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CHICK Interview of a designer Ennio Capasa

Iris van Herpen’s couture review The story of young designer, Niji Song Gender trouble in Japan “What is Your Sexuality?” “Have you ever consider having cosmetic surgery?” Beauty Investigation among young women


Costume National factory tour in Venice Fashionistas are always searching for something new but at the same time, they take care of their iconic ‘it item’ which is of high quality and long-lasting appeal. This is especially true of, shoes: they can be the key item to create your whole style and many people try to find their perfect shoes in both design and fitting.

CoSTUME NATIONAL is an Italian brand which holds its fashion show in Paris every year and has many flagship stores around the world: they were recently in the news in Japan when they opened their flagship store in Tokyo. Most people expect Italian, products - particularly leather items - are of good design and quality. CoSTUME NATIONAL is a fashion label producing fine leather shoes in its Venetian factory.


But there is a reason why they carefully select this material: “It is so natural and natural leather will never be the same twice. This is our difference between ours and others.” The new vegetable leather shoes look very clean and crisp but its texture will change with use. During the factory visit, designer Ennio Capasa arrived from CoSTUME NATIONAL’s head office is in Milan. He visits the factory Located forty minites from central The leather is then cut to the shape at least twice a week and he of the papers the pieces are put toVenice by car, the factory is one and Gabriele have a friendgether. After this stage, the soles are ly conversation suggestof many to be found in the area. Factory director Gabriele greeted attached to the leather uppers and ing that they have a good us warmly and showed us around allowed to rest for on the last for working relationship about 48 hours to keep the correct the manufacturing plant. There shape. The finishing stage of the, are about thirty craft workers Venice has more than four there and they produce two hun- process involves polishing the shoes hundred years of history dred pairs of shoes in a single day. with special cream to keep make in creating leather shoes them smooth. It may sound like a really hard and other products, comworking environment but this ing to prominence in the factory has a very peaceful atmos- Gabriele explains about the kind of Renaissance Period. Big leather used: “We are using vegephere and the artisans happily French companies such showed us their work during our table leather for the whole process as Lois Vuitton and Yves as this is in the DNA of CoSTUME Saint-Laurent have their visit. The first stage in shoe manufacNATIONAL.” This leather is tanned factories in the area. with vegetable extracts so its texture ture involves making various is harder than others and difficult to kinds of paper patterns to fit the shoe maker’s lasts which are made transform into products. in collaboration with the designer


CoSTUME NATIONAL is an ideal partner to create shoes from Ennio’s designs and he thinks that this collaboration gives his shoes personality. For the most part, shoes are not just a fashionable item because we need to walk with in them all the time. Most people have had the experience of seeing a wonderful pair of shoes at a shop that they didn’t buy because they didn’t fit properly or had other problems. Ennio is a designers who understand these concerns. “I always try to combine practicality with beauty. Some designers are interested in just beauty but I am not interested in just beauty. Because you have to wear these shoes eight hours, nine hours, ten hours…” He asked his assistant to bring some samples and went on to explain some the features. One of the pairs of shoes feature rubbery soles with many projections on the outer surfaces so people can walk safely on snowy or rainy days.

Some brands who initially based their production operations here and subsequently moved away have returned. We can conclude from this that Venice is now the most important city in shoe production because there are no other places that can create better quality shoes. But what is it about Venetian shoes? Most people think that Italian leather products are good quality. Ennio explains that things such as the leather, the sole, the heels and the way of manufacturing are the best and there are people who have specialist knowledge of these things here. “That’s why it is important to have good people. They are very, very loyal people. There is a lot of competition.” He finishes with a laugh. CoSTUME NATIONAL is known for its designs being being referred to as ‘Edgy Chic’. Ennio’s creativity is modern, sharp but a bit sensual and attractive to many customers around the world. If there didn’t have a good partner to understand his ideas, his designs would not do well. “We need a skilled person to shape the e so many components and processes.”


CoSTUME NATIONAL’s shoes do not reflect typical Italian designs. Ennio’s designs are is something different in comparison with other luxury Italian brand. “I like to combine the futuristic with tradition. To make new products you have to always combine tradition and something never done before.” He knows that customers expect Italian shoes to have tradition and be of good quality but at the same time they also want to see something new.

