As I’ve noted before, I didn’t know what to expect from WakuWaku NYC+ when I first heard about it. One of the festival’s unexpected delights, though, was an opportunity to watch Misha Janette paint a new masterpiece on the runway at Verboten. The event was held at NHK World’s ‘Tokyo Above-Underground’ Fashion Show.”
As with WakuWaku itself, though, I wasn’t sure what that meant.
Let’s begin with the fashion of Ayumi Seto (Aymmy in the Batty Girls)
Some of you may recognize the model, Yun*chi.
The style is called Ame-Hara (American Harajuku), but I cannot help but think of Los Angeles. I lived just outside LA in the 1990’s and the white-on-red 50’s chic brings me back. Of course, I also can’t look at Big Boy without thinking of:
Interesting fact: Though it started in Glendale California, all Big Boy locations are in Michigan (87) or Japan (281), with only 13 scattered throughout the rest of the United States.
Back to the fashion show. This look is both classic and cheerful. You might notice the high platform shoes. Those will be a common theme throughout the show. Also from the same designer:
Here we see model Camii on the left, with Yun*chi turning on the right. This seems like a fairly traditional outfit on the left. Apart from the slinky (why???), the most eye-catching feature is the high boots.
Next up is Sweet Girlie Style via the work of Saaya Hayashida (Swankiss)
It is not hard to tell what the designer is going for. This is Kawaii: sweet, and girly. The furred shoes are a wonderful touch.
And the platform shoes are back. Still, I do have to admit that I love the umbrella.
It might be difficult to grasp that this is not cosplay (ignore the ears for a second). This is fashion, and the people who wear this are offering an expression of themselves and their individuality.
Here we see models Tee and Lonbon Lonlon together. From this angle, you have a better view of the cuts of the outfits. One of the things I learned in studying anime art design was that you want all of your main characters to have recognizable silhouettes. I would argue that both Tee and Lonbon qualify.
For the record, while it absolutely works in a fashion show, any outfit that hinges on the wearer’s holding something is usually asking a bit much.
Next up is is the work of Eily and Jammy (Neb aaran do)
Eily and Jammy are on record as saying their design concept is “I hate Kawaii!”. The fashion style is pure Harajuku School, based on school and sailor uniforms. Anyone else getting flashbacks to Kill la Kill?
Here, we see model Munchi with a non-standard sailor uniform. The boots, tie, and bow grab your attention from the front. If you look into the background, you can see the massively oversized bow on the back. It’s a pretty aggressive look.
Now this is something I love through and through. Everything works together. The red and white blouse brings out the best in the blue and red skirt. The hair compliments the makeup. Even the umbrella is fully integrated into the outfit. The oversized bows work here because everything is in proportion. Let me assure you, math and fashion have a lot to do with each other. Model Carly was given a winner here.
Next up is the work of Natsuki Shigeta (Tsukikegeya)
Tsukikegeya are famous for their Summer pop-up shop at the entrance of Laforet in Harajuku. They have filled a niche, making high quality non-traditional Yukata, often in punk or glamour styles. The aesthetic presented here, though, is known as Street-style Yukata:
That has it all: The hair, the color, and the ice cream cones that make remind onlookers that Summer is a sweet season. Note the heavy use of white as a means of keeping the outfit cool in the heat. Model Yani wore this very well.
Fittingly, model Summer got a chance to showcase the Summer fashions. Frankly, this looks quite similar to the previous outfit. It trades a little bit of the humor for the more traditional striped pattern. I can’t speak ill of the pompadour, though, which has one heck of a history.
Next up, we have the work of Hitomi Nomura and Naoaki Tobe (Grimoire) with a style known as “Vintage Fairy Tale”, although this is one case where I might disagree with Misha and refer to it as “Dolly Kei.” They both have similar roots in the style of “Forest girl”, so perhaps it is just a semantic difference.
A still photo does not do this outfit justice. It flows beautifully when in motion. However, that brings me to bright yellow sneakers. Forcing cognitive dissonance is a time honored way of getting noticed in the fashion world, but here I wonder if ruby red slippers would fit much better with the aesthetic. BTW, model Victorianme has a wonderful Tumblr.
This getup works together thematically, and yet wasn’t nearly as striking as its predecessor on the runway. That wasn’t the fault of model Stephanie Mi as she clearly grokked the aesthetic Misha was creating. For the record, the stylists did a great job with the hair and makeup. The eyelashes in particular were mesmerizing in person.
