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.