Ennio used to work in Japan in the 80s. He thinks that his shoe designs draw inspiration from this experience. “Italian shoes, were well designed at that time but were classic and conservative. The Japanese had started to create something avant-garde and new and I wanted to bring this concept to an Italian factory and combine them together.” Ennio thinks that good quality shoes are timeless. If we stop using them, we can find them in our wardrobe a few years later and wear them again. He wants to continue to create timeless shoes for new costumers in the future.


Artistic creativity gets out of the rut High tech 3D printing revolutionizes the world of couture in Paris. Iris Van Herpen’s 2013 spring collection makes a dramatic impact with various collaborations. The show started in the dark with a human statue standing on a Tesla coil which created by New-Zealand artist Carlos van Camp who worked together for this collection. The voltage moved from the feet as the electrifying vibes could be seen sparking out of the head and both hands. After the prelude, a mystic melody begun and Van Herpen’s 11 dynamic looks appeared on the runway and made trapezoid shapes encircled the audience. 3D printing is an essential element to embody her imagination.

Only 28 years old a Dutch designer has been invited to the Chambre Syndicate de la Haute Couture as a guest member and in spring 2013, Big-shot Iris Van Herpen presented her fourth collection “Voltage”. She portrayed electricity which innervates the human body and shoots through the universe. Every time Van Herpen infuses new breath into the couture world with a combination of fine couture handwork and futuristic digital technology.


The eccentric shoes designed in collaboration with London brand UNITED NUDE are also important items for her collection. Calligraphy, fang and crystallization, they used to inspire many unique ideas before, but this time the ultra platform high heels appear to have evolved with fringes which could be seen on front, back and also heel. The shoes helped to express the whole collection even more with meticulous details. The final piece was amazingly constructed aluminum-like dress. Well-balanced artistic form and futuristic crystalline design can be only worked out with a young designer’s audacious imagination and we can understand why popular singers such as Bjork and Lady Gaga are big fans of Van Herpen’s design.

Two structural ensembles including a skirt and cape were the collaboration items which were produced with 3D specialist Stratasys and Neri Oxman who leads the Mediated Matter Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A white ensemble consists of a simple hard form made with some lepidic material. Oxman explained this ‘second skin’ and it expresses biotic power through cutting edge innovation.

A delicate black dress was also designed together with Australian architect Julia Koener and printed by a Belgian based firm Materialise. The special intricate texture was made of superimposed multiple layers and it animates clothes- like part of a human body. Each piece made a strong impression but the impact of her original fuzzy dresses seems exceptional and it represented this collection. A trapezoid polo-neck dress has a number of circular fluffy embellishments that nodded together every time the model took a step. A calf-length dress has bristling spiky hair on both sides of the garments and whose glossy materials mysteriously glittered.

Asking whether fashion is art or business has long been a controversial question but Iris van Herpen can be seen as one of the successful persons who has conquered this argument as all her garments were designed to be wearable effectively. She is not the first person who uses 3D printing technic for couture, but she may be the first to initiate the traditional stage into going high-tech. “I feel it’s important that fashion can be about much more than consumerism, but also about new beginnings and self-expression, so my work very much comes from abstract ideas and using new techniques, not the re-invention of old ideas.” (dozeen magazine,2013) No one else has collaborated with many artists for one collection but in order to get creativity for fashion, Van Herpen makes use of various talents to complete her ingenious world.


London, Milan Paris and New York… Where do you think the hottest fashion city is around the world? Twice a year, all fashion magazines and web magazines are dominated by world fashion news from the main capitals and many hipsters are riveted by the cutting-edge mode. These four cities have always been in the tie of enthusiasm and established their status within fashion, until now.

