Gyaru substyles series: ModeGal

by - Monday, February 13, 2017

Welcome to our new series about gal sub-styles and prominent trends that have popped up in the 20-odd years that Gal has been banging around. Like goth and it's different sub-styles, Gal is a spectrum where there are styles that fall within a degree of gal-ness; some of them almost unrecognisable from the other, unless you look at the details.

Today I wanted to talk about one of my favourite Gal substyles;


ModeGal was a trend and gal-moment that appeared in the early 2010s and fizzled up in the middle 2010s. At that point Mode Gal blended in with the onee and otona gal trends and it just naturally began part of the Gal aesthetic outside of needing its own label. 

ModeGal combined two totally different world, the world of high-fashion and the gritty world of Gal and it's street-upbringing. ModeGal took inspiration directly from European catwalks rather than the celebrities who wore the trends months later. ModeGal didn't do casual or downdays, your aim was to be glam always.
We can assume that ModeGal was a natural progression for Gal. Gals have been fashion pioneers since the late 80s so after exhausting Japan for possible inspirations for new substyles, looking abroad was the next obvious thing. Gals pined for something new and fresh, thanks to the prevalence of Western fashion blogs and twitter (instagram wasn't quite there yet).

We can also assume this push for mode brands and styles came from Gals approaching adult-hood wanting to adopt a more mature, classy look while still maintaining the striking makeup that Gal was famous for.
 In Japan, 20 is considered to be a significant age as this age is when you are traditionally considered to be an adult; it even has a whole ceremony dedicated to it, Seijin no Hi or Coming of Age day.

From it's beginnings, Gal has had a bad reputation. Gal was born by rich rebels and associated with paid dates to the vapid consumption and disposal of trends and technology, sexual liberation and girls not giving a shit (excellent) so ModeGal could have been an attempt to shrug off this past poor reputation.

ModeGal drew inspiration from high fashion brands, predominantly from Europe.
Gal had a skeezy rep but magical makeup and high fashion meant "money" and therefore sophistication and therefore classy; tick tick tick. Blend them together and you go this strange but totally socially acceptable look.

Gals knew it was Gal but the average joe didn't. It was hiding in plain sight...I remember at the time there was a ton of debate online about whether ModeGal was actually Gal, and my response is 'if they girls who identify as Gal think it's Gal, then yes, it is in fact Gal'. It was cool, fun and overt, which are 3 elements that Gal in all its forms embody.

Where did this trend come from? Who started it? Who were the figureheads for the look of ModeGal? The icons of the era and the leaders of the trend were two popular brand producers, Momoko Ogihara and Ena Matsumoto.

Momoko Ogihara was an ex-magazine model and the brand producer for the pioneering ModeGal brand, Murua. Murua was founded in 2006 but Momoko rose to fame around 2009. Momoko's personal look included her signature deep-waved red hair, an orange lip and blush worn high on the cheek bones; a look while popular now was unseen back in 2010.

There's contouring, dramatic lashes, circle lenses and statement blush. Is it plastic surgery makeup? Yes. 10/10. It's GAL.

Style wise, in her personal and designs, Momoko enjoyed combining textures and layering. Murua was popular for it's combination of light, airy tops with a waist-cinching bottom. Pops of bright colour were prevalent and individually, each piece from Murua's early collection were easily wearable by a girl of any genre (ie, the normies liked it).
Layering of fabrics of different textures and feature-pieces;a simple outfit with a statement element, such as a boldly printed jewel-toned skirt or brightly coloured tights. Chunky gold jewellry.

It's SO Gal. Note the little waist, the body-enhancing silhouette, sexy elements such as the see-through skirt in the middle, accessories galore. 10/10 GAL AS FUCK.
Momoko now heads the brand UN3D.

Ena Matsumoto was another popular mode-turned brand producer and headed Murua's rival brand, Emoda. Emoda appeared in 2009. So Ena also adopted long, dark eye makeup with a bold lip and red-tone blusher that became part of the ModeGal aesthetic. She was also known for being fringe queen.

Ena's personal style was a little more casual than Momoko's. Ena's look was sleek and used a simpler, often boyish silhouette.

Ena eventually cut ties with Emoda back in January 2015 at the age of 29 when she felt that her age and the fact she was older than the brand's target audience would pull down progression of Emoda in it's mission to remain the "No.1 Gal brand" [source]. Cry. She's got a new brand now called Clane, though her personal style and the brand aesthetic is totally different to Emoda.

The Hair

The hair was often be in shades of red and brown, while bright white blonde was rarely seen. Statement fringes like Momoko's above-the-eyebrows bringe and Ena's choppy ones were a common feature. Styling wise, hair was simple; straight, slicked back or deeply-waved. Intricate hairstyles and tight curls were a no and embellishment and fancy-ness came from hair accessories such as statement headbands, gold or chain detailing, scarfs worn as bows and turbans.

