Harajuku culture belongs to the emblem of Tokyo and the style that showed the world what the personality of young Japanese people can achieve in terms of not just fashion but creative freedom. At the epicenter of this kawaii explosion, the figure of Baby Mary (@babymaryfaline) has been for years.
She has breathed her energy and her vision into the culture of this unique place, becoming an icon for cool kids and great designers alike. Harajuku’s character has a lot of Baby Mary’s character: enthusiastic, open-minded, connected to the world, as well as an ambassador for Japan’s pop culture. But above all, kawaii.
Originally from Nagoya, Baby Mary became interested in fashion when she, aged 15, started going to clubs in the afternoons. It was the time when new wave and new romanticism started to hit, and Baby Mary loved Duran Duran, Culture Club, or Strawberry Switchblade. Baby Mary’s favorite club in Nagoya, called “OZ”, was the club David Bowie or Cindy Lauper went to after performing in the city; she was able to see them there at a young age.
In order not to go unnoticed at the club, Baby Mary designed her own clothes inspired by ballet and London subcultures. At that time, everyone dreamed of going to the English capital. Baby Mary first traveled to London at age 18, during one summer. She deeply fell in love with the city.
“I had a British boyfriend when I was 21,” Baby Mary explains to me. “I saw The Face magazine at his house. There was a page about Vivienne Westwood, with Sara Stockbridge looking so sexy wearing a head-to-toe crinoline style topped with a crown. I got an immediate crush on Vivienne and then went to World’s End in London to get the full look!!”
“I became World’s End shop VIP”, she continues, “because I bought there a lot!! [laughs]. I kept traveling from Japan to London for shopping, there was no online shopping at that time, of course! Then I started getting invitations to her shows.”
Baby Mary was in love with Vivienne Westwood, but she also fell in love with her iconic shop World’s End, and the community around it. “I just became really good friends with the shop staff in London, and with the Vivienne Westwood crazy lovers who I met in Paris. We are still a lovely family now, we will be a family forever, like Faline’s family!”.
“I had a British boyfriend when I was 21. I saw The Face magazine at his house. There was a page about Vivienne Westwood, with Sara Stockbridge looking so sexy wearing a head-to-toe crinoline style topped with a crown. I got an immediate crush on Vivienne and then went to World’s End in London to get the full look!!”Baby Mary
‘Faline’ is the name that Baby Mary’s chose for her first fashion store in Nagoya. Before that, she had another store called Antenna Sweet. This wasn’t a fashion store, but a tableware boutique! When she was 24, the boss of the beauty salon in Nagoya where Baby Mary worked as a beautician decided to start selling this type of product. At Antenna Sweet, Baby Mary sold vintage Susie Cooper tableware imported from London.
But the difficulties of handling such a fragile product as antique tableware and her passion for Vivienne Westwood made Baby Mary open Faline Nagoya (@falinenagoya) in the same place where Antenna Sweet was. She totally filled the store with clothes from Vivienne Westwood’s collections, as an official distributor.
Today, Vivienne Westwood is probably the most popular international female designer in Japan, but at the time, no place in the entire country had a Vivienne Westwood selection comparable to what Faline Nagoya had. When Vivienne started launching male collections, Baby Mary opened Bambi in Nagoya (@bambi_narumi), which still is an icon of male streetwear today.
After that, more shops came, more designers — Jeremy Scott, Fifi Chachnil and many more–, constant trips to fashion weeks from all over the world, more parties … but most of all, Harajuku came, with the opening of Faline Tokyo, and more street fashion culture came as a result. I went to visit Baby Mary in Harajuku to have a chat with her about all this. The truth is that spending time with her is always fun!
I walked through Takeshita Dori as if walked the passage that lead me to my audience with The Queen of the territory. Baby Mary’s apartment towers over Harajuku and she, from her divan-shaped throne, gazes through a huge window at this special corner of the world which culture she helped create.
