Gwen Stefani has been running her apparel line Harajuku Lovers since 2005. The brand, which features clothing, accessories and perfume, is named after and inspired by the fashions of the Harajuku area of Tokyo. Which means: lots of big bows, ruffles, cartoons and other childlike indicators. Now Gwen’s collaborating with Target on a collection called Harajuku Mini, creating clothing for actual children. Which makes me wonder, how do you infantalize an infant?
Around the time she launched Harajuku Lovers, Gwen began performing and appearing everywhere with four Japanese backup dancers dubbed her Harajuku Girls. She was widely criticized for the move — Margaret Cho in particular launched at attack on Gwen, arguing that the singer was perpetuating negative stereotypes about Asian women. Gwen’s Harajuku Girls were silent, infantalized (one of them was even given the stage name “Baby”), and sexy all at once. And the clothing brand reinforced these qualities, offering stacked pink wedges side by side with ice-cream-cone-print travel bags.
This first look at Harajuku Mini yields nothing inappropriate. It appears to be t-shirts and tutus: stuff that little girls wear all the time. Yet, something still rubs me the wrong way — the offerings are very similar to the adult apparel, and I feel like endorsing the spin-off brand is a tacit endorsement of the main label. If you’re saying that this stuff is appropriate for little girls to wear, then you’re pretty much implying that Harajuku Lovers is trying to turn women into little girls. Gwen’s outfit is nearly interchangeable with her pint-sized model’s here. The only difference is that Gwen’s little girl clothes are sexed-up.