of French and Japanese words meaning 'number one', which is the best way to describe the fashion sold at this shop.
Two of the items that I happily recommend are these: on the left, the Irregular Choice shoes, and on the right, tube dresses from the Okinawan brand, Pictures. Irregular Choice come from England and Laichi is the only authorized Japanese retailer of this brand, which is well-known for its creative, vibrant designs. When I visited Laichi this time, they had Alice in Wonderland, tropical and Star Wars themed high heels, sandals and sneakers. (I'm really glad I left my credit card at home, or I might have bought one pair of each!)
This might appear to be a skirt at first, but it's actually a really comfortable dress made by Pictures, a brand from Okinawa. Each one is uniquely designed using vintage fabrics chosen for their patterns and quality. You can wear it as a tube dress or if you feel self-conscious, with a t-shirt underneath which is the style that Laichi had featured on their mannequin. Either way, this is a very versatile outfit!
Laichi also has plenty of made-in-Japan silk-screened stockings and patterned neckties to choose from, not to mention adorable outfits that showcase the best of both Japanese and Western fashion sensibilities. If you want to find a really original, stylish outfit for work or play, this is the best place to visit.
Perhaps the first thing you notice when walking up to Dahlia are all the vibrant colors before your eyes. It's hard to decide where to look first; there are so many different accessories and fashion items to choose from here. I have been coming to this store for years - no matter who I need to get a present or souvenir for, I can count on Dahlia to have something that no one else will have.
Dahlia is a handmade accessories and fashion items select shop; there are over 60 Japanese artists who contribute goods to Dahlia, and every single piece is guaranteed to be handmade and the only one of its kind. Although Dahlia in its current form opened 8 years ago, this shop has technically been open for 33 years and was the first pierced earring store of its kind in Harajuku. It can be said that Dahlia set the standard for accessories stores at a time when the majority of people in Japan did not even have pierced ears to begin with.
While there are too many brands for me to mention in a single article to do them justice, here are a few of the brands that are immediately recognizable. Wa make these kimekomi or temari fabric ball inspired earrings. Ponq sells these incredibly popular Buddhist head earrings, while Neon. has bacon brooches and necklaces. Los Amigos de epi has resin accessories featuring skulls, fingers, animals and more. Atelier Genshinjin makes realistic fabric art - octopus legs, bananas, broccoli, even chandeliers for your room!
Sugar Bubble Club takes vintage plastic dolls (with blinking eyes!), old toys, fabrics from the 60's to the 90's and other items to create these incredible handmade purses and shoulder bags. For humorous tote bags, Masae is the brand to choose. You might find yourself overwhelmed by all the choices at Dahlia.
Every month, sometimes every two weeks, there are new limited pop-up shops selling brands that are just beginning to gain steam, brands that are just coming to Japan or long-standing shops from places outside of the greater Tokyo area. Visiting these shops located on the first and second floors is the best way to keep on top of upcoming Japanese fashion trends.
If you want to find the latest trends in Japan and bring back something that you can't find anywhere else in the world, Laforet Harajuku is the place to go!