Friday, 1 February 2013

#ESPspotlight on JUNYA YAMADA - KAWAII FASHION SPECIAL



This is a big one folks - quite possibly the biggest yet...


As some of you  may be aware, London Fashion Week AW13 will be dominating the wires starting a fortnight today. It will be my very first time covering parts of our City's bi-annual, fashion Mecca and so to quell my nerves (my very, very big nerves) - I thought it would be wise to get some mental preparation in, by taking a look at what goes into show creation, development and production

Easing myself in gently seems like the best approach; coming from a place full of light and energy of the less daunting kind...Instead of looking to London Town for that, I saw a perfect opportunity to connect my preparations with something I've been dying to learn more about over the last 2+ months...

If you cast your minds back to my Hyper Japan reviews at the end of last November; you may have caught my fascination with a particular panel on what I affectionately entitled 'Super Saturday' (seriously - it was A+mazing).

Guest speakers Masayuki Fukuyama and Junya Yamada (General Producer and Executive Creative Director, respectively) gave a captivating talk, introducing The Marble Collection - a revolutionary concept of the likes that fashion history has never before seen...




See why I'm so fascinated? Thought you might!

After that little teaser, I'm sure you will also see why when Junya Yamada asked the audience to come and speak with him at the end of the panel - I was ready and waiting in the (hypothetical) wings before he exited stage left. Floored by the entire concept, I wanted to explore where the idea came from, what it took for Yamada san to put it together not once, but twice; talk about the future of The Marble Collection and his wish to bring the show to the UK!

Here's what happened when he was gracious enough to grant me an interview, all the way from Japan...











Yamada San, I am so very honoured to have the opportunity to talk with you – thank you for your time. For my first question, I want to go back to your start:


1. When did your love of Fashion begin?

"I participated in 'Media performance unit  66b/cell' and learned the acting method on a stage focused on dancing since 1996. Then, I experienced many performances on the stages as a dancer and I joined to the fashion show production company, called DRUMCAN as a stage director in 2004.

DRUMCAN Fashion Show Director,
Junya Yamada







I became the one who directs performers from the one who performs.









I was already interested in fashion as one of the expression methods since I was working as a performer. I got more opportunities to involve fashion among young Japanese people, therefore I got more interests in fashion which is pop, and has varieties and freedom."


2. Based on my research, it would seem that your education and training have taken you all over the world. Would you mind talking about your studies? The courses you took and qualifications you gained, for instance?


"I learned the basic method as an actor since 1996 and joined to the International performance group called 'Media performance unit 66b/cell'. I learned the body expression method focusing on dance.

Later, I moved to New York in 1998 and mostly worked on dancing, acting and theatre. I experienced many stages as a dance performer from 1999 to 2003 in New York, US, Melbourne, Australia and Berlin, Germany. I joined to the fashion show production company called 'DRUMCAN' and have worked mainly for creating, performing, and producing since 2004. Now in 2010, I have worked for producing shows and planning to lead girl's culture such as 'Tokyo Girls Collection', 'Shibuya Girls Collection', 'Harajuku Style Collection' etc."



3. Dance seems to have been an integral part of your early career; what convinced you to leave that and go into Show Direction and Production?




"I noticed the uniqueness and the peculiarities in young Japanese people's fashion now days when I thought to spread Japanese culture to the world, so I joined to the fashion production company DRUMCAN that I thought I could appeal to them by making an entertainment show instead of making a fashion show.


Those were the reasons that I thought I want to show expressions not as a performer, but as a director, to expand the scale of its activities, and to try new things."





4. One of your comments that stood out from your Q&A Panel at Hyper Japan, was regarding the history of 'Lolita' fashion and how it was in fact a European trend that the Japanese adopted and have now made their own. What is it about the style that you think is so appealing in both European and Japanese Culture alike?


"Japanese Lolita fashion has been strongly influenced by the upper classes of the Middle Ages in Europe and the cue is from the fairy tales such as 'Cinderella', 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Snow White', like you used to read in childhood, or cartoons and animations of medieval view

There is a feeling in girls on the inner surface for longing to be a princess


It may be common sense, especially in women that both in Japan and the United Kingdom have Royal family and have affinities between the Countries."





5. Somerset House - one of our British Fashion landmarks - is about to be overrun with designers once again, when LFW returns for their AW13 showings two weeks from today. Is there anything about British Fashion that intrigues you?





"I had opportunities to know many designers in Japan in the past. For instance, when there was a show called 'MODE MIX', which was collaborated with Christopher KANE and MAQUIALLE from one of the Japanese cosmetic brands; Shiseido in 2008, I made a show that DRUMCAN produced in Japan once.

Also, through the plan of show by PAUL SMITH in Japan, I participated in the production work by researching halls in Japan etc. I respect him as a designer and also as a human being.




Also I am influenced a lot by Vivienne Westwood."


