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Japanese Lolita [Fashion] Going Back Home to England
Street Fashion Exhibit at London Art Museum
"Assimilation" of Punk Rock and Alice in Wonderland
There is a special exhibition of Japanese lolita fashion at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, well known for fashion and design. The part that is focused on most is England's large cultural influence on Japanese street fashion.
The exhibit stands in the same building as traditional craft-work treasures like Japanese Arida Pottery and netsukes. This spring, one corner of the building is filled with mannequins decked out in dresses covered in frills and chains, and a T-shirt with a cat skull print on it.
Lolita fashion first started in the 1980s, and began to be known as its own "genre" of fashion in the 90s.
The exhibit, entitled "The Kitty and the Bulldog", introduces Hello Kitty style kawaii in the 90s which Japanese people adore and used as inspiration for their extreme street fashion. Gorgeous princess style called Sweet, darkly beautiful Gothic, safety pin and chain wearing Punk - all styles' popular brands are represented.
Sweet takes its inspiration from children's books of the Victorian era like Alice in Wonderland, Gothic's roots can be found in 70s glam rock star David Bowie, and 70s punk designer Vivienne Westwood has an influence on the punk fashion of today. There are also displays of "Modern Kimono" [1920s] and "Japanese lolita" [wa-lolita] which are covered in lace and bows.
The exhibit is part of a bigger post-WWII British design history series called "BRITISH DESIGN 1948~2012" which runs until August 12th, planned by Japanese modern craft-work history collection manager, Rupert Faulkner.
Mr. Faulkner is an expert in the field of Japanese modern crafts. For a long while he recognized the influence of British culture on sweet lolita but in his studies was surprised to also discover a deep relationship with punk and gothic lolita styles.
With just 9 mannequins, it's a rather small exhibit but still made big waves on Twitter. In May, a group of lolita fanciers gathered a group of about 100 to pay a visit.
According to Mr. Faulkner, lolita entered Europe and the UK after 2000. Although it seeped in with anime and manga, lolita grew from that base. 2004's Shimotsuma Monogatari (English title Kamikaze Girls) starring Kyoko Fukuda wearing frilly dresses and partaking in the life of a lolita served as a big influence, especially on the sweet lolita style.
"Take for example, the rebellion against the system that was a part of British Punk. Japanese lolitas have assimilated that aspect into their style. But they don't want to necessarily change the system. It has personal appeal to them as a quiet kind of rebellion" is Mr. Faulkner's analysis. One would expect this exhibit to inspire further research into lolita.
Akiko Fukai, chief curator at the Kyoto Costume Institute, said "I hope people understand how interesting it is that this fashion evolved naturally of our own [Japanese] culture". "Young people are the movers and shakers of modern fashion. The point is that they're against high fashion."
The exhibit will run until January 27th of next year.
Photo caption: Lolita fashion group (Tea Party Club) gathered at the Victoria and Albert Museum