Mar 20

[lifestyle] Tokyo Fashion Festa NYC

Written by Leisl Schrader

If Lolita were a college student, perhaps a Fashion Design major at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology, the Tokyo Fashion Festa would be much like her senior thesis show. Her fanciful and innocent vision of fashion would express a great talent and imagination, as well as great potential for booming popularity.

The Festa, piggybacking onto NYC’s Fashion Week, was the first proper Lolita-themed fashion show outside of a convention (or the opening of “Baby, the Stars Shine Bright” store in San Francisco). Supporting the show were Sync Music Japan, a loose confederation of labels devoted to overseas promotion of Japanese artists, and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, keen on promoting Japanese “music culture” and Lolita fashion overseas. Misako Aoki, the “kawaii ambassador” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made the Festa her latest stop on a worldwide mission to promote Lolita that has so far spanned eight countries. The next day, she held a special meet and greet with fans at Tokyo Rebel, NYC’s first store dedicated exclusively to Japanese street fashion and Lolita brands.

Admission was free by reservation. Ticket reservations were first taken informally through email, and a second time through FIT’s website just two days before the event. Advertising seemed to be done exclusively over Facebook and Livejournal, sufficiently filling up the 750 person capacity of FIT’s HAFT auditorium.

Rock star brand “Baby, The Stars Shine Bright” started things off with a basic introduction to sweet Lolita styles. Frilled and layered jumpers and blouses, in white and only the palest of pink and blue, were paired with large hair bows and voluminous curls. “Angelic Pretty” did more than “Baby” to mix things up from the norm. Cyan and lavender were used alongside the usual white, pink, and sky blue. Some skirt designs even used glitter to enhance their graphic prints. All of the looks were paired with complementary purses (or bunnies, or magic scepters).

“MiELette Tautou” showed the most progressive direction of the Lolita brands, adopting elements of the natural Lolita and mori-kei trends. A new line debuting its first collection, the look is a far more subdued truer to actual Victorian era garments than the re-interpretive, over-the-top fantasy currently most prevalent. The bell shape curve is done away with, and skirts are long, either without curves or with a flared silhouette. Complimentary pieces included an empire waist cardigan and a cropped blazer.

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BTSSB offshoot line “Alice and the Pirates” was the one bastion for Gothic Lolita. Looks varied from the feminine red graphic-printed jumper and purple petticoat, to outright masculinity with red velvet knickers and matching puff-sleeved waistcoat with a miniature pork-pie hat. Peace Now brought the strongest image of classic Gothic elegance mixed with punk edge, with asymmetrical skirts, flowing petticoats in contrasting colors, and even shorts with thigh-high stockings. A small neck ruff made a strong impact as a uncommon piece directly drawn from historical fashions.

The “Madame Killer” line was created by Nichi Kashihara, one of the event’s organizers and the owner of a synonymous Soho boutique that imports Japanese fashions. Positioned as “gyaru,” the looks were more of a mix of NYC hipster and 1990s grunge. Tacked on at the end was the “hi-ho” line, inspired by the late and legendary X-Japan guitarist hide. Yukata and obi featuring bright colors and punk-styled prints, while a literal fusion of Japan and music, didn’t break any new ground, and didn’t quite fit alongside the event’s other lines.

Music and video was worked in with mixed effectiveness. Musical guests VY, composed of MOA on vocals and RIO on turntables, played a dark, techno pop-rock, and certainly dressed appropriately. Far less entertaining were two overly long commercial breaks from h.Naoto and Sync Music Japan. While the event production was not outright disruptive, flaws in lighting, transition timing, and an awkwardly unannounced show conclusion broke the magic at times.

Competing with big-name mainstream brands in the midst of New York City’s fashion week, it may be that our dear aspiring fashion star Lolita may not make it much farther than the small-time world of Japanese pop culture. There is, however, great potential for mainstream exposure in the “Japan Fashion Now” exhibit, coming this September at FIT. An event like the Tokyo Fashion Festa that shows the support of American fashion institutions, and of the Japanese music industry, may bring the big break she’s been hoping for.


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  1. Stocking-Fan

    Really cool stockings. Thanks for this.

  2. webdesign

    I have read couple of articles on your blog and can say it was really interesting, thanks for sharing this.

  3. Sarah

    Awesome photos and article! I wish I was there and/or could pull off the lolita look.

  4. Kytrax

    There’s been alot more activity down in Central and South America revolving around Asian cultures, so hopefully a good company will organize something soon.

  5. arauca

    AWESOME! :3 I’m glad that the Loli culture expands more and more for all over the world, unfortunately is not yet conquer Central America(specially my country Panama) in other hand is already in brazil and has a strong community in Peru

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