Everlasting creativity in Antwerp After the revolution of the Antwerp Six, the small city is still contributing to the fashion world

While these places have been attracting global attention, there is a city which has been building a strong presence and producing brilliant fashion designers into the world. “There was the backside, the recycled, throwaway fashion, an underground phenomenon, the underdog: not so extroverted as English fashion, not so sexy as Italian fashion, not so cerebral as Japanese fashion.”(Debo&Loppa,2010:66) Antwerp is the place where could produce fashion without the extravaganza elements and create new avant-garde designs. Not many people describe their fashion which is categorized as Belgian style as other countries used to be done. “With the Belgians, there is no superstar allure, or coquetry, but a healthy mix of humility, sobriety, and daring,

and this translates first and foremost in the apparel itself.” (Debo&Loppa,2010:67) Antwerp has something power which is not commercially-made and this attitude still keeps living there. Probably it is and important element that is lacking in today’s fast moving fashion industry. Most people know about Belgian designers in the 90s. During the early twentieth Century, Belgium had reflected Paris runways and Paris fashion also had dominated the Belgian image of fashion. But the early 80s, remarkable fashion designers started appearing on the scene. Ann Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela, Doris Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Maria Yee, Drik Van Saene and Dirk Bikkembergs did a show in Paris together and got the attention while Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler presented spectacular shows. More than thirty years passed, Belgium has been still throwing up talented designers such as A.F. Vandevorst and Raf Simons and they still get the attention in Paris. Many Belgian designers went to Paris and showed their talents there.


While a lot of big brands were attracting the attention, Wijnants showed quirky knits design: shibori-dying funnel- neck dress and coat-length cardigan. All his works which was inspired by Swiss snow mountains received recognitions. Meanwhile, there was another Belgium men’s fashion designer Tim Coppen showed his 2013 autumn winter collection at New York Fashion Week. Style.com introduced him “And while he may be a newbie by NYFW standards, the guy’s got some serious skills.” (Zarrella,2013) His collection was inspired by boyhood and he made use of his juvenile experience: skateboarding gear, tailored jacket his father gave. But he transformed So Belgium is not the big capital which holds the bustling his inspiration into modern and clean designs. When he debut in New York, he was lauded by infashion week. However, Belgium is the country which has favorable environment to bring up many prospective ternational press and buyers and Barney’s immediately purchased his line. Now Coppen has his designers. own shops in the United States, the United KingThis momentum of designers still shows their power steadily behind the news of big fashion capitals. Chris- dom, South Korea and Japan. Belgium is small country and many Belgian detian Wijnants is Belgium designer based in Antwerp. signers still leave their mark on the fashion world. After he graduated Antwerp Royal Academy of Arts in But if their nationality is not determining factor 2000, he went on to win the Grand Prix at Festival de of their achievement, what made them attractive Hyères in France. Following this he started selling his compared with others? One important factor is collections to the shop such as ‘Colette’ in Paris, ‘Pintheir training at the Royal Academy in Antwerp eal Eye’ in London, ‘Via Bus Stop’ in Tokyo and ‘Henri with its principle concepts: individually and creBendel’ in New York. After working as creative assisativity. This art academy has long history in Eutant for Dries Van Noten in Antwerp and Angelo Tarrope and also it is one of big three fashion colleglazzi in Paris, he launched his own brand. This year, he es in the world along with Central Saint Martin obtained high praise and a cash prize when he won the in London and Persons School of Design in New International Woolmark Prize at the London Fashion Week. This prize counts Yves Saint Laurent and Karl La- York. Personal growth and creative development gerfeld among its winners. He talked about this prize to of the students are fundamental and their personvogue, “The Woolmark collection is round and soft - co- al approach also extends to the various activities coon-shaped. It was great being able to work so long on that come along with the presentation of a collection, graphic design for the invitations and cataa project. Usually, I do my collections in much shorter time and I’m not usually able to spend so much time on logs and also particular focus on the location and design of the fashion show. each design.


In 2012 there are eleven Master students showing their collections. Charlotte Pringles presented her collection named “knot work”. All her garments consist on the knots and that twisted the fabrics and made her work unsymmetrical shape. Well-balanced exposure with light and soft colours gave her work both healthy and sexy images. Pringles has no fear of uniqueness as a fashion student but at the same time all her clothes have the modern element and they are enough wearable. Now she has started working as a freelance designer in Antwerp.