Next up is one of Japan’s takes on Goth fashion, known simply as Japanese Gothic. This is the work of Riria (Nude n’ Rude), and it is often referred to as Bright Despair.
This was my single favorite ensemble of the show. Classic heels, 50’s pink sweater, black-on-gray skirt and leggings, with the eyes and horns to grab your attention. I can take or leave the green apple. Model Cara Antoinette had a lot of fun with this.
Before I talk about the outfit, let me talk about the model, Toshi. She is a professional makeup artist, and she did her own makeup for the show. After you’re done admiring the makeup, take a close look at those heels. She maximized their shock value with a creepy mechanical doll walk. As for the outfit, I don’t love it nearly as much as the 50’s chic goth. It’s not that there is anything wrong with it, but it has so much going on that no one thing stands out. However, in this case, the apple worked perfectly.
Next up is perhaps the oldest of the Harajuku fashions, Shibuya Gal (aka, Gyaru). This is the work of d.i.a., but don’t bother looking for their website as they don’t have one.
Here, we see Queen Sayuri rocking a traditional d.i.a. design. d.i.a. is known for denim bottoms, gold accessories, and showing some skin (often sleeveless, or open shoulder). As someone once said of The Old Course at St. Andrews “You don’t come here to find your game. You come here because you already have it.” One does not wear d.i.a. to find self confidence. As for this outfit itself, I find it to be less about the clothes and more about the model wearing them. This is an outfit you wear because you want people to see you.
Ah, platform shoes, long time no see. Here we see model Miriami Maisashrili playing it a bit safer with white ripped denim, silver shoes, a gold cap, bare arms, and a very light blue top. This is a very American aesthetic, which makes sense since Gyura comes from an old denim ad.
Next up are designs by Comi and Tanimi (M.Y.O.B-NYC). The look is known as Future Asian or “Cool street style”:
While the influences may be Asian, Indian, and middle eastern, I find Nicole Bonfiacio’s overall aesthetic quite Pequot. When I gauged audience reaction, this was the best received outfit of the show.
Similar B&W look. Shanequa Campbell did a good job keeping balanced in those shoes.
Proof that not all platform shoes are created equal. I’d hate to try to run in either of those.
Next up is Sebastian Masuda’s colorful attack on our senses (6%DOKIDOKI). This style is known as Kawaii Anarchy:
I wonder if Zac Whilton was surprised at the yellow lipstick. The clothing all seems to blend together, but the lipstick catches and keeps your attention. I’m not sure that’s what I’d want to shoot for. Frankly, it’s remarkable how so much color can end up canceling itself out.
Purinrin cci made this look elegant, although I wonder if black shoes, black leggings, jet black hair, and the colorful blouse would make a stronger impression. Then again, Kawaii Anarchy is all about the “Colorful Revolution”, and it is not Masuda’s style to work in half-measures. BTW, check out his latest time capsule project.
We close with the most striking looks of the show:
Kawaii Anarchy doesn’t seem that anarchic relative to this. I hope model Saragrace Tramont enjoyed experience.
These looks came from Yoshihiko Goto’s resale shop Hayatochiri in Koenji. The look is called Neo Street Style. As we can see here via Brandon Cole Bailey, it makes quite an impression. They’ve been thriving for a while.
William Hazlitt wrote “Fashion lives only in a perpetual round of giddy innovation and restless vanity…it is haughty, trifling, affected, servile, despotic, mean and ambitious, precise and fantastical, all in a breath.”
You may not agree with his opinion, but he was clearly on to something. Fashion moves quickly, especially so in Harajuku. One of my favorite fashion stories involves the New York Times. An accountant I knew saw that one of his clients, a handbag manufacturer, got slammed. They hated his handbags. They were too big, too gaudy, and would be too heavy if filled. He was actually going to see that client that very day, and he was expecting a funereal atmosphere. He found anything but. They were ecstatic. He was dumbfounded and asked “Don’t you care what they said?” The handbag manufacturer replied “Who cares, they said it on the front page!” (it was the front page of the section). He was right, and his business grew.
A bad review isn’t an anathema to a fashion designer. Not everyone is going to like your work. What’s more important is that it be seen and for some people to passionately support you. I didn’t love all the outfits at the show, but that’s not important. I loved some of them. I expect that your tastes won’t align exactly with mine. What’s important is that people get to see them, and form their own opinions. For that, I thank Misha, NHK World, and WakuWaku.