Scarfs, and turbans were BIG in ModeGal. The picture of the left being an example of how silk scarves were tied into bows on top of the head to create a striking but super simple look. On the right (Hi Lindsey) is the half-turban which is a shout-out to the 40s-50s and 60s. The turban would cover the top of the head while the rest of the hair would hand down. The middle picture is a combinated on both the scarf and turban trend, using a silk scarf crossed over to create a turban inspired look.
Note how all the interest for the hair is through it's accessories rather than through styling like braiding.

The Makeup

Gal makeup from previous genres has all the emphasis on the eyes and cheeks while ModeGal focused on the lips and eyes. Cheeks did not have hot pink blush ground into them in a doll-like fashion but a western-style blush that followed the contour of the cheek bones was popular, as was Momoko's high-up-on-the-cheekbone blush that became a trademark of the look.
The lenses were more on the natural side and were in bright, clear colours like light brown, grey or green. They had a less cartoonish appearance than lenses used in other forms of Gal and while they were enlarging, they often didn't have a big cartoonish black ring around the outside.
Lashes emphasized the outer corners of the eyes, which gave the eyes a long cat-like look particular on the top lid while the bottom lashes were either kept natural or were feathery and statement.
Eyeshadows were kept to shades of brown and gold with the occasional pops of colour like blue, orange and red.

There's a couple of great makeup tutorials for ModeGal on youtube~

This boom in Gal makeup tutorials on Youtube recently is giving me LIFE.

The clothing

ModeGal takes the sexiness and bold makeup of Gal and mashes that together with the cool appeal and fancy body-enhancing silhouette of Western high fashion.  The silhouette of ModeGal always aims to enhance the bodyline.

It used black as a colour base and then pops of bright jewel-tone colours and patterns. All kinds of materials were used for clothing, with black leather, denim and sheer fabrics being a key feature. Balance and harmony were created through mixing heavy fabrics or structured garments with softer materials and looser fitting clothing.
Other prints and motifs included bold florals, geometric and abstract patterns, colour-blocking, leopard print, classic weaves such as houndstooth, chain print and 50s-inspired abstract prints.

The Accessories and Motifs

Statement earrings, nails and necklaces were a must. The bigger and chunkier the better. Particularly if they were gold and had pops of bright colour. These Mondrian-inspired nails were a big part of Murua's early collections. If a neckline on a top was too boring, throw a chunky necklace on it.

For earrings, it was go big or go home. The key was to wear dangling earrings that came down further than your chin; a great way to lengthen the neck. Gold, tassels, inlaid gems, diamantes, pearls, feathers in big geometric and angular shapes. As long as you can think 'that's cool... and big' it was worn. No piddly delicate gold chains with little flower motifs.

Momoko loved shirts with collars so collars and collar accessories were a big feature. If a shirt didn't have a collar, you'd add either a detachable collar to a necklace that looked like one.

Even though you could consider ModeGal to be 'kawaii', it really lacked what typically makes many Japanese fashion as such. There's little child-like wonder to the look and while it's really fun and creative, that element of twee childishness and innocence just isn't there at all. It feels really grown up. Cool, powerful, confident and assertive.

Here's a couple of videos of Murua and Emoda's early collections just so you can get a vibe for the whole look and feel of ModeGal.
Note this first video for their s/s2011 show for the 'W' collection. It was SICKENING and I still want to own every piece.

At this point in time, ModeGal is kind of dead. But that's not to say completely.
You can definitely still see girls in Tokyo who wear a look that could definitely be interpreted as ModeGal but whether that was an active pursuit for those girls is a mystery!

Momoko and Ena have moved away from their respective brands onto other fashion projects and recently Momoko welcomed a baby into the world. I really really love ModeGal as it emcompasses two of my greatest passions and I really wish I could see a resurgence of this everyday super glam emerging from this super baggy casual trend we're seeing at the moment and I feel like a new variation of ModeGal will make an appearance soon~

I don't want anyone to talk this article as absolute fact. Many of the resources that I once used for my research on ModeGal and Gal in general have been lost to the great abyss that is the internet overtime so a lot of this information simply comes from memory. I have been an active member of the Gal community for more than 10 year now and took a particular personal interest in ModeGal so I like to think I'm at least a little knowledgeable.

So there you have it folks, a breakdown of the history of the look and it's figureheads. If there is anything else relating to ModeGal that you want me elaborate on more, please let me know. And if there's anything that you believe is wrong or anything I should add to it, also please let me know!

What do you guys think about this blend of two totally different worlds? Let me know belooow.

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  1. Loved this post! Very informative! I've been looking at mode style lately so this naturally caught my eye.