Royal Academy in Antwerp also has the innovative Mode Museum. MoMu and Maison Martin Margiela hold a collaborative exhibition for the twenty-year anniversary in 2009 and presented the largest display of the Maison’s work. The archive contains about 5,000 items and MoMu chose to display the exhibition thematically. A curator of Australian fashion gallery, Paola Di Trocchio said about it in Fashion Theory, “MoMu’s strength is that it gives fashion designers artistic expression outside of a commercial environment.”

In 2010s today, many fashion brands start to set the shops around the world while many designers are transfer from the label to label. We can say fashion is going to be more international than before but it sounds like nobody cares about the roots of design because of the strategy of massive fashion industry. Can we still expect to the feature fashion designer from Antwerp in this situation? Every year 6,000 people make their way to Antwerp to see the Royal Academy’s of catwalk show. From first Bachelor to Masters eagerly immerse themselves to push their limits to create the masterworks. Some of juries are renowned persons such as Raf Simons, Lucas Ossendrijver and Nicholas Kirkwood.

Marius Janusauskas showed the flower bud inspired collection “Sleeping Beauties”. He used many gathers and little pleats in her clothes and fantasic pale colours are bit smoky tone and described dreamy yet fleeting beautifulness. His collection was elegant but there are not coquettish elements. Marius is from Lithuania and had experienced in the fashion industry. But he has been admiring Belgium fashion and decided to develop his skills there. He talks “Antwerp has a special creative vibe; many known Belgian fashion people are one way or another related to Antwerp Fashion Academy.”(Mezo:2013) Now his next step is seeing the tag with his own brand. Royal Academy in Antwerp now has alumni designers Walter Van Beirendonck and Drik Van Saene as lectures in the fashion department and their skills and the sensibility are passed on from generation to generation. 2013 graduation show is coming this Jun and the collage said that the students have almost finished their work. Antwerp, Belguim has infinite possibility behind the mirthful fashion week in the metropolitan cities and calmly bolsters up today’s fashion world.


Finding Hopeful Young Power

within the Saturated Fashion World

“In London, I can express my background without any hesitation or fear.” Niji Song, 27, talks about her life as an

accessory designer.

For the younger generation, finding their ideal job can be very difficult in a recession. This is especially true for creative artists or designers in an industry that is always highly competitive. A few young people get into and may become successful in the dominant fashion industry but many of them give up due to the hurdles they must cross despite having great abilitiy.

Niji came to London three years ago and studied fashion design at Instituto Marangoni London. But this didn’t immediately lead her on the path toward fashion design.

Niji spoke about her early life and her reasons behind making accessories: “I was playing my threads, strings, and ribbons then I found that I loved them!” She laughed. Since then her interest is not just a but has led to a career Niji Song is one such person, who is as a designer. grabbing her chance and shows great promise. She is currently working at But for her, it wasn’t a short path into a designer boutique in Covent Gar- design. After graduating, she did some den and also making her own hand- intern jobs as a fashion designer but made accessories. Up until now, she she needed to raise extra finance so she started working at a Sushi restaurant as has been mainly sold her creations well. She said “When I worked at that through her website although this summer, Niji is going to launch her restaurant, I often overheard the cusown brand as a collaboration with the tomers talking about fashion, and I felt boutique ‘happie loves it’ where she ‘This is not the place where I want to works. But for Niji, becoming an ac- stay!’.” cessory designer wasn’t what she expected to be.


After that, she found employment at the boutique -where she is currently working in as a retail assistant. One day, the designer and owner of this shop came to the boutique and Niji showed her own accessories in order to get some professional advice. The owner liked Niji’s designs and offered her a collaboration with the shop. “I didn’t expect that the designer says to me like this. I was so glad.” [sic] Niji’s design ethos is not something that has been widely seen before. Her designs are simple, idyllic but have a quirky sense of humour. Her main idea comes from knotting skills and she has made many accessories such as necklaces, bracelets and earrings for her friends and her family. Niji thinks that they were very happy to get her handmade accessories and became confident in making small accessories.

