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Basics, NormCore, and The Closing of FRUiTS Magazine

FRUiTS magazine, a magazine celebrating the most vividly expressive in Japanese street style, is closing after 20 years due to a lack of "cool kids" to photograph. 

The creator said that in the future, issues may be published at whatever erratic pace photos can be taken that meet FRUiTS standards. It isn't entirely over, and it isn't entirely due to a lack of funky kids, but there has been a firm push in the past few years away from quirky dressing (with niche shops closing and publications like FRUiTS ending), and in favor of "normcore" and wearing shapeless, colorless "basics" all of the time. 

You all know when I see "Basics to start your wardrobe" I choke. When I see endless plain tees and jeans, the little butterflies that make up my insides die one by one. It doesn't look like freedom to me, though it could have been- If it were a true, plain, cheap uniform, an argument could be made for freedom and minimalism. As it is, it's a marketing ploy that makes it easy on producers to convince consumers that the subtle variations in their designer jeans and boxy $800 t-shirts matter. The assimilation into designer bland is as anathema to Fantastical Beauty as it is to FRUiTS.

People expressing themselves loudly, visually, and in unusual ways is vital to a healthy aesthetic arena. When someone else is pushing the bounds, it creates more freedom for us all to move within and choose our own self-expressions, including jeans and tees if that is true to you. When you walk out and see a sea of blue jeans and white t-shirts, how much harder will it be for you to wear even your bright turquoise blouse? Or to dress it up with accessories? Let alone to wear those vintage, embroidered, camel, satin pants when a full moon mood strikes.

Not all is lost. If overwhelming bland, there is a historical movement occurring. Currently there is a strong movement toward genderless clothing- both in individual dress, and in the ways that we are marketed to. Instead of "mens clothing" to the left and "women's clothing" to your right, you may just see clothing. While this push currently feeds into the mess that is normcore/basics and is further quick and lazy manufacturing and marketing, it is also carving out necessary and long ignored space for non-binary gender expression that was tenuous and outright dangerous for people before.  

One notable non-binary trend is known as "Genderless Kei" and has been called "Harajuku's online revival" (Harajuku being the neighborhood of Tokyo that FRUiTS sprang from- filled with the young and fashionably expressive). Genderless Kei is a digital trend in and from Japan of androgynous dressing (heads up: the focus is almost entirely on pretty boys dressing in more stereotypical feminine ways, but if lacking in diversity, still a delightful internet hole to fall down).

You can see the opening of fashion and gender on the runways and other high fashion venues, as men and women walk one another's shows, transgender men and women are signed to top agencies (including a NYC trans exclusive agency), and genderfluid expression stuns on the cover of glossy fashion magazines. I read an argument that the industry has moved in favor of normcore as a political statement against increasingly right-wing values. As fascinating as that is, I think the change is one part cultural shift/demand, and one part easier production/marketing for producers (zero parts aggressive political statement). 

So much of the current fashion world is awful, but the increasing inclusion of gender diversity is so very, very right. The problem lies in the notion that neutralizing gender expression in fashion into one grey, shapeless, sweat pants lump is the way to go. Neutralizing is a kind of erasure that doesn't encourage acceptance of diversity so much as it imposes a new, bland, tyrannical standard. Would you rather see 3 ravens, or would you rather see 1 raven, 1 parrot, and 1 flamingo? We aren't all ravens, and we aren't all parrots, but we all play a role in encouraging one another to be who we are and express what we love. Let normcore be a phase; let us come through the other side with newfound freedom of gender and with vivid enough personal expression through aesthetic to give FRUiTS material for decades to come. 



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