Tokyo Fashion & Art Factory(2)

How do you think the Harajuku Lolita scene, or other Harajuku fashion scenes are represented overseas? Is there such a thing as "getting it wrong"?

It is difficult to answer this question, because despite the information we have on the Internet and my 100 Lolitas and Mori Girl testimonies, I only really know the situation in France, and even that is limited to the scene in Paris. Japanese pop culture as a whole is very well established in France, through manga first, then music. But I think it is mainly through visual kei and gothic movements that Harajuku fashion now is spreading overseas. Visual-kei bands attracted fans through extremes in make-up, stage outfits and music. Lolita fashion spread thanks to its gothic appeal. I don't really know if fans overseas are "getting it wrong" about Japanese artists and fashion. They want to learn more about it and that's what is important. But I must admit, I've heard and read some very superficial comments from people who might not really understand Japan. I've heard some say than in Tokyo, people can wear whatever they want not be judged. But Japanese do judge . . . in silence. I had my share of preconceptions about Japan before I lived in Japan, and I'm learning more each day. I think Japan is quite complicated to understand.

Do you think the Lolita scene is diminishing, either in Japan or overseas?

Photos by Valerie Fujita
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I don't like to admit it but the Lolita scene is probably declining in Japan. Although the origins of the fashion are quite difficult to date, I think the Lolita trend was really booming in Japan in the early '00s. During this time there was a strange mix of visual-kei fashion (and we can certainly quote Malice Mizer's fashion, guitarist Mana, who remains a famous figure, for Gothic Lolita and other subcategories, such as Elegant Aristocrats); an older fashion from the '70s called otome fashion ("otome" meaning maiden); and rather pop takes on Victorian and Rococo periods inspired by manga. Although the movie "Kamikaze Girl" (2004) and the manga "Kuroshitsuji" (Black Butler) more recently (2006) helped the fashion to maintain a certain status, I'm not sure that there were so many Lolitas out on the streets. However, as the trend is emerging overseas, a breath of fresh air may inspire Japanese designers and reignite interest in Lolita fashion. I think Lolita arrived at a time in Western societies when girls often forgot how to be "girly." And that's the strength of Lolita fashion, that's what will sustain it.

How would you define the prime difference between a Goth Lolita and a Mori Girl?

Actually, I see a lot in common. I was surprised to see in the Mori Girl rules [first posted on Mixi] a sentence something like "Not a Lolita" or "Different from Lolita." But why claim this when in reality they have a lot in common? They are both trends that show it is possible to be feminine, "girly" or cute, without showing off one's whole body (unlike gyaru). They'd rather wear something a bit long, blouses buttoned to the neck. The severe Victorian figure seems to attract them. While a Lolita may accentuate her waist with a corset, she'll wear a bell-shaped skirt to the knees. A Mori Girl hides her figure in loose forms. They also both have elements of childhood in their repertoire, accessories made in the shape of candies, animals, etc. They play on the innocent and pure look with a quiet and shy charm. Essentially, they are the two sides of a same coin.

Tokyo Fashion & Art Factory


The subcultures of Japanese style, in all their myriad forms, are celebrated on the blog Tokyo Fashion & Art Factory. You'll find plenty of info on Lolitas and Mori Girls here, but the blog's creator, photographer and writer Valerie Fujita, is quick to point out that it's more about Harajuku street fashion and culture in general, from Dolly kei to gothic culture. The blog also encompasses the illustrators, photographers and designers that catch Fujita's eye. A testament to the reach of Harajuku fashion, the blog also introduces Lolita followers living around the globe, from Spain to Malaysia to Germany. Fujita herself hails from a Paris suburb. After meeting her Japanese husband-to-be in France three years ago, she says she settled in Tokyo about a year and half ago. "I had no choice," she says, and with a passion like that, it makes sense.

What sparked your interest in Japanese sub-cultures, specifically Harajuku fashion?

I have always been attracted to countercultures and what is happening in the streets. In addition, I have a strange kind of fascination for freaks and misfits. One of my favorite photographers is Diane Arbus. So, of course, unconventional characters appeal to me. I find them more attractive than the glossy images in mass media. They are often what society doesn't want to see, perhaps because people are disturbed by their independence. In terms of Harajuku fashion, I discovered it, like many people of my generation, through the first volume of "Fruits." I found it very different from what we were seeing in Europe. That was in the early 2000s and I only got really interested in it four years ago, through Gothic Lolita first, because it appealed to my interest in alternative cultures. Harajuku fashion has remained faithful to what I discovered in Fruits — the mix of colors and styles, unstructured silhouettes, the "pajama look", the layers of clothes and accessories. It's like a giant overflowing closet, from which you can pick thousands of inspirations and codes for reinventing. There are so many different categories that it's hard to keep up: "natural kei," "Lolita," "yurakuji kei", "mori girl," "Dolly fashion" . . . not to mention the Shibuya scene and other movements. Ultimately, these trends offer very rich material for the imagination and photographers like me.