“My accessories have an Asian flavour so most of my customers are in Japan or Korea or are Japanese people who live in this country. There are also some British people whom know about Japanese culture” Traditional knot skills come from East Asian countries such as China, Korea and Japan but they are all a bit different from one another and Niji makes use of this for her designs. Her designs are an expression of her identity as Niji has unique background. “I was born in South Korea but grew up in Japan and returned to Korea in order to go to the university and now I’m in the UK. In London I can express my background without any hesitations and fears. People try to understand different cultures. It’s really fun.”


Niji used to work out of a temporary stall at the Spitalfields Market and the Japanese cultural event, Hyper Japan. And now, when she launches collaboration items in Covent Garden, her designs will be known by not only Asian but also many international customers who visit the boutique. Niji really enjoys her life as a designer in London and for many young people who what to be a designer, she appears to be living an ideal lifestyle. But Niji also talks about the other side of her life. “What is the most difficult thing is just myself. Every day I motivate myself.. I need to make the goal all the time because I’m producing all by myself. [sic] If you work for a company, then you will follow the rules of its but if you are a designer, you need to be your own boss and everything is all up to you.” Niji always has a conflict with herself to keep her working.

“I think young people who study fashion design or something else have skills and talents and I know they like being creative. All people have their own skills and talents but you need patience to develop them. Firstly you need enthusiasm. Secondly you need motivation and self belief just to keep working and someday you’ll find your niche. You’ll suddenly realise.” Young people are always wondering between ideal and real when they think about their future. But Niji tells us, how to fill our own life with something we love. Now Niji is facing business as she needs to design her accessory not only for her brand but also for the boutique. She is surely moving forward in design at her own pace in this fast-moving world. “Next year, I want to promote my accessories to the other select shops in London. I want buyers to buy my accessories so I’m planning to visit the shops by myself.” She said with her eye’s alight. When She asked whether she want to have own shop or not, she shyly said “It’s a big dream.. but something I want to do!”


Artistic Fashion Student, Sian Hulse Has Fearless Creativity Charming and gentle 22 year old student, Sian Hulse, is studying fashion design at the University for the Creative Art in Epsom. She commutes to the campus from Sutton every day and is now creating her final work for the graduation show.

Retro Future

Sian has wanted to be a fashion designer since she was four. She shyly smiled and talked about her childhood at the student’s studio. “I lost my clothes for Barbie dolls, when I was little and I was crying to my nan about it. She just told me “Stop being so silly, make your own clothes!” I did…” 18 years later she was selected from the class to present her designs to Hardy Amies. Only a very few students could show their work and talk to them. “I was just so nervous about showing them my work because they are so professional.” She modestly said. But Sian has steadily moved forward a big step to be a fashion designer. Her works are comes from very different perspectives. Sometimes they are futuristic and show sporty taste and other times, they are inspired by Japanese origami and rituals; still other times they are represented by tropical birds. She is very experimental and doesn’t hesitate to create novel designs.

Eastern Ritual

This time, the concept of her work is Kurt Cobain. But it is not just Grunge that we imagine. “He is living on the street.. It is all about making your own habitat.” She thinks Grunge has already done a lot so this work is going to express humanity through the 90s fashion scene. Sian doesn’t look like the person who is obsessed with luxury fashion world. She is not really interested in shopping to beautify herself but loves David Bowe and Noel Fielding, and creates original clothes with her own sensibility. It seems like something strong will emerges from this designer through her charming character. Now Sian is planning to have own brand in the near future.


Cosmetic Changes

“Beauty” is the theme of women’s eternal concerns. But different culture may have different attitudes… Many women are interested in fashion, makeup, skin care as they wish to become beautiful and attractive. But, as we are all aware, female desire for beauty is rather laborious part of becoming woman today and always already embedded in the system of market economy. Cultural scholar Meredith Jones notes, “I suggest here that cultures of media, fashion, celebrity, and cosmetic surgery are built around a dominant trope in consumerism: namely, a creative tension between two and three dimensions.” But obviously there is another social institute that affects their bodies more directly than putting on clothes and make-up. The Economist researched recent plastic surgery trends worldwide. The results shows that South Korea came the top country with the highest ratio of population in which 13 out of every thousand people experienced operation until 2011; and next came Greece and Italy. But the largest number of cases was found in the United States, where more than three million operations have done operation.

