The japanese street art influenced the international catwalks and inspired the designers of Prada, Hermès and Lanvin who presented elements of the japanese traditional culture fashion in their runway shows. So I decided to carry out an investigation about the japanese fashion. For the needed informations I contacted and interviewed Lia Lee, a special australian fashion designer from Japan.
When you walk over the street in Tokyo... How does it feels as a fashion designer? Which looks can always be observed? - How is especially the youth dressed?
„I don't think the streets of Tokyo will ever feel relaxing - it's all hustle and bustle. Of course it does depend on which area of Tokyo you're walking about - generally the area where I'm based it's the hub of the city - so there's always a sea of people wandering about. Perhaps I've been living here too long - but lately the fashion of the masses doesn't grab my attention as much as it used too - unless the individual is dressed so strikingly and different. The fashion of the youth is still very colourful, very genre and trend-based. For example there are the groups that dress specifically like the 'lolitas' - be it gothic or princess; the girls that dress more of the 'princess-kawaii' style (where almost everything they wear is pink and lacey); the boys that dress like the sex pistols, or the off-beat artist style. It is extremely trend-based; this season girls are seen wearing the 'private school girl hat' which is normally made of straw, is a bit of a flat-top and always has a strip of ribbon above the brim, and the newest trend I've seen appears to be wearing a wide ribbon in your hair and creating a bow that looks like 'bunny ears' at the top... it's everywhere!! It's the newest cute accessory.”
Recently, I read an article in a german fashion magazine about Japanese/Chinese woman that says they imitate paragons from the west and thusly defend themselves from ultraviolet rays and use whitening products. In how far is that a fact?
„I wouldn't say perse that they are imitating paragons from the west, considering a lot of western culture enjoys being in the sun and tanning (I can attest to that having been born in Australia - I love the summer and sunshine) It's more I would say because of the tradition and history Asians hold to individuals pertaining white skin - because in the past, possessing white, clear skin showcased that the family belonged to a higher status, perhaps nobility, royalty etc. Tanned skin indicated one came from a peasant background. I've heard this many a time from my mother and my relatives. Definitely here in Japan, they protect their skin to the tenth degree in summer, often wearing jeans, wearing long elbow length gloves, visors, holding parasols and using 'whitening' cosmetics - I often get stares because I don't cover up in summer like most of the Japanese. Winter will actually see girls wearing the shortest of skirts, and thigh high socks ( think provocative school girl) because they'd rather show skin then.”
I always see pictures of japanese street fashion on the web that is bright and colourful. I think we could also use the word 'bold'. Is that really the ordinary street look in Japan?
„Japanese mass street fashion is indeed colourful and bright, there's always some eye-popping colour in view, normally whatever the shops have said is the colour of the season; the look has become much more mainstream though - it's not as crazy as it used to be. Pretty much, looks are copied from magazines or whatever is deemed the 'look' of the season. Sometimes I miss the fashion of home because people would combine high designer, with vintage, with homemade totally twisting it to their personality - where as lately I've found here, it's very much what s in the magazine is copied.”
Does this style always existed in the streets or developed it in the last years so far with features like the colourful hairs?
„It's developed in the last years, developed in a way that's a bit more quiet and mainstream - the craziness of Harajuku has died away, the cosplay is not as rampant as it used to be.”
Who do you think is today's most influencing artist or designer in Japan?
„That I'm not sure of - as I still look towards Western styles as I feel they are much more confident in expressing the confidence of the body and it's also the confidence that I grew up with. You'll find here in Japan, legs are always shown (sometimes a bit too much, considering the amount of panty shots that can happen because the skirts are so short) however the upper torso is rarely displayed. When garments are relatively low cut - a singlet or t-shirt is always worn underneath ( I kind of detest that look). Mass fashion however is definitely going crazy here, with H&M and Forever 21 joining Zara. Stores are opening up everywhere.”
You're a fashion designer living in Japan. What do you think people want to wear? What does today's japanese youth want to look or be dressed like?
„I think people want to wear items that enhance their personality and are an outward expression of themselves. Though I live here in Japan designing garments from vintage kimonos, my style is still very much Western in how I dress and that is expressed in the clothing I create. It actually goes back to I think that women brought up in a western society are much more confident and independent in their views and fashion rather than their Asian counterparts; which in a lot of Asian cultures women are still in the more servitude, secondary position to men. Today's youth in Japan is gravitating towards emulating Western fashion and what popular Japanese idols wear - there are the occasional individual who dress so artisticly and creatively compared to the masses. however lately I rarely see that.”
Thank you so much for this interview!