You describe yourself as having Japanese "maniac" interests. Can you elaborate a little more on this?

What I mean by that is that I'm a kind of a maniac when I discover something new. I don't want to just scratch the surface. I don't want to say something is cute or brilliant without looking into its roots. One trend can lead me to a shop, and then to another shop, or to a brand that leads to smaller brands. An artist will lead me to 10 other lesser-known artists. I think this could be my definition of being maniac or having maniac interests.

Pinay Net superstars in ‘cosplay’

MANILA, Philippines—It’s a growing subculture, simmering right under the noses of unsuspecting Netizens.
Welcome to the world of cosplay (“costume play”) — where teenagers (and even those a tad older) dress up as their favorite anime or gaming character.
Grown men in Sailor Moon outfits? Self-confessed geeks as Call of Duty soldiers? Seemingly conventional cheerleaders as rainbow-haired nymphets from the Animax anime “Stigma of the Wind”?
In this kaleidoscopic, topsy-turvy world, Filipino sisters Alodia and Ashley Gosiengfiao — in red and blonde wigs and Japanese schoolgirl uniforms — are certified superstars.
Former cheerleaders in Miriam high school, Alodia and Ashley were drawn to cosplay as teens and have since donned over 30 and 14 costumes, respectively — including Ayano Kannagi (for Alodia) and Yukari Shinomiya (for Ashley) of “Stigma of the Wind” fame.
Alodia, now a college graduate (from Ateneo, with a degree in Information Design), and Ashley, a college senior (also Ateneo, and majoring in Information Design as well), are totally immersed in the cosplay scene.
Popular Facebook page
Alodia’s Facebook page has attracted almost 30,000 members. In her Deviantart site, where Alodia started her cosplaying career, she has posted 4 million page views and 27,000 members.
The Gosiengfiao sisters have met some of their fans from all over the world in international conventions.

“We have followers from Singapore, Spain, Russia, Italy, Poland, even Latvia,” says Ashley.
“We are going to Chile in October. We were invited to judge a cosplay competition there,” Alodia announced.
The girls never imagined their hobby would explode in such a big way.
“When we started, we had zero fans . . . only our most loyal friends visited our sites,” Alodia recalls.
Closet cosplayers
“We were closet cosplayers. Back in high school, it wasn’t cool to cosplay. Other teenagers thought we were strange,” Ashley recounts. “But now even those who dismissed us as weirdos have joined the cosplay community.”
If they have fine taste for high camp, it’s because their uncle was the late filmmaker Joey Gosiengfiao (director of the kitsch classic “Temptation Island”).
Regional youth channel Animax was the first to take note of the Pinay sisters’ potential as global personalities.

Greg Ho, Animax vice president and general manager, thinks the sisters are “passionate and knowledgeable about anime and are adept in bringing different characters to life.”
“We’ve worked constantly with Animax since its launch six years ago,” Ashley recalls.
“I won the Levi’s Kawaii Girl search on the Animax youth show ‘Mad Mad Fun’ in 2007,” Alodia recounts.
The sisters recently signed up as the regional station’s Ani-mates, along with QTV host Stephanie Henares.
“We practice hosting, talking in front of the mirror,” says Alodia.
“We watch Animax shows, to know more about the stories and characters we will introduce in ads,” Ashley quips.
“We’ll do blogs and webisodes for Animax, too,” Alodia adds.
In short, they’re all dressed up for global domination — starting with the and cable TV.

Cosplay events: Clashing dates and choices… choices….

Reading a certain post done by Julius from NKDS made me ponder about something as well.

“Why do people go to cosplay events?”

This situation arised from the fact that a new event, Mascot Parade, clashed with long-timer Cosfest in terms of event dates. 3rd of July, to be exact.

Firstly, as a bystander and random “otaku” #2342734, I have utterly no say in the cosplay scene, since I no longer cosplay anyway. Hence if anybody wishes to take offence into the words I speak of below, do note that the choice of being influenced is purely, yours and yours alone.


