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Gwen Stefani Explains Her Harajuku Obsession

Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani and the Harajuku girls. Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage

She’s a Harajuku girl forever! Ever since her No Doubt days, fans have fawned over Gwen Stefani’s edgy and glamorous style. One of the Voice coach’s biggest influences is the culture of Harajuku, a neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan, known for its super-stylish patrons. The musician has invoked it in her music (beginning with the song “Harajuku Girls” from her 2004 album Love. Angel. Music. Baby.), and is even producing an animated Nickelodeon series called Kuu Kuu Harajuku, which hits small screens on October 3. Now Stefani, 46, is explaining the reason behind her obsession.

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According to WWD, her father, Dennis Stefani, worked for Yamaha Motorcycles. When returning to the family’s home in Orange County, California, from his business trips to Japan, he’d bring back kimonos and wooden dolls for his daughter. “He would travel to Japan and come back with treasures,” the L.A.M.B. designer reminisced. “We would hear these stories.”

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Eventually, Stefani fell in love with the Asian nation, and it became an early-on influence. “In the Harajuku district [of Tokyo], which was, of course, happening for years and years before I discovered it, it was the self-expression and the need to be different and unique and stick out and be outrageous,” she said. “It was always something I loved to do as well. When it came time to shopping for clothes, I said, ‘Mom, I don’t want to go the mall for clothes. Give me $100. I will go to the thrift store and get so many things.’”

Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani and the Harajuku girls in 2004. Jon Furniss/WireImage

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Luckily, Stefani was able to experience Japan for herself during No Doubt’s first world tour back in 1995. “Having that connection as a little girl and my personal obsession with fashion and tradition and culture and all things modern, I got there and I was like, ‘What was happening? I should be Japanese. This is my place. I love this place,’” she said.

And despite criticism and accusations of cultural appropriation from Asian-Americans like Margaret Cho, Stefani has continued to be inspired by Harajuku style and culture. It’s more than just aesthetics for the singer, who’s dating Blake Shelton. Keeping busy with her various projects helped her recover from “the crazy year I had” (referring to her August 2015 divorce from Gavin Rossdale).

“Everything was so unexpected last year — everything from my life changing, my personal life changing and being able to write a record,” the mom of Kingston, 10, Zuma, 8, and Apollo, 2, continued, comparing the end of her journey to “Rocky at the top of the steps.”

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