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.