Posted by: mzbitca | September 14, 2008

Appropriation meets capitalism

It’s been awhile since Gwen Stefani first stepped out with her group of Harajuku followers and she has been taken to task accordingly.  However, she has not learned her lesson and decided to combine her appropriation with capitalism when designing her new perfume line.

Called Harajuku Lovers the bottles are Gwen Stefani and other representations of the Harajuku subculture.  It seems Gwen is no longer content being flanked by them in real life she now needs inanimate objects to show deference to her for stealing their subculture and completely perverting it.  The description of the “gwen” perfume says it all:

The Leader Of The Pack
Never one to get lost in the crowd, G leads her crew in a white, corseted top and blue miniskirt—a modern day Alice in Wonderland. Quirky, unique, and undeniably cool, G leaves a mark with delicious notes of fresh coconut, jasmine, and cotton woods.

Leader of the Pack indeed.  It shows a lot of privilege to discover a movement that had already existed and was thriving without your involvement and think your acknowledgment of it as something for which they should be grateful.

As one of my best friends put it:


well i find it funny that gwen stefani has given each “harajuku” girl their own style and look when Harajuku was born out of the stress of everyone having a collective look in japan.


Gothic Lolitas in the Harajuku district

Gothic Lolitas in the Harajuku district





  1. That was what always bothered me about Stefani’s look–she acts like it’s something that she came up with when it’s been around in Japan for years. Her arrogance and posturing as “leader of the pack” is just nauseating. The least she can do is present it as an appreciation for the subculture and give credit where credit’s due.

    There’s absolutely nothing “quirky” and “unique” about appropriation.

  2. I can understand falling in love with a particular fashion style and using it as inspiration when designing your own clothing. This could possibly have positive effects, such as people who were previously uninformed about Japanese youth culture learning more about it. However, Stefani isn’t adapting Harajuku fashion. She’s using actual people as props and showing flagrant disregard for the idea that Asian people are people, not decorations. She’d do well a couple of centuries ago. Also, can I just comment on how annoying and bizarre it is to see the words, “Harajuku lover” emblazoned on a plain white t-shirt? (As I did the other day on my campus.) If you’re a “Harajuku lover,” you’re doing it very badly. It would be like someone wearing a button-up blouse with the word “punk” written on it, except that could be irony rather than idiotic appropriation.

  3. Thank you for this post. Gwen Stefani fetishization of Harajuku culture is just *creepy* to me. Plus the fact that she is trying to capitalize off of it. Grr. I agree with Cerebelle “There is absolutely nothing ‘quirky’ [or] ‘unique’ about appropriation.”

    • i definitely agree with you..

  4. those are cosplayers, not gothic lolitas. the one with the pink hair is cosplaying Kaoru (circa 1998) from the popular Jrock band Dir en Grey. I’m not sure about the blue haired one right now, but i just thought i would clarify. Also, for gothic lolitas, the girls are usually in black, dark purple, or dark blue victorian style dresses, dark make up, crosses and many rings, usual gothic attire. the aboe mentioned are not gothic lolitas, actually visual kei cosplayers.

    • Japanese Fashion Culture Definitions:
      Visual Kei – androgynous appearance, with flamboyant hair styles, makeup, and outfits. (I fully admit to not having as much knowledge on visual kei as I do other groups of Japanese fashion culture)
      Gothic Lolita – A sub-group of Lolita, that focuses on darker colors and Gothic style accessories such as crosses.
      Lolita – In and of itself, it basically refers to Victorian-esque clothing. It’s main focus is the actual clothing (most often homemade, though not always), and has very few accessories (such as pin-buttons, scarves, and outrageous jewelry) -> <- basic of ALL lolita fashion (including Gothic Lolita)
      Harajuku – A district in Japan known for it's second hand fashion shops and the large number of unique fashions that "parade" (for lack of a better word) around on Sundays (this is Japan's only full day off in the school week).
      Dacora – Often call "Harajuku" it is characterized by its many layers, bright colors, use of hand-made and second-hand clothing, and use of many accessories. All of this is worn in LAYERS (have I mentioned this?) where a simple tee with a plain graphic would be worn with several miniskirts (in varying length and colors), a mini top knit top (probably rainbow in color), covered with anime buttons or buttons of cute animals, with many glitter stickers, gum bands, necklaces, and god-forbid I forget the hair accessories.
      Gangaru (because why not) – a Japaneses fashion culture based around the look of Southern California Surfer girls. Revolves around bleached hair, over tanned skin, white lips, and somewhat over-done eye makeup.

      Apparently Gwen isn't the only one guilty of ignorance. Thank you, I will probably never visit this site again.

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