What is Kawaii Fashion? A look at Harajuku Fashion outside of Japan

What is Kawaii Fashion?

Kawaii fashion originated in Japan in the 1970s and became popular worldwide in the 2000s. The word "kawaii" means cute or adorable in Japanese, and the style is often characterized by bright colors, cartoonish characters, and whimsical patterns.

What is Harajuku Fashion?

Harajuku fashion is named after the Harajuku district in Tokyo, Japan. This district is known for its fashion-forward youth culture and street fashion, which is characterized by colorful and eclectic styles that mix elements from various subcultures and fashion genres. Harajuku fashion became popular in the 1990s, and since then it has continued to evolve and influence fashion trends around the world. Today, Harajuku fashion is recognized for its bold, innovative, and often whimsical designs, as well as its emphasis on self-expression and individuality.

harajuku fashion


The spread of kawaii fashion outside of Japan can be traced back to the popularity of Japanese pop culture, such as anime and manga, which have gained a large following around the world. Fans of Japanese pop culture have embraced kawaii fashion as a way to express their love for these forms of media, and the style has since grown into a larger fashion trend. Kawaii fashion was embraced by a community of young people who were drawn to its playful, colorful, and whimsical aesthetic.

What are the core values of Kawaii fashion?

Kawaii fashion is characterized by its use of pastel colors, oversized clothing, and cartoon-like accessories. The style often includes elements of anime, manga, and other forms of Japanese pop culture. The goal of kawaii fashion is to create a look that is both cute and charming, while also being comfortable and easy to wear.

In recent years, kawaii fashion has gained popularity in countries like the United States, Canada, and Europe, where it has been adapted and mixed with local fashion trends. For example, kawaii-inspired streetwear has become especially popular in the United States in the late 2000s to early 2010s, featuring oversized hoodies, pastel-colored sneakers, and cartoon graphics. This era is strongly associated with brands like WEGO and W♡C, which became extremely popular grace to Western Kawaii YouTubers and bloggers visiting Japan and shopping in Harajuku.

@lovelyblasphemy wearing legendary W♡C
pastel rainbow cardigan

What are the main styles of Kawaii Fashion?

One of the earliest examples of kawaii fashion being popularized outside of Japan was Lolita, which began in the late 1990s. Lolita fashion is a subculture of kawaii fashion that is inspired by Victorian-era clothing. The style features elaborate dresses, petticoats, and lace accessories, all designed to create a romantic and feminine look. Substyles of Japanese Lolita include sweet lolita, gothic lolita, classic lolita, and more. Lolita fashion is heavily centered around a few legendary Japanese brands, including Angelic Pretty, Baby The Stars Shine Bright, Metamorphose, etc. However, in recent years, small Lolita brands have been gaining more and more attention.

@lovelylor wearing Sweet Lolita

Another popular style within the kawaii fashion community is "Decora," which is characterized by its use of brightly colored accessories, such as hair clips, bows, and bracelets. Decora fashion is often associated with a sense of childlike innocence and playfulness. The main brand associated with Decora is 6%DOKIDOKI.


In recent years, kawaii fashion has continued to evolve and expand, with new trends emerging and old ones being reinvented. One popular trend in the kawaii fashion community today is "Fairy Kei," which is characterized by its use of pastel colors and vintage, 80s and 90s inspired clothing. The brand most associated with Fairy Kei is Spank.


The rise of social media has played a significant role in the popularity of kawaii fashion in America. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok have allowed kawaii fashion enthusiasts to connect with one another and share their outfits and ideas. Kawaii fashion content can now be found under several new labels: cutecore, soft girl, dollette, etc. As a result, the kawaii fashion community has grown and become more diverse, with people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds embracing the trend.


@mirumune cute fit to go nowhere #dollette #coquette #kawaii #pastel #cutecore #fyp #fy ♬ Boy's a liar - PinkPantheress


Overall, kawaii fashion has had a significant impact on Western fashion and popular culture in the 2000s. Kawaii fashion's playful, colorful, and whimsical aesthetic has inspired countless designers and creatives, and kawaii influences can be seen in everything from clothing and accessories to art and music.

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