Foreign impressions of Japan are skewed towards Japan’s odd and bizarre. This isn’t something new – it has been du jour ever since Japan first opened up to foreign dialogue. Japan was supposed to be the land of the ‘devil’s tongue’. Then it was filled with fanatics bent on death, who were on the verge of world domination. Then it was rude salarymen who were using financial bushido to conquer California. Maybe it is an improvement to say that today Japan is supposed to be a collection of the cute, the odd, and the bizarre (and perverse).
The current view may be best understood by examining Japan’s fashion culture. Put on Gwen Stefani’s “Harajuku Girls” and you’ll hear tales of fashion know-it-alls prowling Harajuku in odd (yet fashionable) clothing. Mix that with some classic Japanese “re-interpretations” of Western fashions, and you get the Goth Lolita style. GL is a living and thriving subculture, with it being catered to by magazines. Today, you’re getting a look at one such periodical – the Gothic Lolita Bible.
The cover illustration is beautiful and eye-catching. Intricate pencils by Mitsukazu Mihara indicate the “charm point” of the Lolita genre – a loving attention to even the slightest details, mixed with high-contrast colours that serve to highlight the odd contradictions in the style itself – the subtle, dark dreams of Goths mixed with the beauty and the innocence that bears the ‘Lolita’ label.
The magazine features several major goth/lolita designers, not least of which is “BABY THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT”. The aforementioned label was made world-famous after the release of Kamikaze Girls, a story of the friendship between a Gothic Lolita and a Yanqi.
It would be amiss for me not to mention the major recurring theme – Teddy bears. Yes, Teddy Roosevelt’s namesake is a hot fashion accessory for GL’s in Japan. The variety is stunning. Just on the cover you see “sleeping” bears dangling as earrings, eye-patched pirate bears, and normal bear serving as a motif on her skirt. This is a recurring element within the covers of this photo tribute to the GL culture. Madly detailed, dressed-up, always unique – these stuffed bears (and bunnies) are indispensable accessories for the girl who wants to be the Japanese goth-loli.
Have a look; you don’t have to be into this fashion culture to know this is fascinating stuff.