Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Philomena Keet

Philomena Keet is a British anthropologist whose PhD is on Tokyo Street fashion. Her new book, with photographer Yuri Manabe, is The Tokyo Look Book: Stylish to Spectacular, Goth to Gyaru, Sidewalk to Catwalk.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: Are there social, economic or cultural factors unique to Tokyo or Japan that have nurtured the fashion scene?

PK: In Japan of course there is no one 'fashion scene' and the social, cultural and economic factors that draw someone to gothic lolita and a conservative look are very different. Much has been written about the importance of the group in Japanese society and embarrassment about standing out, but whilst gyaru groups can be very rigidly defined with 'interviews' to join etc., for other styles like the fashionistas often in FRUiTS, its hard to make out any recognizable 'group' at all.

One of the characteristics of fashion itself is its ambiguous nature in anchoring the individual into some kind of group as well as representing a desire for individuality. Hence, the gothic lolita who looks like she is standing out and rebelling against society is actually dressing in a recognized style with thousands of adherents, but at the same time within any seeming group there are always people striving to stand out, be the most fashionable or extreme.

Economic factors may have contributed to the 'second-hand' clothing boom, which are now sold everywhere from supermarket-like chains to exclusive and vintage boutiques. But on the other hand, people buy Louis Vuitton bags regardless of whether it's a recession or they earn very little.

Culturally, there may be something in the Japanese ability to have fun with clothes and enjoy them for what they are rather than perceiving them as some meaningless frivolity which detracts from the 'inner self'. There is a lot of importance placed on 'surfaces' in Japan: masking one's inner feelings can be positively valued for example.
Read the full Q & A.

Learn more about the book and its creators at The Tokyo Look Book website, blog, and MySpace page.

The Page 99 Test: The Tokyo Look Book.

--Marshal Zeringue