6. With the amazing list of shows that you've worked on in your time at DRUMCAN, it's not hard to imagine where the inspiration for The Marble Collection may have come from. Can you explain the name, the concept and also how you went about putting it together?


Photo Courtesy of Blogger and Marble Show 2012 'Candy Girl',
Pearlin Ong

"'The Marble Collection' means the stone; marble in English, but when we hear 'marble', we first imagine 'marble chocolates' which are loved by all people from children to adults in Japan. They look like M&M's Chocolates, covered in colours and then packed in a bag.

Just like the marble chocolates, the show has completely different colours of Harajuku, Shibuya and Akihabara packed into one package called 'KAWAII'.


It seems as if it is totally different fashion, but there are commons in music, animations, comics, and games etc all influenced each other. By incorporating many elements such as videos, dances and entertainments, we make you recognise the common parts and we have been able to spread the values of the 'cute'".

7. I managed to catch the whole November show online and was blown away by the production. Some key things stood out to me that I would like to talk about.


  • Firstly, I recall your discussing the importance of mixing the three definitive colours for each City, to create one Universal 'Kawaii' colour, essentially creating a new brand, during your panel at HYPERJAPAN. How were you able to co-ordinate such a massive undertaking across three major cities, giving each one equal care and representation?

Pearlin with J-Pop Sensation 'Love La Dolls'


"By using popular people and models who are representatives for the fashion of each city and by making plural heroes in the play, I made it so everyone can have an interest."





  • I noticed that for each of the dance sequences, the fashion was in stark contrast to the bold, bright colours of the catwalk models. Dance is clearly a major part of the essence of The Marble Collection - why did you feel it was important to draw such a definitive line between the expression of Fashion and Dance?

Pearlin, Models and Dancers, The Marble Collection 2012


"The clothes are the main heroes in usual fashion show, but the marble collection tries to tell the whole culture through the fashion. The performance by utilizing music, film and dance, it is the show to experience the culture in the whole body."




  • The famous names that you were able to secure were very impressive, but I was more surprised by the unorthodox showing of Unity and appreciation, by inviting press and bloggers to model in the show! How has that bold move affected The Marble Collection's relationship with the media?

"By using bloggers as models, I could put effectively both latest trends and fashion together at once. Also, there is persuasion as a person to influence, the influence is big against customers, so it is succeeded to make topicality bigger. It has become a cue to spread the new marketing through corroboration among people who influence each other. Convincing as influencers has become an opportunity to collaborate with each other and expand the possibilities of new markets."



8. I love that your shows are so different to ours, in that there is not one 'serious' face! Another key message from you seems to be that 'Kawaii Fashion is Fun!'  How do you plan to challenge the British 'seriousness' if you bring The Marble Collection to the UK?


"I do not change the basic construction of the show and the production because it is a realistic fashion in Japan now and it is culture. Moreover, a chemical reaction takes place in Japan that we see pop culture, entertainment, new values of kawaii, definition etc and I look forward to seeing how it is going to change."


 


9. 'Future' also plays a major part in the show; almost as if you are constantly asking the question: "Where is Fashion going?" What would you like to happen in the future for Kawaii Fashion in the UK?


Kawaii Street Fashion Show, HYPER JAPAN Christmas 2012


"Not ending. Just to introduce Japanese pop culture and to export. But also the kawaii fashion keeps staying in the United Kingdom, and continue to grow."









10. Lastly, I can't finish this interview without asking you your own question, so Yamada San: What is 'Kawaii' to YOU?


"KOKORO ODORU TOKIMEKI" (in Japanese)



"Creating a sense that your own heart pops. A feeling of 'crush' to the world."





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See why I was fascinated? How awe-inspiring is Mr Yamada and this entire concept? Ever since the panel and even moreso since researching for this interview, I haven't been able to leave the question of what Kawaii really means in the UK and how far and deep it's influence really runs, alone. Before 2011, I had never thought about J-Culture on my doorstep; it seemed to be  something that only manifested at Earl's Court for a bi-annual total of 5 days.

The more visits I paid to HYPER JAPAN since then however - both as an exhibitor and a spectator, the more I realised that couldn't be further from the truth. There is a thriving J-Culture community all around, I just hadn't known where to look. People really were adopting this lifestyle into their personal and professional lives! I decided it wasn't just enough to tell you about it though; so I called on a couple of perfect examples to break down how they love and live Kawaii, everyday, in the UK...

Meet Kairi Mori:


MizKai Mori
Digital Illustrator / Painter, accessory and footwear designer, Urban Redecorator and 8-bit micromusician Kairi aka MizKai, was one of the British representatives who took part in The Marble Collection panel and walked the Street Fashion catwalk show at November's Hyper Japan. A perfect example of cute and cool, I started by re-asking her Yamada san's question:

What does Kawaii mean to you, personally?


"To me personally, Kawaii is what you want it to be!

More than merely a 'cute aesthetic', it's an entire experience for the senses. Kawaii can be different to everyone - It's all about expressing yourself!

