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Courtesy of FRUiTS

Cult street style mag FRUiTS is making a comeback

With more issues in the making, the inaugural edition of Shoichi Aoki’s mag has been re-released for the first time in English

As much as the internet has informed the way people dress, it’s also made it harder to ascertain what real-life people are wearing on the street. Publications have learnt to talk about online trends (ie stealth wealth and indie sleaze) as if they were embodied movements and not discourse-generated cores. Those things have their own value – teaching us about people’s evolving relationship with clothing – but they often overshadow the more interesting stuff that takes place IRL and at nightclubs and art schools. It makes the return of FRUiTs magazine – the legendary Japanese street-style magazine that surveyed youth culture in the Harajuku neighbourhood of Tokyo – all the more relevant. 

Photographer Shoichi Aoki created the publication in 1997 and it ran until 2017 before inspiring a thousand Instagram accounts, monographs, and spin-off zines. Shot with a sparse and unvarnished attitude, the whole thing documented different style tribes engaged in unique relationships with their clothing – and now 25 years after it launched, the first issue of FRUiTS is being made available in English as an eBook. It gives new context to the madcap fashions that won the magazine cult status, and while Aoki’s images have etched themselves into the minds of fashion fans throughout the anglosphere, interviews with designers like Mihara Yasuhiro and Masahiro Nakagawa were lost in (no) translation. “There is information that cannot be conveyed by just fragmented photos alone,” he told journalist Laia Garcia-Furtado. “FRUiTS is a valuable record of an event that may never happen again.”

Eventually, Aoki hopes to publish the entire back catalogue of the magazine in English and is also preparing new issues (though details on that last point remain sparse). In the meantime, the company is selling back issues of the magazine in a small box at Laforet Harajuku in Tokyo. And due to strong sales, it has decided to offer them to shops worldwide. When the magazine shuttered after two decades, the photographer was quoted as saying there were “no more fashionable kids to photograph,” but in a 2020 interview with Dazed, Aoki sewed the seeds of a return. “About a year ago, we started to see signs of new style growth in Harajuku when designers Demna and Virgil Abloh broke the deadlock (of) street fashion,” he explained. “This year I have decided to focus on a FRUiTS magazine relaunch” – before the pandemic presumably put a pin in those plans. Perhaps fashion culture, muddled in the URL and IRL, has reached a point where only FRUiTS can help to explain what is truly happening on the street.