JAPANESE GOTH BOOK: TIFFANY GODOY INTERVIEW. MANA SAMA, BABY THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT, H.NAOTO.
(Book cover; portrait of Tiffany by Takuya Uchiyama.)
What a lead-up to Tiffany Godoy and Ivan Vartanian’s new book, Japanese Goth! There was the Subculture & Style Symposium, the Colette release party… and as of today, you can find Japanese Goth in bookstores! What are you waiting for?
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy, and was left stunned and mesmerized. The whole spectrum of Japan’s “dark arts” is scratched by the authors’ quill: dolls from designers Mari Shimizu, Katan Amano, and Ryo Yoshida; Visual Kei performers such as Phantasmagoria, Kokushoku Sumire, and Moi dix Mois; art & photography from Yoh, Kira Imai, Mitsukazu Mihara, and Fuyuko Matsui; and, of course, Goth Loli fashion: Mukuro, Laforet Underground Collection, Baby the Stars Shine Bright, and h.Naoto.
Tiffany Godoy kindly took the time to answer questions about Japanese Goth. Naturally, I asked about Mana Sama and the future of gosurori. Read on…
(Photos from Japanese Goth: Angelic Pretty, Alice and the Pirates, h.NAOTO)
† What compelled you to write Japanese Goth? What were your and Ivan’s roles?
My dramatic Lolita a la Gothique, Carmina. What drives all of my work in Japan is an exploration of the unknown… it is a study in fashion and visual culture for me.
Japanese Goth was a continuation of sorts from Style Deficit Disorder. I learned so much about the many various cultures associated with Harajuku; the Goth-Loli-Visual-Kei culture and the early days of Harajuku in the 60’s and 70’s were the most foreign territories for me. I learned so much from my research, and from Mariko Suzuki – the editor in chief of Gothic and Lolita Bible. And after the book I developed a great interest in the art of Fuyuko Matsui. So it was an accumulation of experience, and curiosity. Both the fashion aspect and the art aspect of the book, while very different, had something that linked them. A mysterious, a darkness of sorts that is difficult for non-Japanese to understand… in the end it became an exploration of Japanese spirituality, aesthetics, and history through this mystery-tinged and very Japanese pop culture and art.
† Often, the most difficult aspect of editing is deciding what to leave out. What criteria guided your choices? Images of Japanese Gothic street fashion and nightlife are not represented; why?
We really wanted to try to capture this otherworldliness that seems to drive the work. This fantasy world that most of the artists seemed to communicate. We wanted it to be a visual odyssey. So, we decided to remove everything from its context. The fashion is seen on a runway, not on the street as it is usually documented. The Visual Kei band photos are seen without any of the graphics, and on a larger scale than normally represented on editorial pages – I think with an art book style layout, these images become a sort of work of art. We can see the musicians as characters in a theatrical context not unlike modern kabuki performers. Besides, street fashion and nightlife are on blogs daily; books have already been done. We wanted to bring a bit of our eyes into the book, and our experiences as editors in Japan for over a decade into the editorial process. If you read the text in the book you get a sense of the story we are trying to tell. Rather than just face value or accumulating images, we wanted to explore the why and the background of the imagery.
(Tiffany and BTSSB girls at Collette release party; designs by Mukuro.)
† Of course, it would be impossible to feature every designer associated with Gothic & Lolita. How did you arrive at your selection (Laforet, BTSSB, h.NAOTO, and especially Mukuro as he is a young, lesser-known designer)?
It was a question of balance within the book, and authentically representing the fashion scene which is very broad, and the quality of the images that were available. I preferred to work with images that existed rather than commission new ones because I wanted to preserve the aesthetic of each of the brands and artists. To remain pure.
† My readers will kick me unless I ask – did you meet/interview Mana? What was he like?