When women consider having cosmetic surgery, their motives perhaps can be categorized into two groups. Firstly it’s anti-aging. Facial wrinkles, sun spots and the breast lift are done for rejuvenation, in which women over 35 years old are interested. Secondly it’s for improving the figure. Face line, nose job and breast augmentation are for changing their natural figures which women under 34 years old prefer to do. In a word, the difference between these two lies in whether applicants want to look younger, or radically alter their appearance. But first of all, what are the most beautiful women for us? Marie Claire published a survey about women’s age and it said “They say life improves with every decade, so good news for the thirtysomethings amongst us, after a new survey reveals women feel at their most beautiful aged 32.” The article explained that at 32 they felt their life had the perfect combination of confidence gained from life experience, an active love life and the enjoyment of eating and drinking sensibly. So beauty and life experience together (not youth alone) can create an attractive confident woman.


When looking at the second group, however, we may also find the fact that young women still wish to have the cosmetic surgery on their body even though they are too young to feel their aging yet. Women’s motivation for cosmetic surgery is not limited to anti-aging; for some there is also purely aesthetic reason behind. In order to find out about this matter, I conducted a further survey on women who are 18 to 35 year old. The survey was conducted in April 2013 and it focused on the United Kingdom and Japan to see the reaction of both the West and the East. In the United Kingdom, 60% women had never considered having cosmetic surgery before and 70% of them were satisfied with their own appearance or think that their natural bodies are the integral part of their character. In Japan, more than 70% of women had considered having cosmetic surgery before.

Now let’s hear in more details these Japanese women’s cosmetic concerns. Surprisingly most respondents who had considered cosmetic surgery actually wanted to have the surgery on their faces. And all respondents answered that the most popular cosmetic surgery in Japan is one for the eyes. They wanted to change their noses, breasts, lips, cheeks, and even teeth while women in the UK thought that Even people who had never thought about the boob job was the most popular in it, most of them were afraid of having cos- Britain. But there were no one who metic surgery and no one answered that wants to have cosmetic surgery on they were happy with their appearance. As their noses, breasts, lips in Japan. Since a result, in the UK, while some people had every single person has a different face considered having cosmetic surgery, major- and body, shouldn’t we therefore have ity of respondents thought that they don’t different concerns? But how come all need to and were quite happy with their Japanese women stick to changing appearance. And this makes a sharp contheir eyes? trast to the cases of Japanese women. In this survey, it sounds like all young Japanese women dislike their bodies. Are they really feeling the inferiority complex, or just exercising the Japanese virtue of being modest? If many Japanese women seriously wish to have the cosmetic surgery to change their appearance, Japan must be the major nation who has many cosmetic surgical procedures. However, according to The Economist’s research, Japan is ranked seventh in the table, below other countries such as South Korea, Greece, Italy and the United States. Having surgery is not uncommon but it is not widespread. Thus many Japanese women tend to ‘live with’ their natural body and face without recourse to cosmetic surgery.

One of the respondents, 25years old Japanese woman Aya, talked about herself. “I have considered having surgery a long time ago but I don’t mean that I really wished to do. Maybe I was just casually longing.” However, Aya said that one of her friend was going to have the eye operation soon. “Honestly, I think she is a normal person and has already pretty looking but she has been considering having surgery since she was little.” When I asked Aya why her friend wants to do so, she could not find any reasons.


So for many of Japanese people born around high-growth periods after the war, the West and especially America (more than any other Asian countries including China) was a model to catch up. This generation produced influential media for today’s generation. Japanese TV stations regularly air the Western soaps and films. Besides, seeing fashion magazines, many of them tend to pick Western or half models as if they were the standards of beauty. One Japanese Magazine, FUDGE, which shows girly and mode fashion, is popular with 20 to 30 year old women. 25 years old Kanako, who used to buy FUDGE every month said “I like this magazine because it showed my favourite clothes every time. But the all models are not Japanese so I don’t think this fashion suits me very much.” Kanako said, FUDGE uses only Western models and never used Japanese or other Asian models on their cover shoot. Other magazines on the market often use Japanese or mixed-race people and it appears much closer to the real readership. Their makeup pages explain every time “How to make your eyes bigger” and show various techniques to do so. Many readers tried and some people who are unhappy with just the makeup might start considering the cosmetic surgery.

