My Current Reads – World Book Day

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Today is world book day so I thought I would take the chance to share some of the books I am currently reading. My house is full of random stacks of books but those above are residing on my bedside table. At a glance:

If you like Company Magazine – try Geek Girl

If you like KERA! magazine – try The Tokyo Look Book & Kamikazi Girls

If you like Harpers Bazaar – try Women from the Ankle Down

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I picked up Women from the Ankle Down by Rachel Bergstein as the blurb promised to answer what it was about shoes that enchanted women. “Part social history, part fashion record, part pop-culture celebration,Women from the Ankle Down’ seeks to answer that question as it unfolds the story of shoes in the twentieth century. Featuring interviews with designers, historians, and cultural experts, and a cast of real life characters from Marilyn Monroe to Jane Fonda. A lively, compelling look at the evolution of modern women and the fashion that reflects-and has shaped-their changing lives.”┬á┬áWhilst the book started with the fascinating story of renowned shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo, it fizzled out from that point. Packed with interesting little snippets -did you know Dorothy’s ruby slippers were originally silver? – the narrative is unfocused and often trails off the topic of shoes entirely, whilst flitting from subject to subject. Perhaps I was expecting something more academic, this book won’t answer any philosophical questions but it is a delightfully easy read, full of charming facts.

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Geek Girl was sent to me to read for review, which I was eager to do in supporting fellow blogger Holly Smale. “My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek. – Harriet Manners knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a ÔÇ£jiffyÔÇØ lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. But she doesnÔÇÖt know why nobody at school seems to like her. So when Harriet is spotted by a top model agent, she grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her best friend’s dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of impossibly handsome model Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves.”┬áObviously not my usual reading fodder and aimed at people who are young enough to be my children, yet I found myself smiling in spite of myself as I followed Harriet on her adventures. Full of teen angst, bringing back memories of quite how akwards being a teen really was. Whilst the plot was a little predictable, this is a fun book I know many teens will identify with.

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The Tokyo Look Book by Keet & Manabe fell (cough) into my shopping basket as a recommendation after I had purchased Fruits and Gothic & Lolita a while back. There it had stayed as I by passed it for other tomes, I mean much as I love Japanese street style did I really need yet another photo-book? Actually yes, yes I did as this book is photo’s and so much more. Grouping the street style shots into their identified subcultures such as Gyaru and Lolita with mini interviews along side each shot, Keets delves into the cultural and terratorial backgrounds of the participants, with feature interviews with the designers the kids on the street are wearing (she even speaks, yes speaks directly with Mana – for the Visual Kei fans). If you love street style, but want to know more about those in the spot light then this book is a must have.

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The translation of Shimotsuma Monogatari by Novala Takemoto, Kamikazi Girls is the action packed, fantasy dream world tale of two girls, their love of fashion and eventually a great friendship. I am yet to delve too far into this book, however I am aware it does have some difference to the movie of the same name. Some argue for the book, others the movie so I am looking forward to seeing which I favour myself. Guess I will have to come back to this review, although how could I fail to identify with a character with a love of Vivienne Westwood! “Life in the boondocks of rural Ibaraki prefecture is anything but glamorous, and to escape her humdrum existence, Momoko, a “Lolita,” fanaticizes about French rococo, dreams of living in the palace of Versailles, and decks herself out in the finest (and frilliest) of 18th century haute couture from an expensive Tokyo specialty store. Her dreams of an idyllic existence are rudely interrupted by the appearance of Ichigo, a tough-talking “Yanki” motorcycle-chick (on a tricked-out moped) who’s part of a girls-only biker gang known as the Ponytails. Together, this unlikeliest of duos strikes out on a quest to find a legendary embroiderer, a journey that takes them to back-alley pachinko parlors, chic boutiques, and epic bike-punk battles.”

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Kitty & the Bulldog: Lolita Fashion Exhibition V&A

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Kitty, as in Hello Kitty and the Bulldog, as in the British Bulldog, representing the juxtaposition of Japanese and British fashions. The exhibition examines how British fashion influenced the Japanese street-style know as Lolita fashion. On thing to be clear is that Japanese Lolita has nothing to do with the novel of the same name. In fact the two are at opposing ends of the spectrum, as Lolita fashion is every thing to do with cuteness (kawaii) and innocence. The clothing is modest, skirts below the knee and prim blouses buttoned to the neck. In a way it is a rebellion against the overtly sexualised way women are represented, killing it with cuteness. Taking pretty and feminine to the extreme.

Lolita fashion arose in Japan sometime during the 1980’s, the aim to dress in such a modest and elegant way, living a pure, untainted life. Original inspiration comes from Victorian and Rococo eras, the most iconic of Lolita outfits somewhat resembling a Victorian doll. As Lolita became more popular different sub-cultures grew, many incorporating elements of Western fashion.

“A striking feature of Lolita fashion is the extent to which it is influenced by British culture: Alice in Wonderland, Glam Rock, the New Romantics, Gothic, Punk and Vivienne Westwood. Although the attitude and aggression of Punk and Gothic have no place in the world of the Lolita, the movement represents a similarly powerful rebellion against the conventions of contemporary society.”