I ask Baby Mary to define herself. “A unique, charming girl, who has lived in Harajuku for 17 years. She loves fashion, pink, her husband, her friends, and Pepe! ”. Pepe is Baby Mary’s beautiful Persian cat, baptized with a Spanish name in homage to Baby Mary’s love for Ibiza, which along with London, is another of her favorite places in the world and source of inspiration.
I greet J (@_jt), Baby Mary’s husband, and soon we are joined by Eruni (@eruni_), alias of Spanish figure skater Ernesto Martínez, one of Baby Mary’s closest friends, with whom she has shared a friendship for years. Visiting Baby Mary always feels like I’m at home; there is always tea accompanied by the most delicious appetizers, Balearic music in the background, beautiful light, and her charisma greeting upon arrival; “Hello, darling!!!”.
Baby Mary knows herself as iconic; “People say that I’m a Tokyo icon, that I created Harajuku!” For this reason, emerging or well-known, alternative or luxury fashion brands and designers from all over the world have trusted her vision for years.
I asked her how she became friends with her long-time favorite designers, and she tells me about Fifi Chachnil (@maisonfifichachnil). “I met Fifi Chachnil, who is a pretty French lingerie designer, at a boat in the Seine river where the artists Pierre et Gilles were throwing a party. We were both tipsy (champagne, you know!). She told me she designed lingerie and gave me her telephone number, but our English wasn’t fluent enough to talk on the phone so I didn’t call … After one year, I started working with Fifi through a friend, then I realized that we had met one year ago at that party!” Fifi’s lingerie has been a must in Baby Mary’s stores since then.
One of the great inspirations for Baby Mary, as probably for any woman who loves fashion, is Coco Chanel. In fact, when I went to visit her, she showed me the book she was reading about her at that very moment. “If you learn about Coco Chanel and her story, you will be inspired to be an independent woman. She was a true feminist. She is my role model.” Also, she had just received an invitation to a Chanel coming show, which she was photographing to share with her fans on social media. “The Chanel show is always the most exciting finale of Paris Fashion Week. I think that all girls that love fashion dream to go to a Chanel show, right?” she told me.
Baby Mary has also great words for Jeremy Scott (@itsjeremyscott); “He came so many times to Faline Tokyo, even to Faline Nagoya. It was a big hit when I brought his designs. All the Faline kids were crazy about him, and we still love him as Moschino designer.”
My visit to Baby Mary’s house occurred after the closure of Faline Tokyo; Baby Mary’s store in Takeshita Dori. “I opened Faline Tokyo on Valentine’s Day 2004. I already had three stores in my city, Nagoya; Faline, BabyFaline, and Bambi,” she explains. Opening this store was a dream come true for her, something that had to happen: “I thought it was time to open Faline Tokyo. By doing so we created culture!” she proclaims.
What Baby Mary had experienced around World’s End, a community of people who got together and bonded by their passion is the same thing that Baby Mary created within Faline. She built a true family of people who love her passionate way of seeing fashion and life. She put herself in the center of them all like a fairy godmother, blessing everyone with her charm, kindness, and kawaii energy.
Seventeen years later, also on Valentine’s Day, we bid farewell to Faline Tokyo with an unforgettable party. I ask Baby Mary how this family came to be: “The Faline family was built with so much love, we all love Faline! The old school and the new school, of all nationalities, have mixed and grown together creating the culture of what Tokyo is now!” The family gathered together last February to say goodbye to the emblematic place which was Faline Tokyo, it was such a beautiful gathering full of flowers, cute cakes, and memories!
The Faline Tokyo closing party flyer had an illustration from Fafi (@therealfafi). It couldn’t be otherwise; the artist is a great Baby Mary favorite and has collaborated with Faline for years: “She’s the one, she has always been the image of Faline. She has made many drawings for Faline during the years. We edited her books and organized many exhibitions. Fafi and me, we made girl culture together! Faline lovers love Fafi!” Baby Mary explained to me.
Before leaving Baby Mary’s apartment, we took in the views together. “Before the pandemic I was constantly traveling, spending time in London… This is probably the longest time I have been without leaving Harajuku. That has made me reconnect with the neighborhood and fall in love even more,” she explains.
