SHOICHI AOKI at Edward Day Gallery (952 Queen West) to January 4, in association with Japanese fashion events series No Kimono (www.nokimono.com). 416-921-6540. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Only a team of the finest SARS scientists could track the way fashion moves around the globe these days. The story of photographer Shoichi Aoki testifies to the spread of style. Aoki began shooting the rebellious looks he found on the streets of London and Paris in the mid-1980s, and brought them home to the then tame Japanese fashion scene in the form of Street magazine. As Aoki points out, it's been only about 60 years since traditional garb was replaced with Western cloths. Why stop at thin ties?
Street saw the birth of a punkesque trend that survived on the street for a decade or so before being replaced by a steady stream of increasingly incredible looks. Aoki's shots of the styles that flourished from 1996 to 2002 filled his next magazine, Fruits, and were recently collected into a book by the same name. A few of them now appear on the walls at Edward Day.
Each image features one or more colourful fashionistas, often girls in their late teens or early 20s in and around Harajuku, Tokyo. Obtaining permission before shooting, Aoki achieves an intimate feel somewhere between portraiture and documentary that he exploits to great effect. He keeps close tabs on the rapidly shifting styles, and shot them all, from wamono, which mixes the traditional kimono with the latest looks, to decora, whose followers carry or attach toys to bright cloths with Lolita-like effect.
Aoki rightly insists that his subjects' textile sculptures, blending designers and altering used clothes to express themselves, constitute the art here, not his photography. True, but these documents of a fleeting and fascinating cultural phenomenon are well worth seeing.