New York City’s FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) is a series of gray buildings tucked between other larger, and just as gray, buildings. One could easily become lost but it’s hard to miss the line outside of the Morris W. and Fannie B. Haft auditorium. Though small, the crowd is bright, pastel and frilly. New York’s Lolitas have turned out in full regalia for the Tokyo Fashion Festa presented by The Museum at FIT and sponsored by Madame-Killer, Mok Management, Sync Music Japan, and Indivisual, Japan.
The line takes its time as volunteers cross off names for this invitation only event. The fashionable have their pictures taken in front of the FIT patterned backdrop and then make their way upstairs to the auditorium. When the doors open it’s a slight free for all, but nobody minds letting the fan girls through first. They parade to the front and center. It’s a place to be seen and meet friends. To the right of the excited center is a roped off area for the more reserved VIPs. While the rest of the guests fill in the back rows, they are entertained by the hauntingly beautiful song Amethyst by Yoshiki and a slide show of street fashions from RID. There is one thing that is clear, this crowd is made up of two kinds of viewers: the knowledgeable and the curious and without a program to follow the latter would have to depend on the former to take their cues.
The lights go down and everyone is welcomed by a representative from FIT who reads a message from Sync Music Japan and informs the crowd that this presentation is not only an international effort to promote Japanese fashion and music but also the precursor to an up coming exhibit at the museum at FIT this September. Next, the “Ambassador of Kawaii”, Misako Aoki, takes the stage to loud applause. She reads a message explaining the word “kawaii” and thanked Americans for their interest in Japanese culture. Next, the Pop duo VY takes the stage to perform before and during the runway show, dressed in h.NAOTO. The live music gives the show a definite boost in entertainment value, especially as the lovely MOA takes to her piano.
Bright and bubbly designs from the Baby the Stars Shine Bright line come out first followed by the more historically inspired designs from Alice and the Pirates.
Madame-Killer made its New York debut tonight. The unexpected combination of color and pattern, red and black stripes with floral designs, made these relaxed and refreshing designs a highlight of the show that the audience clearly approved of.
A short video featuring h.NAOTO designer Gashicon, speaking about his illustrated creations Hangry&Angry, is followed by two music videos from the real life icons Hangry&Angry. After ten minutes or so of watching the screen VY reclaims the stage with MOA on the piano. They preform on their own before the letters “B.P.N” drip across the background. h.NAOTO Black Peace Now is intense as the models work the drama of these looks. It is fascinating to see these clothes transform the same models from Lolita dolls to Gothic mademoiselles. That’s the power of color and design.
In perfect contrast, the following fashions are sweet as sugar cubes and move like clouds. A mint green ensemble by Angelic Pretty has everyone excited. It receives the loudest cheer of the night. There is chatter around the crowd about the high price of dresses and expensive accessories. One model wears a birds nest on her head, but her shoes are really cute.
Mielette Tautou shows a palette of creams and antique ivory with lace accentuating the sense of femininity. The movements and perfect proportions of these romantic clothes are admirable.
Suddenly the screen is showing a montage of Japanese rock stars and icons. It goes on for awhile and features a wide range of Sync Music Japan artists including GLAY, Morning Musume, Bennie K, and finally ending with hide. As his video fades models in summer kimonos appear to sneak out of the shadows. It’s a pleasant surprise to see yukata fashion with a punk twist from hide x odasho HI-HO! The fabric is bright and printed with bold graphics of hearts and Op-Art swirls. The kimono’s attitude is complete with an obi printed with skulls or the words “Spank Me Love Me”.
Then the screen is hot pink and the audience waits. There is an awkward silence as people shift in their seats wondering if the show is really over. This is followed by a collective chuckle when the house lights go on to cue everyone’s exit. Even though the informational video portion of the event never really arrived, the curious viewers took in as much as they could. A lot of visual stimulation was given in a small amount of time.
The overall reaction from fans and student volunteers was very positive. Black Peace Now and Alice and the Pirates seemed to be fan favorites. When asked if they could see these fashions crossing over to western markets the answer was a big YES. One young woman stated that she finds Lolita inspired fashion on the shelves now in stores like Forever 21. Another made the point that everyone knows what manga is now so it’s just a matter of time before Japanese fashion and music become just as recognizable.
Thank you to everyone who provided their feedback on the event!
Report & Photos by: Jen B.
Edited by: Kia
Special thanks to Mar Creation, Inc./Mok Management, Inc.