Kawaii is quirky, unique and interesting, as it's an art-form which uses yourself as a canvas to project a surreal and unique experience to others.

My personal way of expressing 'Kawaii' Is through my use of cute motifs, pastel shades and 80's themes throughout my life, not just fashion." 

Does 'Kawaii' culture inspire you? If so, how?




"Kawaii culture inspires me so much! As a creative, I use it as a constant inspiration throughout my work; right through fashion, illustration, music and more! 

Even to my attitude! It inspires me to be true to myself; even if some people assume it's strange or silly. It's difficult to find courage to stand out when the pressure is so intense to conform to the ideals of mainstream media. But Kawaii culture stands to celebrate individuality and freedom of self expression.

To be HAPPY in yourself."




Is Kawaii culture a part of your everyday life? If so, in what way?



"I'd say so! I wear colourful fashion almost everyday! To extend the magical and surreal feeling to other senses, I combine this happy and nostalgic feeling I create visually with the cute sounds of childhood pastimes by creating cute songs using a gameboy, then wearing it on a necklace. I create and edit my own accessories to fit with my vision. Kawaii is about expression, I like to express a feeling of happiness, the carefree feeling of childhood; but most of all to create a complete unique experience of juxtaposition from normality for anyone who encounters me. I love cheering people up. Whether it's from shock, surprise or awe. I like to make others experience a little bit of magic from my world!"




Now Meet Charlie L...


Charlie L
Charlie is a J-Culture fiend that you will never find far away from a Hyper Japan expo - preferably volunteering if she can. Now a Design business owner, this young lady has found her fit in life,through her love of all things Kawaii...


What does 'Kawaii' mean to you, personally? 

"Where do I begin? When I think of 'Kawaii' it's pure essence make me feel happy and full of smiles. It conjures up the child within me with its youthful vibrancy, bringing out and magnifying the bygone days of blissful innocence. I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan, which I totally believe represents Kawaii. In their films, even the darker ones like 'Nausicca Valley of the Wind', the Studio Ghibli characters like Totoro have become an important part of today's Japanese culture, to the extent that as the Disney characters are immediately associated with the USA and western culture; their Kawaii characters are immediately associated with Japan and Asian culture. My Japanese teacher used to call me 'Ponyo' – when I asked why she responded: "You are so cute and speak about yourself in the third person and see the world so differently, just like Ponyo"".

Is 'Kawaii' culture a part of your everyday life? If so, in what way?


"Kawaii culture is certainly a part of my everyday life, from 'Plushies' on my bed to 'Moomim' and other kawaii posters on my wall. I wake up with it and use it throughout the day - even my noodle bowl and mugs are kawaii. Its funny, a few years ago all my stationery was quite conservative (with my own personal twist of course), as was my room. The more I fell in love with the Japanese culture the harder it was to resist the cute, inner child within me. Now my life is immersed in Kawaii culture, from my home and fashion sense, to my business Yukiko 幸子 Designs. I have incorporated not only kawaii characters but the wonderful use of bright and happy colours, also. I even have a kawaii personality, I'm always effervescent and smiley it seems to rub off on others around me, it's great when I'm with my best friend who’s been asked several times to be a kawaii ambassador in Japan, as our cute, bubbly energy just seems to bounce back and forward from each other - we get our Totoro's out and do Kawaii poses."


Does 'Kawaii' culture inspire you? If so, how? 


"Kawaii culture truly inspires me in everyday life

On a professional level, its made me set up my own kawaii business, and design Kawaii stationery prints, accessories, cards, stickers, earrings, hair clips and in the near future I plan on incorporating clothing. We have our Kawaii ambassadors like Cuppy-Cat and Cloudy-Kun, which people from all ages love and it doesn't matter what sex they are. 



When I see kawaii things, cute things and feel how they make me smile, it inspires me to make others smile through my business and creating Kawaii things and custom phone cases, etc. so they can smile everyday when they look at something Kawaii."




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Now it's YOUR turn...'What is Kawaii to You?' Answers in the comment box below please - I want to hear from you! And please share with your friends, I want to hear from them too!

As for me? Well based on everything I've learned so far and what I will continue to research for my own interest; I would have to say that to Yours Truly, 'Kawaii' means 'boundless hope'. There seem to be no limits to what can come from this culture. It seems accepting, even welcoming of difference, variety and creative originality. It inspires in a way that I have yet to see on our own British shores and I can't wait to see where it takes me next...

Connect with the wonderful Junya Yamada via his Social Media Catalogue:


Connect with Kairi Mori:


Connect with Charlie L and Yukiko Designs:


And if you still fancy more on this; read the behind the scenes account of Blogger Pearlin Ong, from Marble Collection 2012 Model - sounds AWESOME!



Inspired to shop Kawaii?


Use my special Brand Ambassador code from MyFlashTrash.com to bag yourself  15% off something pretty this Valentine's Day...



See you next time!
ES ;)