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GOTHIC WITH A CUTE SIDE ­— Designer h.Naoto (above) opened his first U.S. boutique at New People in San Francisco's Japantown. photo by Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei Weekly

GOTHIC WITH A CUTE SIDE ­— Designer h.Naoto (above) opened his first U.S. boutique at New People in San Francisco’s Japantown. photo by Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei Weekly

GOTHIC WITH A CUTE SIDE ­— Designer h.Naoto (above) opened his first U.S. boutique at New People in San Francisco’s Japantown. photo by Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei Weekly
GOTHIC WITH A CUTE SIDE ­— Designer h.Naoto (above) opened his first U.S. boutique at New People in San Francisco’s Japantown. photo by Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei Weekly

Following a successful prelude of fashion shows and a temporary pop-up store during the J-Pop Summit Festival 2011, which was held in August, the h.Naoto store opened at the New People building in San Francisco’s Japantown on Oct. 7.

Naoto Hirooka, better known as h.Naoto, attended the grand opening of his boutique, his first store outside of Japan.

The boutique features a line of Gothic Lolita fashion, which emphasizes shades of black and white, with lace and cuts reminiscent of the Victorian era. The jackets and coats are flashy. Despite the subdued colors, h.Naoto offers a line of clothes that stands out from casual wear.
The store replaces the building’s former tenant, Black Peace Now (BPN), which moved to downtown San Francisco.

Hirooka, who has worked in the fashion industry under his own brand for the past 10 years, has become a household name in Japanese pop. He has worked for famous artists such as Hyde of L’Arc-en-Ciel, Gackt, Miyavi and even American rock band Evanescence’s Amy Lee.
Many of his fans also follow Japanese pop culture.

“I got into it through the ‘Rose of Versaille’ (a manga and anime about the French Revolution),” said a Gothic Lolita cosplayer who goes by the name Camille. She was an entrant to a fashion contest that was held during the summit.

“I really wanted to dress up like they did, and one day I heard about Gothic Lolita and realized, ‘you can actually dress up like that!’”

Designer h.Naoto photo by Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei Weekly
Designer h.Naoto. photo by Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei Weekly

Camille’s interests grew from anime to J-rock, where she saw the clothing Malice Mizer, Dir en Grey and other visual-kei bands wore, leading her to h.Naoto.

Hirooka expressed his hope that his clothing store would offer “a place for people to gather.”

“I’ve worked in Japan for 30 years to build my own brand, whether through music, anime or movies,” he said. “I want to integrate them and work in America as well.”

The designer is interested in working with American singers and actors. He also hopes his store will complement the other stores around San Francisco’s Japantown.

Seiji Horibuchi, founder of New People, described the boutique’s addition as a “neo-fusion between Japanese tradition and pop culture that lies at the very heart of New People’s mission.”

“We look forward to the Japantown community joining with us to welcome our newest additions, and we invite visitors to discover the inspired fashion designs … they offer,” he said.

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