2015 Fashion Adventures

inceAt the end of 2015, I had to confront a hard truth: I’ve lost interest in dressing up.  It’s not a complete abandonment.  I still think J-fashion is really cool, and I do bust out my ensembles for special occasions.  The reality is that I won’t go out of my way to attend meet-ups or to relentlessly pursue sales on brand items.  On the flip side, I won’t stop my yearly recaps or suddenly become very mundane with my fashion.

I also will continue to take a peek at the new style tribes that are covered by Style Arena.  This year had a couple of intriguing ones.  The Shuffler caught my eye because Kareshi learned that dance form but dresses the total opposite of that group.  “Survival game fashion” is something akin to what I’ve done before although I’ve combined it with another style, like visual kei below (this was from when I was in Japan 6 years ago).  I’ve always enjoyed military chic so this is probably the one tribe from this year’s group that fits my aesthetic.

I did buy a new piece this year: a black Baby the Stars Shine Bright blouse.  It was going to be worn to my friends’ wedding in November, but I decided to debut it at a neo-Victorian meet-up at a Sherlock Holmes special exhibit.  Unfortunately I got the meeting times mixed up, and Kareshi did not get a full outfit shot like I had thought.
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I paired the blouse with my pinstripe pants, a cloak in gamekeeper’s tweed (which reminded me of Holmes’ infamous deerstalker), and a magnifying glass necklace. This not-quite-steampunk/not-quite-ouji mash-up is my favorite new outfit of 2015.

My favorite outfit overall is my steampunk ouji number that I covered in 2012.  It’s unassuming enough to be my con ensemble for when I’m working press (I think the newsboy cap helps me feel as thought it fits).  I wore it to Anime Matsuri, where I sat in on the boystyle panel with Akira and Shiva from Atelier Boz.  They stood by the door to shake hands with all of us, and Shiva said I looked really cool.  Although the outfit is one of my all-time faves, I don’t think much of it because it’s not as fancy as other steampunks or oujis.  Shiva’s comments made me feel really good since sometimes I feel like I’m just stumbling along and throwing together clothing.
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Speaking of Anime Matsuri, being at the fashion show did remind me why I was drawn to J-fashion in the first place.  Despite having covered it already, I’m gonna share some more pics because everyone looked fantastic. I also want to go on the record and say that I hope for other cons to take on J-fashion that treats their models and guests more professionally and respectfully.

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Atelier Boz and Angelic Pretty

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Putumayo and Metamophose

Ironically 2015 had me closer to lolita than ever before because I finally had a fluffy petticoat and a proper blouse to go under my Baby JSK. As a result, I wound up putting together a gothic lolita outfit for the library’s annual Edgar Allan Poe Victorian Steampunk Halloween. As a part of the volunteer group, I had brought that there are other fashion subcultures that would fit so I took it upon myself to represent the lolis.

With the poof, I could barely fit in the coffin.

With that ensemble, I attempted at byojaku make-up, a trend that caught global attention in 2015. A lot of people don’t like the fact that you look sickly, but I’ve kinda been a fan of the dead girl look a la My Chemical Romance’s “Helena” video. I went a little too light on the blush and too heavy on the eyeliner (the latter I always do). Maybe I should have watched one of RinRin Doll’s tutorials:

And here I was afraid that I wouldn’t have anything to write about. My style resolution last year was to just be myself and possibly try more ouji. The former has worked out perfectly. The latter didn’t go as expected, but I have been adopting a more androgynous style. I think this year’s resolution is to just keep doing my thing… and maybe do a better attempt at byojaku make-up.

Listening to: “PoW!” by FEMM


The Mary Baskett Collection of Japanese Fashion

Last year, a special exhibit featuring items from the Mary Baskett Collection of Japanese Fashion opened at the Crow Collection of Asian Art.  The former Curator of Prints at the Cincinnati Art Museum discovered three Japanese fashion designersIssey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, and Yohji Yamamotoon a business trip.  She began collecting and wearing their clothes, and in 2007, her collection made its debut in Cincinnati.  Although the exhibit has already closed in Dallas, you can enjoy some of the pictures I took and a bit about each of the designers.
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From left: Comme des Garçons A/W 2009/2010 dress, Yohji Yamamoto x Cyborg 009 A/W 2012 wool sweater and underdress, and Issey Miyake A/W 2010/2011 132_5 Dress

All three are well-known today for being fashion innovators, melding traditional and avant-garde, East and West.  When their designs first appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, Western critics were shocked by the oversized silhouettes, raw edges, and monochromatic palettes.  They introduced the Western fashion world to Japanese aesthetics and new techniques and have been fashion powerhouses ever since.

