So I want to share a story, one that has been inspiring me since it was privately told to me a few years back. It involves one of the most celebrated visionaries in history, Serge Lutens, and how he got started. The story is sprinkled with a message about believing in yourself, and also holding fast to your intuition and judgement of others. Here we go…
Expectations can make or break success. Tokyo relies on some of the most amazing stereotyped PR of high expectations called “Kodawari” to stay as one of the most beloved cities to visit, and one of the most amazing places to find fashion in the world. But what happens when the bar is set so high and expectations for even the smallest thing are not exactly met? Commence…”volcanic irritation”!
I stood still in the middle of Shibuya scramble crossing one spring day when I was 18 years old, the crowd swarming around me in all directions like koi in a pond. J-pop played on the jumbo screen, it was a mix of words I could and couldn’t discern. It felt energetic…like a vortex, some kind of gravitational pull into an unknown planet in the center of some dream-like universe. I have always been a person of extremes; either go really safe or just go wild, quit cold turkey or inhale at once. So for American me to make a decision like this was a life-altering sacrament. I decided: “I’m going to live RIGHT. HERE.”
Well, I never expected this day to come, or that I would ever actually be saying this out loud, but I have lived in Tokyo… for TEN years! I know you all can count, but that’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (!) years in one of the places considered *most* different from the culture I grew up in… (and oh how grateful I am, because I couldn’t have made it this far without lots of support…..) There is so much I have learned in these 10 years, not only about living in Tokyo, but about working in fashion in general.
I have found the most comfortable avantgarde fashion in the history of things.
The idea of “comfort” comes up a lot in the discourse of avantgarde fashion, and it makes sense; avantgarde is never meant to be comfortable, it is the antithesis of comfort. It’s is about design and aesthetic. High fashion is not *supposed* to be comfortable!!
But WAIT. What I am about to say may come as a shocker, but in one of the most successful “mode” brands on the planet, I have found the most comfortable clothing…
Were you happy with the clothes you wore as a child? When my mom talks about my “crazy” outfits, she’s referring to the days where she allowed me to dress myself, usually ending up with a mishmash of colors and patterns too outrageous for her to take credit for. If only a designer like Caroline Bosmans was around, I could have been outrageous but still not so harmful to all of the cheek-pinching adults’ eyes. You have to see it to believe her incredibly well-done fantastical collections…
Talk about Valley of the Dolls. “Blythe” is Japan’s answer to Barbie, with oversized alien-esque head and eyes and petite physique. Oh, and she’s got a signature smirk…hey, she sounds like a model! Then how perfect would it be to make her the same size as one, and put her in the latest Bottega Veneta collection? Because fashion. And because Japan. And because… why not
Japan takes “tomboy” to another level. What about females who dress as boys, talk like boys, are treated as boyfriends, and become famous as boys? It’s more than just pants and pressed collars and goes WAY beyond just being a fashion trend. It’s called “boyish-kei” (ボーイッシュ系 ) and it’s *fascinating*.