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Fearless, funky Japanese fashions create a splash half a world away

By Summer Suleiman, CNN
  • Japanese street fashion can be found in a boutique in Atlanta, Georgia
  • What can you buy? Minnie Mouse cardigans mix with colorful tutus and salvaged denim
  • Owner Alva Glass likes to pair pieces together that are not made to match
  • Glass wants to appeal to "youthful creatives" who are looking for something different

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- The phrase "normal is an allusion" is written upside down on the front door. Colorful Harajuku Tutu skirts, a Japanese fashion staple, and salvaged denim fills the funky space inside the store called Fearless Weirdos.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse cardigans hang from recycled hangers and umbrellas in the shapes of butterflies, kittens and pups. A loose-fitting minidress, designed like an apron that ties around the waist, is a Fearless Weirdos original.

Owner Alva Glass says she chooses pieces that have great function and are diverse and interchangeable. She then complements them with edgy pieces. She describes her customers, who are usually in the 18-to- 35 age range, as "youthful creatives" who are looking for something different.

"I think that's what drives people to come to the store. They see the outside -- the Japanese writing on the doors, the big, white eyeglass frames that represent having a clear vision of who you are, and the quotes that represent individuality like 'Why not?' and 'Because I am,' " Glass says.

"They want to know what's inside, and when they do come in, they come back because they know we carry only a limited selection of original pieces."

The shop carries mostly new pieces that Alva gets from wholesale retailers in Japan and showrooms throughout the U.S. The store also has a small section of vintage blazers and accessories, along with a mixture of fabrics with solids and vibrant prints, organic pieces and simple tanks.

Japanese street fashion has slowly gained popularity in the U.S. with the slimmer fit of clothing, fabrics with artistic sketches and the layering of pieces.

Danika Goings walked into Fearless Weirdos with a smile as she headed towards the women's collection. When asked what her favorite piece in the store was, she pointed to a two-toned, slim-fitting, cotton frock.

"I think I've fallen in love with this dress!" she said.

The outfit in the window is what caught her eye. "It's very original. You don't see that everywhere," she said. The friendly people are what brought her back.

Friendly is an understatement.

Jessica Dascomb is tiny with short, black, stringy hair, and big, square, leopard-print eyeglasses. She sports a fedora hat, faded T-shirt and black skinny jeans. She displays an energy that's bigger than her, despite the heat makes the small shop feel like a sauna. She exudes excitement about every piece in the store.

"There was a guy that came in today that bought a pink, short-sleeve button up, and I love that shirt so much! I was sad to see it leave, but happy that he liked it and appreciated it. I really get attached to some things," Dascomb said. She's a full-time employee and keeps shop while Glass is away.

A mini-refrigerator stocks Japanese sodas and Japanese papers and magazines coat the countertops.

"We do have Japanese customers, and when they come, they really appreciate the store and they always buy," Glass says.

One Japanese woman who purchased a bag was so delighted she asked to take a photograph with Glass.

Other customers to come through include Atlanta's own breakthrough artist B.o.B, who purchased a Varsity's letterman jacket, and of hip-hop duo Dead Prez.

Glass first traveled to Japan as a stylist with a group of musicians. She visited Tokyo and Osaka -- cities where Japanese street fashion has a strong presence. Glass says she was captivated by the city's energy and vibe.

"The people, the fashion, the street life, buildings and subways. The creative details they put into everything and the way they all flow together was so innovative," Glass says.

For a girl, a typical Japanese outfit would consist of a fedora hat, layers, a handkerchief tank with a cardigan over it, plenty of accessories, distressed shorts and tights, flats or kitten heels, along with a big, colorful bag that is accessorized as much as she is, Glass says.

It is a style that pairs pieces together that are not made to match.

Glass' mom gave her freedom as a child to wear what she liked and express herself creatively.

"My thing was nonmatching. I would take something off another garment to add detail, and if it came one way, I would make it into something else. I'd add on bows, beads or any little applique," she says.

Glass started working in retail at 15. She studied for a degree in Fashion Design and Marketing at American University Intercontinental, spending the first half of her time in Atlanta, and the second half in London.

She worked as a production assistant at Citron Clothing, a Los Angeles-based fashion retailer with locations across the United States and abroad, including South Africa. Glass also worked in design and merchandising at BCBG Max Azria.