Issey Miyake made his debut in 1971 in New York and is known for experimenting with layers and space in his designs.  He created the infamous black turtlenecks that Steve Jobs wore, and he developed a new method of pleating fabric that made garments easier to wear and launder.  After “retiring” from design in 1997, he focused on textile technology, leading to the creation of A-POC (A Piece of Cloth).  Over a decade older than 3-D printing, this customizable  garment emerges from a piece of cloth that is cut into the finished product, no sewing required.
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This is an example of Miyake’s A-POC with the cloth transformed into a skirt.

Founder of Comme des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo founded the company in 1973 and is involved in all aspects of it.  Her clothes challenge the ideas of fashion and beauty with their raw edges and bulky shapes.  Until the late 1980s, she stuck to mostly black to bring focus to form and structure.  Comme des Garçons often changes styles each season, as Kawakubo constantly reworks her ideas.  This eccentric designer is thought to be one of the inspirations for Edna Mode from The Incredibles.
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The dress on the left is from the 2005/2006 Broken Bride collection and is a collaboration between Kawakubo and Christian Astuguevieille.

Yohji Yamamoto debuted alongside Comme des Garçons in Paris in 1981.  He too featured deconstructed elements, asymmetry, and a monochromatic palette.  His influences include both traditional Japanese clothing and the Belle Époque fashions, and he designs with the idea of making menswear look good on women.  In 2003, Yamamoto teamed up with Adidas to create his sportswear line, Y-3.
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The middle wool suit from Yamamoto’s 2006/2007 collection consists of a jacket, bodysuit, and skirt/trousers.

Throughout the exhibit were quotes from each designer about their aesthetic, which tended to challenge conventional beauty and design. There was also an area for those who have been inspired to draw their own outfits.
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Listening to: “DON’T STOP” by Tanaka Alice

akai SKY interview on JRock247

Recently I was able to conduct an interview with akai SKY, whom I saw at AnimeFest.


How does Chasing Lights reflect how each of you has grown over the course of ten years?

Ryuusei: Our recording engineer remarked that our songwriting had really grown since Heart, Attack! [their second EP, released in 2013]. I think we’ve really grown in how we develop our songs, particularly in the area of arrangement and with this release, adding different backing tracks. Individually, I think the individual parts we write have all gotten stronger and show more of our individual personalities.

Umi: We’ve built upon our previous experiences and tried some new things with Chasing Lights that we haven’t done before. Every time we do something, we try to make it a little bigger and better using what we learned from the process the last time around.

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

Listening to: “Break Down!” by akai SKY

2011 in Fashion, part 2

In to continuation of my recap of 2011’s fashion trends, I’ll provide some of my thoughts on what should stick around this year. Check out the first part here.

What should stay
Androgyny – While 2010 saw more crossdressing guys, 2011 was about girls embracing their inner tomboy. I wonder if inspiration came from having three gender-bending J-dramas and Lady Gaga’s male alter-ego Jo Calderone, who debuted in the 2010 Autumn/Winter issue of Vogue Hommes Japan. Regardless of the origins, I hope the lines of gender continue to be blurred.

Berets – It has been brought to my attention that berets haven’t taken off on the Tokyo streets yet; the magazines appear to be promoting the trend. I’d like to see what becomes of it.

Ora ora kei – Although I dislike the heavy tans (skin cancer risk!), I think this is a cool subset of gyaru fashion. It seems to not be so expensive, and I like the extra bit of edge with the tattoos and tough attitudes.  Also, I think it’s really cool that the ora ora kei girls ride motorcycles.

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I wouldn’t recommend riding in the outfits they have, but check out their modded bikes (also, note that they didn’t settle for the typical 250; these girls are badass).  From Soul Sister vol. 1 via aramatheydidn’t

What needs to go
Fur – I love the feel of faux fur, but it rarely looks good. It looks especially bad with the ear hoodies and beanies that have also taken off around the world (who wants to look like stuffed animal?).

Hairbows – Okay, bows are cute, especially on lolitas. However, I feel like they’re getting ridiculous large now, and they don’t work well if you’re trying for a more mature look.

Marine – I find the marine style to be very limited. Sailor collars make a blouse more interesting, but you can only have so many versions of a sailor lolita. Also, the only person who can pull off marine stripes is Jean Paul Gaultier himself.

What remains to be determined
Denim – I hate skinny jeans with a passion, but I love wide-leg and boot-cut. Jackets are okay; dresses are hard to pull off. Designers can’t go too crazy with denim or people will start looking like bad cowboy imitations.

Red – We become saturated with a color that is “in”, and because red isn’t for everyone (I love it), I’m not sure it has staying power. It’s also easy to overdo red.
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Ayumi Hamasaki takes the red look a touch too far with her super bright lipstick and shows exactly how big hairbows can be.  From S Cawaii Feb. 2011

Retro – Traveling back in time via clothes is fun, but I want a bit more original reinvention of past trends. While some looks are classic and should be revived, we have to be careful to not to repeat the fashion mistakes of our predecessors.