People go to cosplay events for all sorts of reasons. Namely:
- as a cosplayer to cosplay (duhhhh)
- support your friends
- for fame,glory or money as a cosplayer by joining competitions
- enjoy the event line-up
- Take pictures of cosplayers
- Having photoshoots nearby the event
- Oogle at scantily-clad female cosplayers (I know all you horny NSFs)

It could be a combination of 2-3 of the points above, or even all of it. No matter what it is, nobody can exactly control you from going or not going.

I believe in taking a neutral stance on most incidents, yet pointing out the good and bad points of anything in particular. Therefore, allow me to list them out for each event:

Mascot Parade: 1 day event
Upcoming new event is backed by the Youth Council, strong cash prizes, and really good final prize (trip to Japan)..
Guests Alodia and Ashley, who were at AFA09 as finalists in the Regional Cosplay Championship, will be there as guests, MMK maids from last year’s AFA09 will also be there, a Bushiroad Tourney + seiyuu appearance, live band performances etc. Pretty solid line up for a cosplay event.

Cosfest 2010 : 2 Day event
Programme (taken directly from a post in sgcafe)
World Cosplay Summit Singapore Finals
Anime Games World Music Competition
Asia Cosplay Meet Championships
Anime Karaoke Competition
Team Cosplay Competition
Doujinshi Booths
Graffiti Wall

Personally, to be honest, since I’m no longer a cosplayer nor do I find the need to go to an event to look only at cosplayers and pretty much doing nothing else there, I’d find Mascot Parade more interesting.

Not to mention, I’ve been at Cosfest for many years in the past, and there’s not much difference over the years. Furthermore, the emcee didn’t really improve much. The program line-up is exactly the same as last few years’, with the exception of the Anime Games World Music Competition, which I have utterly no interest for. Not to mention I dislike the sound equipment at Cosfest.

I’ve read some comments and displeasure about the clash in dates and other arguements floating around. Let’s dissect the details and compare them, shall we?

Why the clash in date?? Are they doing it on purpose?
To clarify, there is no conspiracy going on. Mascot Parade’s date was set to commemorate Youth month(July), and the 3rd of July being the first weekend of July, it was selected way before. It is just unfortunate, plain and simple. This event has been planned for since last year and has been announced some time ago but only the information regarding the costume competition has been recently announced.
The above was quoted word-for-word from a post on sgcafe made by the organiser.

Thoughts: I believe that the organisers seriously didn’t have a say in that particular date, since it’s the Youth Council planned for it. We all know how Singapore works, so let’s keep it at that.

Cosplaying isn’t all about prizes; people cosplay to have fun. So why all those cash prizes?
Sure, cosplaying is all about fun and a person’s passion to portray their characters, but when it comes to competitions, people -do- want some form of reward or another to entice them enough to be willing to join, be it a World Cosplay Summit title, vouchers, or a cash prize. Granted, long time cosplayers join competitions for the sake of ’sportsmanship’, or maybe to some idividuals, to boost their ego. Whichever it is, the prizes are an essential part of a competition. Would you join a competition without any monetary awards or items that is actually worth something or make you feel the effort spent on stage, worthwhile?

I’ve already planned to cosplay at Cosfest for so long, and now suddenly got another cosplay event and change my plans for you?
While I have yet to see actual words going from this, but this is probably the reaction some cosplayers might portray upon knowing about the event’s date.

Now, cosfest has yet to reveal which day will they hold the WCS competition, hence to avoid any disappointment in cheering on their friends, cosplayers would simply go there for both days. Better to be safe than sorry, no? Not to mention veteran cosplayers tend to organise chalets during the cosfest period.

There’s nothing much to change; it all depends on your priority: going to meet other cosplay friends who are more familiar and have a preference for familiarity (aka cosfest) or going to enjoy yourself more via other programs (aka mascot parade). Cosplayers would be more inclined to going to Cosfest because 1) it’s troublesome to ask their 200-300 cosplay friends which event would they rather go; 2) cosplayers may want to keep their participation to Cosfest’s WCS thing a secret until that day; 3) They live in the east mostly. Cosplayers not interested/involved in WCS could have an option of going to both events and compare for themselves, as missing 1 out of 2 days of Cosfest won’t exactly spoil your time meeting your friends, since most veteran cosplayers would go for both days anyway.

In short, if you’re a veteran cosplayer with a fair amount of involvement with Cosfest, you’re more inclined to go to Cosfest. However, if you’re sick of Cosfest/live in the west/new to the cosplay scene/member of the public interested in cosplay/anime culture, chances are you’ll be more inclined to go to Mascot Parade. Me? Well, I’m no longer a cosplayer, hence no prizes as to which event I’ll likely be going for.