Eruni, Baby Mary and I go down to the street, I ask her to show me another place in the neighborhood that she likes and she leads us to the Kamiike pond of the Togo temple, a hidden oasis next to the maelstrom of Takeshita Dori. “I see it from my window and it feels like my garden,” she tells me.
Has the neighborhood changed a lot in these seventeen years? I ask her. “Of course, there have been changes! Take a look at the archive of FRUITS magazine and you will see it! ”. Baby Mary refers to the iconic snaps magazine created by photographer Shoichi Aoki, who documented the Harajuku street fashion scene for years. “I will love Harajuku whatever happens, it’s my neighborhood!” she adds. “Even now, without tourists, Harajuku is a fantasy world, a great fairground attraction. I can’t stop loving this place!”, she proclaims.
We head to the place where Faline used to be. On the shutter, there is still the graffiti that Andre Saraiva (@andresaraiva) painted in rounded pastel-colored kawaii letters. “This graffiti is protected, it will stay in Harajuku! I am very happy that Faline’s legacy is still visible here! ”. Sure, this graffiti will be a reminder, I think, but Faline’s legacy is seen daily in every corner of Harajuku.
A few minutes later, this thought is confirmed. As we walk through Omotesando, we meet Kyon (@kyon_official_), Sofia (@sofiaisabelos) and Kazane (@kazaneflowerboy), who stop to talk effusively with Baby Mary. “This situation is always the same, it happens every time you walk through Harajuku with Baby Mary!” Eruni explains to me in an aside. “She is at the center of this family, she has built this scene,” he adds.
During that week the opening of the exhibition “Louis Vuitton &” would be held in Harajuku. Baby Mary and her Faline kids were talking about this event she had invited them to. “In 2006, Louis Vuitton had a big party and I invited 300 cool kids and friends. This same week, a Louis Vuitton event will also be held, to which I have invited 20 members of the Faline family that are very special to me,” Baby Mary tells me. With the 2006 Louis Vuitton party, Baby Mary set a precedent by inviting cool kids of different backgrounds to this type of event that traditionally would have been closed exclusively to established personalities from the fashion world.
We are in front of Vivienne Westwood’s store in Laforet, another of the iconic points of the neighborhood. I ask Baby Mary how she felt when she saw her for the first time, being such a fan. “I’m not sure when was the first time I saw or met Vivienne, but I was at the backstage of the Paris Fashion Week show where Kate Moss was wearing a micro mini skirt while eating ice-cream. Vivienne Westwood was there! It was fantastic, one of these fabulous shows that made History in fashion!” she explains.
Of course, she is referring to the Cafe Society collection that Vivienne Westwood presented for Spring / Summer 1994 in Paris, which still today is considered to be one of the shows where the designer exhibited her universe of historical subversion and refined provocation in a more evident manner.
“I’m never nervous with people, but that time I was super nervous!! She’s so intelligent … so … you know, she’s Vivienne Westwood! I grew up with her; Vivienne Westwood made Baby Mary for sure!” Definitely, Baby Mary’s life-long passion for Vivienne Westwood is in the origin of Japan’s passion for the designer.
Before we say goodbye, I ask Baby Mary if she has nostalgia for what the neighborhood was like in some bygone era. “No, I don’t even miss Faline Tokyo! The farewell party was the perfect ending. I have turned the page, and I have memories everywhere. It’s in my story, but there is more to come.” she replies.
Although Faline Tokyo has closed its doors, Baby Mary continues to select and design kawaii clothes for her other stores. In Tokyo, there is Miss Faline (@missfaline), established five years ago in Kitaoyama. Faline Nagoya, Bambi and Baby Faline are still active in Nagoya. Of course, it is also possible to buy online at Faline’s online store.
How does Baby Mary see the future of Harajuku? “We’ll see, darling! But of course, we will! Thanks my love!”.
Proofreading: Jasmina Mitrovic (@negi_hime).