Photography: Orfeo Tagiuri
What is it about Harajuku and women of color? Maybe Margaret Cho made the connection apparent when she wrote on her blog in 2005, “a Japanese schoolgirl uniform is kind of like blackface.” Granted, the comment was made in light of her accepting Gwen Stefani’s performative entourage as a way to promote what she deemed as a lack of Asian visibility in the media. Similar politics of cultural appropriation later played themselves out onstage at the VMAs with Miley Cyrus’ all-female gang of black twerkers. While Harajuku culture originally garnered mass media attention for its use as a prop in a white woman’s narrative of self discovery and identity, has it now been reharnessed by ethnic minorities as a tool against the mainstream, whereby the Other now reflects itself in the guise of yet AnOther? Even though the fetishization accompanying Harajuku iconography is not new, the overwhelming ethnic presence at the recent Kawaiiland expo in New York City is. Photographer Orfeo Tagiuri’s take on the event was as follows:
“Kawaiiland is the self-described ‘cutest fashion and shopping event in the world.’ There were a lot of wide-eyed porcelain creatures, human-sized doll dresses, knees bent and toes pointing together. There were also a lot of baby blue/pink inanimate objects with cute faces on them. There were not a huge number of Japanese people. I ate a lot of Pocky and found some of the outfits uncomfortably attractive.”
We found ourselves drawn to the darkest loligoths we’ve ever seen, a visual kei rife with intercultural communication and asked: is this tipping the hat to another culture or the equivalent to costumes on Halloween? Perhaps it’s what happens when the periphery engages in an even further peripheral fetishization as a modus of the rebellious, resistant self-expression that inhabits the heart of style itself. Is this desire geishaing or gangbanging? We’ll let you decide as you enjoy the strange snippets of a movement we still can’t figure out.
P.S. The tide swings both ways. Check out the previous controversy surroundingJapanese “b-stylers” who use tanning salons, contacts and hair care to emulate black culture. Not to be confused with “ganguro” culture which apparently lost popular momentum sometime during the early 2000s.
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