Sensei’s Style in 2011
Biggest hot mess – I don’t even know what look I was going for, but I had a long maroon skirt, a black tank top, my Black Peace Now ruffled top, and Mary Jane-like shoes. That just looked like a failed attempt at Mori Girl, but I decided to throw on my vinyl jacket. It was bad.

Best outfit – J-rock Bishounen Anti-hero
2011 fashion show entry
Although the original look, which consisted mainly of a Deoart vest and Sixh pants, came from 2010, I felt like I took it to another level at the 2011 Crow Collection J-fashion show. I became inspired by the mysterious bishounen of Uraboku and decided to put add an anime element to the outfit with a wig. Just wearing the clothes made me feel cool.

Most influential style – androgyny
2011 was mostly a continuation of steampunk, but I rediscovered androgyny late in the summer. For the past couple of years, my appearance became more feminine, and it felt odd so I am really embracing the masculine look. So far I’ve incorporated it into J-rock, steampunk, and casual. I also got back into ouji.

What do you think about 2011’s fashion trends? What was your personal style of the past year?

Listening to: “Graffiti” – Gackt

2011 in Fashion, part 1

2011 was an interesting year for J-fashion.  On one hand, the earthquake aftermath brought an interest in minimalism and practicality.  Fashion was frivolous and even hazardous, as the Tokyo office ladies who had to walk miles home in high heels would tell you.  On other hand, alternative fashion hung onto a quirkiness that could be found in style icons like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Even with tightened purse strings and grave matters on their minds, the truly devoted lovers of clothing found a way to express themselves.

What was left behind in 2010
Headbands – By headbands, I mean the ones worn across the forehead (hippie style). The ones worn on top of your head were still common.

Mountains of accessories – With the decline of decora, hime kei, and the economy, less became more. Although street fashion remains outrageous for some, most individuals seemed to limit their accessorizing.

Nordic fashion – Nordic prints didn’t last too long, as plaid and animal print came back in style (not that they ever really left).

Yama Girl – After Yama Girl became popular, there were attempts to make other outdoor activities trendy with chic running gear and the Tsuri Girl (Fishing Girl). Neither really took off, and the Yama Girl became more obscure. Either practicality won out style or the fashionistas decided to stay indoors.

What carried over into 2011
Bows and berets – Headwear has been growing in popularity. However, hair bows and berets became the must-have accessories, whether you were a gyaru, lolita, or punk.
2011 fashion3 from Kera, Nov. 2011

Fur – Fur went away for a couple years, and then it came back with a vengeance. The animal ear hats were bigger and fuzzier than ever (and they invaded the U.S.), and stoles became a hot winter item.

Marine – Army style gave way to the navy in 2010, and marine stripes and sailor outfits became popular with both the Shibuya 109 and LaForet crowds.
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What sprouted up in 2011
Androgyny – While no stranger to alternative fashion, more masculine looks made their way into the trendier magazines with Zipper having a “boy vs. girl” feature and Soup giving their models a tomboy makeover.

Denim – Jeans aren’t a staple in Japan, as they are in the U.S. However, they became more popular in 2011. There was also denim jackets, Not only have jeans become more popular, but there were jackets, dresses,

Ora ora kei – Ora ora kei is a mishmash of gyaruo and yanki. Key points include black track suits, tank tops, tanned skin, tattoos, gold accessories, and sunglasses. Its popularity in the past year probably resulted from a need for a manlier style and for the gyaru, a tougher and sexier style. Ora Ora kei for the ladies really took off with the birth of Soul Sister.
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Exile’s Atsushi is a style icon for ora ora kei guys.

Red – Perhaps in reaction to the neutral garments, red accents were seen all over the place: shoes, berets, and lips to name a few. Lolita also seemed to embrace the vibrant hue, as even the pastel-dominated brand Angel Pretty had a few red dresses.

Retro – 2011 fashion trends traveled through the decades. We had pleated skirts from the 1950s, maxi dresses from the 60s, wide-leg jeans form the 70s, and baggy shirts from the 80s. Rockabilly and old school punk influence the mainstream a bit, and Lumine paid tribute to the 60s and 80s at the Tokyo Girls Award fashion show.
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Aya Omasa, who played the frilly fashion student Miwako in Paradise Kiss, shows off a simple 70s-inspired look.  From non-no Aug. 2011

Fashion seemed to change drastically in the past year, and yet there were many things we had seen before: black glasses, plaid, and fur. 2011 also saw a dichotomy of hard versus soft with the rise of ora ora kei juxtaposed with the softer vintage looks. Neutral tones and bright 60s-inspired palettes also provided an interesting contrast. It will be interesting to see where things go next year.

Listening to: “Wonder Woman” by Namie Amuro feat. AI and Anna Tsuchiya