Harajuku’s underside is surfacing

The backstreets of Harajuku, have been affectionately termed the shopping area’s ura, or underside, and has long-been the stomping ground of menswear aficionados, spawning niche shops with secret entrances, often offering limited editions worth queuing hours for.

However, all this took a big hit in the late 2000s as big players with eyes on tourist cash encroached and the fast-fashion strata of the market, happy to rip off the designs of their neighbors, expanded. But the streets are fighting back, most notably with the launch of the first stand-alone shop of streetwear big hitters Wacko Maria, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary, and cult label C.E’s new store on the third floor of Beauty & Youth United Arrows. The latter pays homage to Ura-Harajuku shopping culture with an intimidatingly barren shop, where you will have to seek out the clothes for yourself.

This self-confessed “retail experiment” from the label is designed to put the music and art behind the fashion at the forefront, and all those who buy into the hype will get a mixtape, compiled by a suitably underground DJ, decorated with graphics courtesy of urban artist Sk8thing.

Cav Empt Short Term Retail Experiment at Beauty & Youth United Arrows, Harajuku is open noon-7 p.m. and runs until Oct. 4; www.united-arrows.jp; www.cavempt.com.

Undercover looks back and moves on

Sept. 18 sees the release of Uniqlo’s final uu collaboration with Jun Takahashi’s Undercover.

The final collection is kids only, a line that has out-lasted the collaboration’s adult output and is indicative of its retail popularity, not to mention its critical reception — many commentators have noted that producing fashionable clothes for children, who grow out of them fast, at affordable prices is something that fashion houses cannot do without Uniqlo-scale production.

As with every uu kids collection, Takahashi handles the boys’ side of things, while his wife Rico looks after the girls. Jun opts for a sporty outdoors lineup, while Rico looks to American high school TV drama series for her designs. For those looking to put their kids on the path to sartorial subversion, consider this your last chance at this price point.

Elsewhere in the world of Undercover, a long-overdue retrospective has been announced at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery to mark 25 years of the brand. Visitors can expect to get lost in the “Labyrinth of Undercover” from Oct. 10 to Dec. 23.

www.uniqlo.com/jp www.operacity.jp/ag/exh181

Belle of the LaForet ball

Belle, the sister of Charles M. Schulz’s comic creation Snoopy, is taking center stage in a high-profile collaboration with many of the brands within the hallowed walls of LaForet Harajuku.

The Belle Collection project launched with Snoopy’s fashionista sibling as the subject of no less than 30 collaborations, with brands as diverse as Lolita fashion’s Angelic Pretty, pop punk’s Algonquins and the commercial queen Lowrys Farm. Items vary from the outlandish to the discreet, so even the least eccentric of fans should be able to find something to their fancy. Needless to say there are also plenty of related gifts and bonus items.

This isn’t the first time the world of Snoopy has been welcomed into fashion, Japanese brand FurFur invited a plush version of the character to walk its Tokyo Fashion Week runway in 2011 and a successful Snoopy meets fashion collaboration took place in Paris earlier this year.

Perhaps the beagle and his friends have an unexpectedly fashionable future.

Belle Collection runs until Oct. 4 at LaForet Harajuku; www.laforet.ne.jp/belle.

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