Long before Tommy Ton, The Sartorialist or Garance Doré, there was Shoichi Aoki, the legendary street-style photographer who founded iconic Japanese zines, Street and Fruits.
TEXT: ADAM BRYCE
Founded in 1985, Street documented street-style from the pavements of New York, Paris, Belgium and London. As a teenager, growing up in the pre-internet era (and in New Zealand), Street was my only access to the world of ‘real’ fashion. The Face and i-D (and even Oyster later on) featured their own documentation of real people with real style, but Street was different. Street wasn’t a documentation of trend, it was a chronicle of attitude and style.
I was obsessed. In many ways, it made more sense to me than traditional fashion editorial — these were ‘real’ people with ‘real’ personalities that shone through in what they wore. Often they were people who worked in fashion, I wanted to know what that world really looked like and Street was my window into a scene of which I wanted to be a part.
In 1995, Aoki added Fruits to his small but iconic arsenal of titles, which was very much of the same ilk but focused on the streets of Japan. At this time, Japan seemed a world away, not merely physically but the style of Japanese taste-makers was on another level. Every single picture in Fruits would blow my mind. How can someone be that cool? Then, I’d turn the page to complete shock and admiration again, and again.
I was lucky to have a few older friends who worked in fashion, travelled a lot and managed to get their hands on copies of Street and Fruits. They would call me upon their return and lend me their new issues being very clear that, while they were being kind in letting me borrow them, they must be returned.
Streetstyle, as it is today, is something I’ve grown to despise. To me, the images are of people who have carefully curated their wardrobes with the sole intention of being photographed by the ever-growing group of street-style photographers. I find the images insincere and the style bland without a sense of true personality. The opposite of what Aoki brought to the world.
This week, Aoki has made the archive of Street more accessible by releasing eBook issues of #1 through #100 for purchase. The zines are listed in sets of 10 for US$30.50 with all 100 issues available for US$278. Ten issues of Street for less than the price of a lot of single-imported magazines today. Bargain.