Kitakore Koenji: Dog, ilil, Garter

One of THE hippest conglomeration of Tokyo designer’s dens is the Kitakore Building in Koenji, housing Dog, ilil, Garter, Southpaw (ex-Nincompoop Capacity) and more.

Not the flashy, extravagant, “I’m so money” kind of fashion stores you see lining Omotesando; oh no.  This is cutting edge punk, futuristic, amazingly quirky fashion, as sought out by the likes of Lady Gaga, and worn by the hipsters gracing the pages of street fashion bibles Fashion Snap, Tokyo Street Fashion, Japanese Streets etc.

Though not far from Koenji Station, you could easily walk past Kitakore. There is no advertising campaign about the venue and it is not well known by the average shopper.  In fact, a few years ago when I asked my Japanese goth friends to take me there, they didn’t  know of it!  Mind you, fashionistas and fashion bloggers do; there are more and more posts (like this one) extolling the virtues of the place, so it can no longer really be called “secret”. But mainstream it is not.

Even armed with a map this time around, I had to wander a bit before finding it. On the way I saw some wonderful buildings like this old style house:

Traditional Japanese house in Koenji

If you know to look for a puffer-jacketed mannequin out the front, and if you know the heavily-spiked punk jackets Dog is known for, then you will know Kitakore when you see this:

studded punk jackets in Kitakore Dog shopfront

Walk down the block a little and you can see the signs of the stores:

Kitakore, Garter, Dog, ili

The Garter entrance (below left) is one entrance, or on the main drag next to the stairwell to Southpaw (below right) is the more hidden entrance into the bowels of the building itself:

Garter Kitakore Koenji Kitakore building, stairs to Nincompoop Capacity

From the hidden entrance you walk downstairs, not even sure you should be going there, due to lack of signage. But keep going and you will stumble onto Dog and ilil, much whiter and lighter on the inside than you expect from the outside. (For a FANTASTIC 360 degree view check this site out)

DOG secret store Koenji Dog Kitakore Koenji

LOVE the bright blue leather heavily-studded jacket you can just see hanging on the door in the middle of this pic:

Dog store  Kitakore Koenji

Before even setting eyes on the fashion, the fantastical interiors grab your attention, especially in the case of the store ilil. I found myself very at home with the quirky eyeballs, strange anatomical/taxidermy items and general zaniness.

ilil in Kitakore Koenji

ilil kitakore mannequin 

ili koenji anatomical model

ili koenji kitakore

There ARE actually great jackets & other items to buy; it’s just hard to focus when so much else is going on visually ;)

ilil fashion Koenji Kitakore

I chatted to ilil owner Rachel while I walked around, who remembered Nadia & Cami of Di$count fondly, with whom the Kitakore designers did a collaboration a while back. See “Kita-kore Magik!” for more on that. Rachel, like the other Kitakore peeps, actually designs/creates/repurposes the fashion in a tiny little workspace at the back of the store. I love how Cami of Di$count put it:

It’s a whole experience seeing how the designers make so much from so little. The term ‘hole in the wall’ is pretty much spot on. Even in such a tiny space, the character and passion is overflowing – it’s such an electrifying little building!

Rachel and I chatted upcoming Halloween parties/clubs, but Rachel confided she was being alcohol and late night-free at the mo’, due to training for an upcoming marathon. How refreshingly non-rock n roll!  Ya see kids You can still be at the forefront of sub-cultural fashion and still have a healthy lifestyle :) Anyways, a few more photies before we head off; don’tcha just love the helmet adorned in “gold leaf” from Moet cork wrappers?? Totally inventive.

 Moet helmet, ilil Koenji

Looking out the window just above the jackets rail, I could see that sadly, the gelato coloured lounge setting was no longer present n the rooftop :(  See my post “Cool places in Shimokita and Koenji” for pics and more from my July 2010 visit.

No visit is complete without a troop upstairs to Southpaw, formerly known as Nicompoop Capacity. Honestly, the fashion isn’t my style at all, and it seems ever so slightly daggy secondhand stuff – but my aesthetic isn’t the same as that of japanese vintage-hipster-kids, so what do i know? Frankly, the stairwell going up to the store is more interesting than the interior IMO.

Southpaw Southpaw Kitakore

There are many other really interesting stores in Koenji, and some of these I will feature in an upcoming post. Likewise I’ll post on when I headed to Harajuku to see the other Dog store (amazing!).

For more inspiration/info on Kitakore and it’s occupants, see the links below.

Koenji’s Kitakore Building article from Nippon.com
Style Bubble post Kitakore Kicks 

Garter website
Ilil online shop
ilil tumblr
Kitakore building blog
Kitakore tumblr 

Sweet Streets hits Tokyo!

In a spooky doubling-back-on-itself kind of move, Sweet Streets, which is an LA art movement inspired by Tokyo Street fashion, will be exhibiting in Tokyo!

Caro of blog Hi Hi Caro! curated 2 exhibtions at Gallery Nucleus, where the art was inspired by Japanese, and especially Harajuku, street fashion. Sweet Streets 2 ran from September 11, 2010 – October 4, 2010 and included a fashion event called the Harajuku Kawaii Experience, in association with 6%dokidoki.  Here fans got a chance to meet and discuss Japanese kawaii fashion with 6%DOKIDOKI founder Sebastian Masuda and shopgirls Yuka and Vani!

A great article on the event, and interview with Caro is here. Artists involved in the works included Eimi, Shibuya Girls Pop and the Chicks Riot group (check the links!)

Well, now Sweet Streets is taking it back to the place of inspiration – Tokyo! Here Caro tells us in the Sweet Streets blog in her own words:

Earlier this week, i received a humbling offer to curate a select exhibition of “sweet streets” artwork at lovlies laboratory, aka lov-lab.  Lov-lab is located in the heart of Harajuku, japan above the 6%dokidoki shop.  “Sweet streets tokyo” will feature several artists- akira ebihara, bwana spoons, eimi, kayo tamaishi, marie, misa tsutsui, nico, and tammy- in a short and sweet version of the los angeles show.  Many have already inquired about the possibility of another tokyo exhibiton.  Yes, we are also discussing a larger exhibit for the near future. For now, please stop by and enjoy the art if you are in tokyo on november 15th & 16th.  I am honored by this amazing opportunity presented to me by 6%dokidoki! thank you!

So, if you’re in Tokyo next week you can see it for yourself! For others like me, we’ll just have to wait til the BIG exhibition is announced, and hope we can get to Tokyo in time to see that one.