Yume Kawaii (shortened to Yumekawa) is a pastel subculture-turn-trend that started in Harajuku in 2015. It is a soft, dreamlike aesthetic found in fashion, artwork, music, and even food.
Typical Yume Kawaii motifs include sailor collars, magical girls, animals, unicorns, clouds, and wings. The look originally combined these cute motifs with a touch of yami (“darkness,” “poison”) to incorporate the nightmare side of dreams.
In terms of fashion, Yume Kawaii coordinates are often built up using layers of sheer fabrics, with common items including oversized t-shirts, floaty dresses, platform shoes or sneakers, loose socks, topped off by bun-covers, and ribbons for accessories. Vintage clothing is especially popular, with wearers often incorporating vintage nightwear into their outfits. Yumekawa originally included cute-yet-edgy touches to add a touch of darkness, although this was later developed into a new, separate style called Yami Kawaii. Check out our Encyclopedia article about Yami Kawaii here.
Creative mediums would use hazy filters and graphics to reflect the dreamlike feeling of Yume Kawaii. Both illustrations and music videos would feature washed out or vivid pastel colors combined with typical Yumekawa motifs to create the dreamlike world. Yunomi and Snails House – musicians described by fans as having a Yume Kawaii sound – were later credited as pioneers of the new Kawaii Future Bass genre, which has exploded worldwide.
BPM15Q – The idol group formed by Ichigo Rinahamu, the creator of the Yume Kawaii style. Yunomi produced their music.
Yume Kawaii (ゆめかわいい) combines the phrases “Yume” and “Kawaii.” Yume (ゆめ) refers to “dream” while Kawaii (かわいい) means cute.
Popular model AMO first coined the word in 2013, but it was never picked up until 2015, when the phrase was used by independent idol Ichigo Rinahamu.
— Econeco// (@ECONECOxxx) August 1, 2015
A Yume Kawaii themed event held by fashion brand WEGO in 2015.
A Brief History
AMO was a popular Harajuku-style model who was famous for her dreamy-yet-edgy pastel look. She stopped wearing this style in the mid-2010s but was a major icon in Japan, inspiring a whole generation of young fashionistas – Her iconic waved hairstyle is still popular.
In 2013, she blogged about a perfume she had bought, referring to Yume Kawaii’s packaging.
A few years after this blog post, independent idol Ichigo Rinahamu became known for her unique fashion and music style, which she described as “Fantasy + Darkness = Yume Kawaii” in an interview in 2016.
In 2015, she joined forces with music producer Yunomi and singer Nicamoq to form BPM15Q, a Yume Kawaii idol group. With their unique sound and original worldview, the group became popular with young alternative girls.
Popular fashion icons would regularly collaborate with Harajuku-based fashion brands, and the Yume Kawaii style had become a common sight in the area and online. Major fast-fashion brands like WEGO produced Yumekawa clothing, while dreamy artwork and memes had become popular across the internet, usually featuring dark motifs hidden within the pastel colors. YUMECAWA MATURI, a themed festival, was also held in 2016.
Original Yume Kawaii icons included Ichigo Rinahamu, Younapi, and Kuua Oyasumi. You would often find Yumekawa fans wearing clothes and accessories from brands such as Milklim, Galaxxxy, W♡C, and various indie brands. Candye♡Syrup in Shimokitazawa was considered a hub for Yumekawa fans, as it stocked many popular indie brands and hosted various events.
— アニメ「キラッとプリ☆チャン」公式アカウント (@prichan_PR) August 14, 2017
Yumekawa Yui was announced as the new PriPara PriChan series protagonist in January 2017.
Yume Kawaii in Modern Times
Yume Kawaii first hit the mainstream in 2016, although the original subculture’s darkness had been noticeably removed. Despite the fact the alternative fashion world has long moved on, you can still find Yumekawa inspired items in many shops, especially in items aimed at children, such as collectible toys and stationery. Sanrio characters such as Little Twin Stars are especially popular with modern Yumekawa fans.
Yume Kawaii inspired themes can commonly be spotted in anime and games, too – Prism Paradise’s (also known as PriPara) Yumekawa Yui was directly named after the style, while idol games such as Love Love! School Idol Festival has designed in-game illustrations based on the look.
Idol group BPM15Q evolved into CY8ER in December 2016 following the departure of Nicamoq, gradually moving from Yume Kawaii to the futuristic Neo Kawaii. However, there are still groups inspired by the subculture, such as Seireki13ya.
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