25 year old Hiroko, who had eyelid surgery six years ago and she agreed to tell me her experience. She decided to have the operation because eye surgery was an easy operation. She said that if there were people who want to take eyelid surgery, she would recommend, as she didn’t have any trouble after the operation. However six years passed, her eyes are returning to her natural eyes. She said “Now, I am not obsessed with changing my eyes; so I feel happy as my eyes are returning to my natural eyes.” When I asked her why she was obsessed with changing her eyes, she said, “I don’t know why… I think when I was younger, I was longing to have double eyelid. But now, I can think that every person should respect their own characters without taking cosmetic surgery.” Mikiya Takasu is Japanese plastic surgeon who works at Takasu Clinic which his father Katsuya Takasu founded. Katsuya is famouse for doing operation on his face by his son Mikiya to prove the success of the surgical experiment. Mikiya explained “how to be a Western or half Western face”. “We have various techniques to make our faces look more Western and there are some points. The key differences between Japanese and Westerners are the shapes of the face, nose and chin. Above all, the most important part is eyes.”


And he describes his patients: “When I examine the patients who want to have surgery on their eyes, sometimes they ask me that they want to be like Western or half Western face. There are many patients both men and women who want to become like Western singers, Hollywood stars, sports athlete, and half Western actor in Japan so I can fully understand this type of surgery is in demand.” Takasu Clinic also explains the risks of having surgery. “Eyelids surgery is not semipermanent operation. When your eyelid skin sags, gets fat or any other causes happens, surgical lines might come off so we recommend you to have the repeat surgery.” But they added “Basically patients can try this surgery many times, however if they tried more than three times, they are likely to feel mattering of their eyelids or their both inside and outside of their eyelid skin get rough as the surgical line accumulate in their eyelids.”

Naho Tanimoto, professor of Kansai University who specializes in cultural sociology, discusses the relationship between cosmetic surgery and women: “Cosmetic surgery is sometimes being criticized as ‘pathology’ as it hurt their body, or ‘mythology of beauty’ as enforcing beauty to the women. On the other hand, it sometimes receives recognition as self-determination of women.” She also explains about modern identity which was found out through her cosmetic surgery research, “One is seeing themselves in their behavior or feeling more than sprite or body. The other thing is, when people make a self-assessment, it is very important that how public think of them, and also their imaginations which are developed by today’s commodity and technology.” Tanimoto considers that traditionally Japanese people used to tell their complex feelings through their manners, facial expression and way of greeting, all of them constituting the culture. However now people have been using the man-made technique and many young women express their identity through artificial work like cosmetic surgery. Today virtual images and information rather than real things surrounds us. Some people may check ‘facebook’ or ‘twitter’ during the break time and others may get magazines after work. These virtual images are always processed perfectly and these new commodities are as neat and perfect as model’s faces on fashion magazines we have looked at above. However we are never able to escape from the human condition, while virtual images have colonized our sense of reality.


“Fashion is,” Elizabeth Wilson once noted, “obsessed with gender, defines and redefines the gender boundary.” This complex relationship between fashion and gender may be most visible in the case of Coco Chanel. Ever since Chanel invented her practical little black jackets to displace the painful corsets wardrobe in the end of 1920s, the new way of fashion and lifestyle began to spread.

More and more women cut their hair short and put on the clothes in their ‘own ways’. Now we always express our feminine and masculine aspects alike by means of dress laden with gender symbols. Different fashion can make a woman both coquetry and boyish. Choosing what you wear is to choose your character, self-image, class and even gender.

