The Yami Kawaii subculture originates in Japan, but has been widespread to other countries and communities including the UK - especially on the internet. Mental health in Japan is still considered taboo by many, so Yami Kawaii fashion uses sickness motifs to remove the stigma - giving wearers the opportunity to own their struggles.November 18th, 2022 | Abby Brooks
We loved the messaging behind it, and of course are obsessed with the aesthetics, so we wanted to spread the word of Yami Kawaii with our event and collection. Clearly there’s an overlap of other J-fashion and alternative aesthetics with Yami Kawaii, so why not introduce them to each other? Addy described it in 4 words as bold, unapologetic, inclusive and progressive.
Our latest collection was heavily influenced by the Japanese Yami Kawaii subculture. The team thoroughly researched the community and its aesthetics alongside social media influencer Addy Harajuku, aiming for the results to honour the community whilst still having the creative Koi edge.
We wanted this collection of vegan shoes to encapsulate everything that Yami Kawaii is about: creepy and cute (Yami meaning dark, Kawaii meaning cute).
Taking dark symbols including barbed wire, pills, syringes, skulls and razor blades, we combined them with glitter, pink and hearts to ensure each side was balanced. The collection consists of 6 bold styles of Mary Janes, platform boots and trainers.
This is the cutest venue we have ever seen! It was perfect for Yami Kawaii - elaborately decorated with walls adorned in pink flowers, neon signs and pink frilly details; contrasting with the anime and Sanrio decora and a TV showing anime series’ with dark themes, which is very fitting for Yami Kawaii. We decorated the cafe with prints, laid out our collection and some stunning flower arrangements by Northern Flower (you can never have too much pink!).
Everyone enjoyed celebrating the launch of our collection with custom Koi bubble tea flavours and vegan cupcakes, courtesy of the cafe and The Palms Bakery. It was so lovely to see our guests make new friends, and some were even friends online and had met for the first time because we invited them! Brb crying.
Guests were given goodie bags with an assortment of gifts, very kindly provided by some amazing brands - so please check them out!
The Animaid Cafe is the UK’s only sit-in maid cafe. You can go there to indulge in crazy flavours of bubble tea, milkshakes and Japanese snacks whilst watching anime on TV and playing board games. The beautiful maids will come and serve you too! What’s not to love? Interestingly, the maid concept comes from men wanting company in Japan…but this one in Manchester is more of a fun, novelty concept.
Prior to the event, I spoke to Addy Harajuku about her style and interests, all things Yami and of course, our shoes. She helped us with the design and research process for the collection due to her vast knowledge of Yami Kawaii, menhera and generally lots of Japanese fashion subcultures, so it was great to get an insight from her.
She's gained a following of 100k on Instagram & over 530k on TikTok for promoting harajuku fashion and kawaii lifestyle in the UK. This mainly involves sharing fashion content, educating people on Yami Kawaii and discussing mental health; I can definitely see why this resonates with people. She discovered Yami Kawaii on the Internet when she was only 16, but didn't yet have the money to explore the style. Whilst studying Digital Screen & Film Arts at uni, she finally could.
What are her favourite shoes from the collection?
She was wearing Addy The Baddy (named after her!) but her faves are Harajuku Dreams Platform Boots and the Blackberry Psycho Charm Trainers.
Does she think we’ve done Yami Kawaii justice?
She said she was very proud of how they look! She told us they are inclusive enough for everyone to enjoy but they still massively fit in with the subculture, and it was clear they have been curated to fit the style. The perfect line between creepy and cute!
How would she describe her personal style?
A bit of everything - but mostly Yami Kawaii and menhera. There’s alternative influences, as well as tech wear and emo, too. Her favourite place to shop is Vivienne Westwood. She was wearing a lot of Viv jewellery which I was very jealous of. The brand is present in all Jfashion since it’s so iconic and punk-inspired. Other brands include HYPER CORE Japan and 60%DOKIDOKI. Interestingly, she has also noticed that western celebrities have been sporting this fashion recently such as Billie Eilish!
Is there a difference between menhera and Yami Kawaii?
They are similar, but menhera is more related to online web forums where people seek refuge with each other, share artwork and discuss dark topics. Menhera is still fashion but more based on comfort and graphics, accommodating to illnesses and mental illnesses. On the other hand, Yami is more based on visually eye-catching aesthetics.
Has this community helped her personally?
Yes, she even called it life changing. Due to her struggles with mental health and other negative experiences, she often felt ‘othered’. The community helped her to no longer feel like this - she feels good, comfortable and safe dressed like this. Not only this but it massively has helped her career.
Can anyone become part of this subculture?
Definitely! You don’t ‘need’ trauma to be part of it, as it’s all about expressing yourself. What’s so good about it, is that you don’t need to sugar coat or put on a brave face.
What advice would Addy give to someone who wants to get into Yami Kawaii who is maybe a little bit shy about dressing this way?
Fuck it! Life is too short. Who gives a shit? This takes a while to learn but you will realise that no one actually cares.
She also cosplays, does that have relevance to Yami kawaii at all?
There is no actual relationship but there is an overlap in interests between people who like them both.
What sort of movies is she into?
Horror! She can fall asleep listening to it, grew up on it…she says maybe her negative experiences make her want to watch horror films, since you can watch them safety. She loves Korean and Japanese horrors.
Recommendations: The Thing (John Carpenter version), Platform, Old Boy, The Host (Korean version)
Does she collect anything?
Lots of things! Clothes, Vivienne Westwood, anime figures and plushies.
What music is she into?
She loves all sorts! Rock, grunge, anything synthesised and most recently funk. Favourite artists include Ghost Mane, Deftones and Nine Inch Nails. She prefers songs over albums!
It was so great to meet Addy and learn more about the fascinating Yami Kawaii community. A highlight of the month has definitely been meeting all the lovely people at the launch event. Check out our Instagram and TikTok for more Yami content <3