Yes! And oh my was I nervous to meet Mana-sama. Mana is a legend, I mean he created Gothic-Lolita. And the persona that he has created, he doesn’t even speak in public. It is so conceptual, and I think very fun since he really creates a fantasy world that doesn’t exist so much in fashion or music now. In the days of reality TV, everything is revealed. He is a true performer. And smart too. He made himself into a brand with his music-fashion-record label.
(Baby the Stars Shine Bright ads; Angelic Pretty illustrations by Imai Kira.)
† How did Fumiyo Isobe (co-designer of Baby, the Stars Shine Bright) help with the project? What insights did she share about the design process and her influences?
The Isobe clan has been incredibly supportive. They even loaned me two of their lovely shop staff to hang out at the Japanese Goth signing at Colette in Paris (thank you girls!). In our various talks since first meeting for Style Deficit Disorder, Fumiyo has shared the entire story of the brand and before they even started Baby, what the scene was like in Tokyo, how they found creative direction, their idols, etc. You can read about this in Style Deficit Disorder. Their brand has grown so much in the time I have met them – a boutique in Paris and one on the way in San Francisco. Baby, the stars do shine bright for them.
† I’m familiar with the designers and musicians you profiled, but most of the artwork was new to me. Do Nonami, Kojima, Kamei and the others associate their works with each other and the theme of Japanese Goth?
Japanese Goth, it is really difficult to define, I think you would agree – non? You need to add a hyphen to most things in Japan since there is so much fusion going on.
I think that a link between these artists would be the darkness, and mystery, hint of supernatural, Japanese mythology, Animism, which exists in varying degrees in their work, and in many of the other works in the book.
(Animal wigs by Nagi Noda and Kenneth Cappello; art by Yoh.)
† In writing this book, what did you learn? What surprised you?
It was amazing to reflect on the aspects of the work that related back to Japanese traditional culture such as the performance aspect of Visual Kei, the exploration of gender which is also present in Kabuki and in the unisex clothing (kimono), the link to the supernatural world and nature that stems from traditional Japanese spirituality and religion (Shintoism)…
† What direction do you think Gothic & Lolita fashion will take next? How about Tokyo street style / style tribes in general?
I don’t think that the actual fashion has changed much, do you? There have been recent fusions with Shibuya style but the core Goth-Lolita-Punk styles really haven’t changed much. I really love the couture stuff in h.NAOTO’s shop, I would love to see him explore a higher production value in his clothing. Sadly, even Visual Kei bands and the fans are toning things down. On the street wear front I would love to see more experimentation and creativity. Real clothes seem to be what everyone is pimping though. The same can be said for high fashion too, Isabella Blow is gone and we have only Anna Piaggi who is a living dream of eccentricity and history and genuinely knows about and loves clothes. When I speak at Bunka I am surprised to see that lack of knowledge of history of Japanese fashion and street wear. The upcoming designers must have knowledge of history if they intend to create clothes with any originality.
That being said, a brand that could be worth looking out for is Aguri Sagamori. She is just out of fashion school and showing at Japan Fashion Week, not typical Goth stuff you would see in the pages of Kera or GLB but a proposition worth your readers checking out.
† And you – what are your plans?
I have two new book projects in the works. I am going into the second year of hosting Tokyo Fashion Express on NHK World, a gig that I find absolutely fabulous, I would love to do more TV. Continuing to contribute to magazines like Encens in France, Spur and Spur Luxe in Japan, and writing my column in the Yomiuri newspaper, among quite a few others like the new magazine Libertine by Charlie Brown from Dune. Thinking of starting a new magazine project this year with the amazing art director Tomoyuki Yonezu, who I work with as the unit Erotyka. More consulting, more speaking engagements. More traveling and meeting amazing people. It has been an incredible year so far, I feel totally blessed.
If you enjoyed this interview, please comment and spread the word (below, you can email this post or post it to various social networks). And of course, look for Tiffany and Ivan’s new book, Japanese Goth (available on Amazon). I’m certain you’ll love it as much as I do.
Song of the Day #107: Clan of Xymox- Muscoviet Musquito