Gender Trouble in Modern Japan However, Wilson also pointed out the intrinsic ambivalence of its topic: “I am suggesting here is that sexual allure – however defined – is not necessarily tied to conventions of what is held to be appropriately ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’.” As she mentioned, our fashion sometimes cannot be categorized into gender.” Just before the end of the 2000s in Japan, unique men’s fashion became popular among high school students in urban area. They tanned their skin extremely brown and set their head big spiky style; many of them dye their hair in bleached light colour.

They often hang out with their friends together in Shibuya or Shinjuku areas, busy shopping streets in Tokyo. People called them ‘gyaru-oh’. This word consists of English word ‘gal’ and ‘o’, the Japanese word means man. Gyaru-oh tended to have skinny body and wore tight tailored outfits, which may remind us Dior Homme collection by Hedi Slimane, or glamorous outfits like Dolce and Gabbana. Gyaru-oh is always associated with gyaru (gal) indicating the female counterpart of gyaru-oh. These girls also have dark coloured skin and have similar hair.


In Shibuya, there is a fashion shopping complex ‘Shibuya 109’ and it became a gathering spot of gyaru-oh and gyaru. Generally speaking, this youth culture has been seen negatively as a gesture of rebellion against mainstream society. The media representation of their ‘absurd’ lifestyle played crucial role in leading the people to exclude them from the ‘proper’ members of society that tends to value conformity. But why media and older members strongly judge them negatively?

There are common thing among gyaru-oh culture: gyaru-oh’s fashion must appear to be an womanizer whether they are really womanizers or not. Their behavior, use of language and fashion gave a lax impression to many people. For many Gyaru-oh though this laxity is essential feature. But the most characteristic feature is that they don’t try to be ‘manly’ to become a womanizer. Confusing indeed but let me explain. Masaya Chiba, an associate professor of formative culture in Ritsumeikan University, specializes in philosophy, sexuality and gender. He made comments on Gyaru-oh in fashion review Fashionista, analyzing the laxity of gyaru-oh: “In 2000s, gyaru-oh have become slim and ‘airly’.” The word ‘airly’ became a vogue world in the beauty industry in the late 90s and many people (even those who do not see themselves as gyaru-oh or gyaru) thin out their hair in order to have cool ‘weightless’ hair style.

Alongside the airly hairstyle, gyaru-oh also prefers to have their eye-blows very thin. For gyaru-oh, being lax means to be airy-fairy as possible as they can. Chiba explained that gyaru-oh culture has already existed in the 90s. But at that time, they have thick hair and eye-blows are much thicker than 2000s and they wanted to have a muscular body. From the 90s to 2000s, gyaru-ohs were losing their maleness, but not trying to be feminine. It seems that gyaru-oh are not interested in traditional masculine code anymore. Is there any reason that they don’t want to be manly?

Most gyaru-oh were born in late 80s and they have never seen the flush time like their parents used to see. When these young people graduated from universities, Lehman crises happened and tens of thousands students are suffered from losing opportunities for employment under the worlwide economic recession. Many energetic middle age people simply considered them to lack motivation and responsibility while, as many economists pointed out today, young generation then have tried to cope with the difficult situation that the previous generations produced.


If being manly means the code of winner, gyaru-oh might not hope to be a ‘winner’ as a man. But Shoenberg added that “‘Manliness’ described behavior that was chivalrous, perhaps tender and sensitive” (Schoenberg, 1993, p. 4). Japanese gyaru-oh culture might express alternative image of what it means to be man and masculine in the era of low economic growth in which for men too there needs be the virtue f having delicate feelings.

Most of young people were reluctant to take risk or any challenges for their lives. Hence the fashion and lifestyle of gyaru-oh can be seen as the expression of dilemma they underwent in their adolescence. Ten years on, gyaru-oh fashion has changed and many of them do not tan their skin anymore. But their fashion has still subsisted and established a genre of men’s fashion.

Mark Shoenberg, director of University Counselling Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and psychologist in private practice said, “In the process, words like ‘manliness’ and ‘masculinity’ began to take on particularized characteristics. The word ‘manly’ and its derivative, ‘manliness,’ came to be associated with all the virtues spelled out in the code of the winner” (Schoenberg, 1993, p. 3).

CHICK MAGAZINE  

Edited by Kanae Kawasaki

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