From kawaii to fairy kei: fashion goes beyond the kimono at Hyper Japan

Now in its tenth year, the three-day festival is a place for J-fashion enthusiasts to socialise, show off their outfits and get inspiration for future looks

Ten years after it started in 2010, the UKs largest celebration of traditional and modern Japanese culture, is returning to London today for three days.

Hyper Japan, which is now a twice-yearly event, offers traditional food, anime merchandise and a cosplay zone, as well as an array of attractions for fashion lovers. The Asakusa culture section will be home to the vintage kimono brand Fuji Kimono, where guests can buy traditional Japanese clothing.

Although the kimono may be Japans most recognisable garment, plenty more styles and style tribes have come out of Harajuku, Tokyos fashion district. Harajuku is also the name Hyper Japan has given to its fashion zone, which includes brands from the UK and beyond, selling kawaii meaning cute clothes, accessories and other merchandise. Kawaii is a subculture in Japan, characterised by pastel colours, soft fabrics and adorable mascots. Hello Kitty, Aggretsuko and Gudetama are just a few of the characters from the genre that have made their way into western culture.

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Hyper Japans Christmas market in 2015. Photograph: Guy Corbishley/Alamy

Some of the most popular Japanese fashions are lolita, fairy kei and decora. Lolita takes various forms, one of which is elegant gothic lolita, inspired, in part, by rococo-era fashion. Fairy kei involves layering pastels on pastels with cute motifs, such as moons, stars, sweets and teddy bears. Decora is an explosion of bright colours and accessories, making wearers look like walking rainbows.

Kawaii culture and J-fashion has always been an aspect of the event weve fostered and encouraged, with exhibitors such as Tofu Cute and the J-fashion community, says festival director Ken dos Remedios. When we started in 2010, it was a minor subculture that only a few knew about. Since then, its grown to where most of our attendees know about it and it has a strong following on social media. Weve noticed it moving from a subculture enjoyed by a minority in the know, to a subculture with the ability to influence fashion beyond its immediate community.

Kiri Raimona from Tofu Cute, a kawaii store based in the UK, says: Kawaii culture has boomed over the past 10 years, with exposure to all things kawaii becoming more accessible than ever before. People of all ages are exploring bright colours and cute characters, adapting them into their everyday lives.

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