Gothic & Lolita

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Photographer: Masayuki Yoshinaga

Foreward by: Katsuhiko Ishikawa

Publisher: Phaidon

Date Published: 2007

Pages: 270 colour photographs, 272 total

Size: 6 1/4 x 8 5/8 in

From the publishers of ‘Fruits and Fresh Fruits’ comes another installment of the Japanese street fashion compendium. ‘Gothic & Lolita’ focuses on two subgroups within the highly expressive Japanese youth fashion culture. Despite being released in a similar format to ‘Fruits and Fresh Fruits’, the series creator (Shoichi Aoki) has not been directly involved in the book’s production. Instead the photography is by Masayuki Yoshinaga and the action takes place in Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, as well as the famous Harajuku district in Tokyo. Katsuhiko Ishikawa contributes a short, but informative foreword about the origins and history of the two styles.

Gothic fashion in Japan has a distinctive flare that sets it apart from its western counterparts. It invokes more of a themed dress up, like a crazier ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ spectacle, and also incorporates influences from anime and Japanese ‘visual rock bands’. Because of the focus on Gothic style, the book is a far more darker affair and takes the reader into the night life culture of Japan. The average age of the participants is between 19-28 – a lot higher than ‘Fruits and Fresh Fruits’. This is an older, less innocent group of fashionistas than the previous compendiums, which allows the reader to view another side to this fashion subculture, as well as the imminent future of some of the younger participants.

Lolita is defined by frills, petticoats and child like dresses. The style reflects a romanticised version of 18th Century European fashion, particularly with French Rococo influences. ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and many western fairy tales seems to also be an inspiration for the Lolita followers. There is an unsettling quality in Lolita fashion, they evoke the little girls that seem to frequent horror films like ‘The Shining’ or ‘The Ring’ (this aspect is highlighted particularly when you realise that most of the ‘girls’ are actually around 25). The occasional portrait of their bedrooms further increases the feeling of creepiness and haunted houses, yet also helps appreciate the lengths these fans go to. Their bedrooms are a true testament to their dedication.

Gothic and Lolita may seem like a strange mix, but they are actually two sides of the same coin. They compliment each other because they are so opposite in style and ideals, yet have similar features; a love of fantasy and romance, western influences and an element of masquerade. Indeed, I often ponder what employment the 28 year old Lolita dresser has or what the ghoulish, night owl Gothic does during the day time. Format wise, the two styles break up the potential monotony of the layout and images.

‘Gothic & Lolita’ is a testament to the outrageous effort and importance fashion holds to these two extreme groups. The harshly conservative reputation of the Japan only heightens my admiration for these people who feel the need to express themselves so loudly and do so anyway, despite fear of reprimand.

‘Gothic & Lolita’ will never be as accomplished a book as ‘Fruits and Fresh Fruits’ because of its intense focus on only two groups – who are already a niche within a niche. Despite the styles being so different the book still has a more repetitive feel than its predecessors. However, the quality of fashion and photography in the book is still outstanding and it should find a welcome place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in Japan, fashion or culture in general.

♥♥♥♥ – 4/5

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