An interesting aspect of Lolita fashion is how the sub-cultures arise. It is a very much brand lead market, with each sub-culture having one or more main brands who produce the clothing. Though wearing a brand doesn’t immediately put the wearer into a specific sub-culture it is still very much dependent on the full co-ordinate (outfit), some brands can be interpreted into many sub-cultures and others more static. It turn this mainstreamed the fashion and made it assessable outside Japan. The V&A exhibition focuses on the brands and the sub-cultures which they promote.

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Classic Lolita

Classic Lolita is represented by an Innocent Word outfit, the focal point is the Rococo influenced dress which has a red putti (cherub) and rabbit print. The simple colour pallet and softening aspects such as the lace wristlets, shawl and parasol mark out the style. Adding to the look are the sweet little knitted bunnies carried in the basket, reenforcing the innocence being portrayed. Innocent World was founded by Yumi Fujiwara and produces both Classic and Sweet Lolita styles.

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Sweet Lolita (left) and Alice and the Pirates (right)

Sweet Lolita is the oldest of the Lolita styles, originating in the 1980s with brands such as Shirley Temple and Pink House. It is also one of the most popular styles outside Japan. Easily recognisable, the look is all about pastel colours such as pink, blue, purple and green. The pastels are further sweetened with the addition of candy themed prints such as sweets, cupcakes, macarons and ice cream however there are many other prints, anything goes so long as it is cute. Huge hair bows and pastel coloured wigs are also popular. The Sweet Lolita outfit show here is by the mega brand Baby, the Stars Shine Bright (BTSSB or Baby for short). The Tokyo brand was established in 1988 by Akinori and Fumiyo Isobe, however it was in 2004 when the company was launched to fame by the film Shimotsuma Monogatari ‘Shimtosuma story‘ (re-released in 2006 as Kamikaze Girls with English subtitles). In the film the main character Momoko is a Lolita who wears BTSSB exclusively through out the film. The film, based on the 2002 novella by Novala Takemoto, tell the story of a young girl and her trials and tribulations to have her dream wardrobe, but is essentially a story about friendship something at the heart of the Lolita community.

The second outfit shown above is from Alice and the Pirates a sub-brand of BTSSB, created to meet the needs of the growing popularity for more Gothic styles. Whilst still sweet it has slightly darker undertones, influenced by Alice in Wonderland and Pirates (as in the Vivienne Westwood 1981 ‘Pirate’ collection, more romantic than pillaging the high seas). In this ensemble the striped tights and clock handbag hit at aspects from Alice in Wonderland, along with the black ribbons marking it out from it’s Sweet counterpart.

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Elegant Gothic Lolita

Gothic Lolita is another popular branch of Lolita fashion, most recognisable by the use of black and white. The Lolita Gothic style relates back to Victorian Gothic and though uses dark colours it is still very much related to sweetness and innocence. One of the main Gothic Lolita brands is Moi-m├¬me-Moiti├® created by Mana of the band Malice Mizer in 1999 to define his own style. This sub-brance of Gothic Lolita is know as Elegant Gothic Lolita (EGL). for girls and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat (EGA) for guys. The vivid blue in the above outfit is often used by the brand.

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Gothic Lolita

The above outfit is also Gothic Lolita, this design is by Alice Auaa who established the brand in 1995. This brand is somewhat set apart from other Lolita styles due to the interest in S&M, bondage and Gothic horror. The couture-like designs are now show in runway fashion shows and at price points beyond reach of many, yet the workmanship is exquisite.

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Punk Lolita

Punk Lolita is perhaps the most surprising evolution of the Lolita sub-styles. As a Brit the anarchic ways of British Punk are well know, yet Punk Lolita takes bad-ass and makes it cuddly! Zippers, safty pins, tartan, studs and chains are all combined with the pretty, girly Lolita silhouette. The above outfit is by Putumayo, who opened their first store in Harajuku in 1990. They stock punk items including things suitable or Punk Lolita but are not an exclusively Lolita brand.

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Punk Lolita

This Punk Lolita outfit is quite detached from the frilly, full skirts of the Lolita styles we have already looked at. The outfit is actually unisex and is a real hybrid of cultural styles. The clothing here is from the brands Sixh. and MINT Neko both belonging to the umbrella company KINCS clothing group. It is a much more casual style and something which is very similar to what is seen worn in the UK if you replaced the sandals with Converse.

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Japanese Lolita

Japanese Lolita is a strikingly different look to the Sweet and Classic styles, the most obvious features are that the clothes have traditional Japanese influence rather than European. The first outfit is by Takuya Angel, established in 1995 by self taught designer Takuya Sawada, who hand-makes all of his designs. He recycles old kimono material which is a trademark of his brand. Along with taking influence from Japanese culture the brand has elements of Cyber-Goth.

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Japanese Lolita

The most traditional of Japanese clothing is this outfit by Mamechiyo Modern. The designer who had been a vintage kimono dealer for many years set out to make kimono more wearable for everyday use with her own label. The designer experiments by introducing none traditional elements such as the headdress and lace collar, bringing appeal to the younger market.

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The exhibition was placed amongst historical Japanese displays, giving a wide perspective of the country past and present. I found it particularly intriguing to see in contrast to the Samurai armor and traditional kimono.

The exhibition is on until 24th Feb 2013, more information can be found on the V&A website.

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UK lolita’s visiting the exhibition, image (c) V&A