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Japanese 'zine "Fruits" returns teen culture to teens.

Fashion black is over, or will be. Noir is in the past. Expect fall 2001 to be dominated by rainbow hues, heavy reds, pinks and mismatched pastels.

Why? The Tokyo street kids rule, that's why. Japanese documentary photographer Shoichi Aoki started a little magazine, Fruits, in 1994, to track city teen styles. His publication created a window on the exploding fashion culture that swept from the city to the suburbs. History will repeat itself, as the Japanese teen fashion scene will be appropriated by U.S. youth catalogs and mall America. Japanese kid fads trickle over to stateside: Remember those Tamagachi computer life forms and Pokémon?

The kids in Fruits are more than merely "colorful": They make reading, copying, and getting photographed in the 'zine a monthly ritual. It's all about homemade ensembles, high fashion crossed with recycled urban castoffs. Red is huge. Not over-the-top red, but splashes of red significantly placed, as a patch, headband, handbag, shoes, socks or vest.

In March, a New York Times reporter sat in on a story session with a dozen assistant editors of CosmoGirl and described how they pull together an issue. A room full of sharp college-age women brainstormed about what they "remembered" about being a teenager. Product placement comes in here somewhere too. This is the dark side of trickle-down culture: twentysomethings' angst and affect gets shaped and coded down for teen and pre-teen consumption.

What Fruits celebrates is exactly the opposite. First off, it's not for sale--the "look," that is. There is no "right" way. Fruits is just about 12 to 18-year-old kids having fun. Any promotion of a Fruits look will come from the teen's own closets, no purchase required, no branded logo needed.

For a 'zine, Fruits is high-end, full of color graphics, quality printing, eclectic design. As a documentary photographer and publisher, Shoichi Aoki is working on several levels, artistic and entrepreneurial. His $29.95 book from Phaidon Press, aptly titled Fruits, comes out in the U.S. sometime in June. With a layout made up almost entirely of photographs, the magazine lets the reader choose the statement and the look. We are not being sold something here. We see kids having fun, making fun of the world they're just beginning to get a handle on. The pages of Fruits suggest that they'll be going into it with their eyes wide open.

More by John Valentine


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