|Lolita Fashion in the UK|
Kitty and the Bulldog: A Pixie_late Preview
Last Friday I had the pleasure of interviewing Rupert Faulkner, a senior curator in the East Asian department at the Victoria & Albert museum. He is a figure that I admire not only for his ability to curate captivating exhibitions but also for his inherent passion and knowledge of Japanese fashion and its roots and influences. The V&A museum will be holding a display of Lolita fashion as part of their British Design exhibition which will take place on the 31st March called 'Kitty and the Bulldog - Lolita Fashion and the Influence of Britain'. And as the name suggests, the display will focus on Japanese street style, namely Lolita fashion.
Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
I have been at the V&A since 1984, initially working with Japanese prints. I studied Japanese at university and have also spent time in Japan researching Japanese Ceramics History. My first big exhibition was in 1995 called 'Japanese Studio Crafts and Traditions in the Avant-Garde' and I continued on in this area as a long term interest. I've also written a little book called 'Hiroshige Fan Prints' which are prints made to be matted up as fans which essentially a fashion accessory in a way.
Could you tell us what we can expect to see in this display?
'Kitty and the Bulldog' is going to be in the format of a fashion display within the permanent Japanese Galleries at the V&A. The display will span 18 meters of cases which will be divided into eight bays each holding a total of nine outfits. It will be divided into four main sections which is Sweet Lolita, followed by Gothic Lolita, then Punk Lolita and the last section Wa-Lolita. Although it makes sense to put it in the Japanese Galleries it is a bit different to the main theme of the permanent Japanese collections which look at the way Lolita culture has picked up on British influence. The Lolita display will be a part of the bigger exhibition called 'British Design 1948 - 2012: Innovation of the Modern Age'.
Would you say Lolita fashion is a borrowed style from centuries back or is it uniquely Japanese?
I would say it is more a hybridised fashion which has influences from Victorian fashion such as the Victorian mourning dress in Gothic Lolita, rock music, punk and even the recurring theme of Alice in Wonderland. So there is definitely a big overlap and the fashion has transformed into something different which I'm sure has some relevance to its wearers in Japan which is peculiar to that context. It is definitely not pastiche just because it was done before.
How do you think street fashion started in Japan?
Initially when we were researching this, we were looking at dress styles but of course a lot of it is taken from music like rock, glam rock, punk, and this whole androgynous look that is central to severe visual kei bands. For example David Bowie's got a huge fan base in Japan and what's interesting is that back in the early 70s he met a famous Japanese Kabuki actor, a beautiful man who used to play female roles and he learnt Kabuki style makeup from him. So actually the Japanese youths were looking to David Bowie when he was looking into his own androgynous instincts through his experience of traditional Japan. So as you can see it goes round and round in circles and eventually something new happens.
Has the V&A done any kind of display or exhibition on Street Style before this one?
It tends to be high end fashion but quite a long time ago we did one on Street Style which focused on Street Style in the U.K, curated by Amy de la Hayes. It was a big project so no it's not the first time that the V&A has done a display on street fashion.
What is your opinion on Lolita fashion?
I am actually impressed by the quality of clothing as I had only seen photographs before and hadn't appreciated it up close. It is the attention to detail in the prints and quality of their dresses that the Japanese have put into their brands that fascinates me. This so called street clothing is a phenomenon there. They're certainly not cheap but they also don't have high end fashion price tags. In my opinion it is definitely not, as many would view it, purely infantalisation.
What is the future of Lolita Fashion?
I wonder if it will be bigger, just like Anime and Manga have become globalised but I don't know whether Lolita fashion will explode in such a way. I'm not sure that people here will be going as far down the road as the Japanese would as I can imagine it will take a little bit more courage to wear it.
How well received do you think Kawaii culture is in Britain?
Well there are all the mainstream brands like Hello Kitty widely available here but if you go to Japan you're almost drowning in it. But I think people here love it!
How would you feel if your daughter dressed in Lolita fashion?
She actually has tried on one of the dresses that I brought back from Japan last summer and I think Classic Lolita looks good on her. I would certainly be fine with that.
To my delight, I was shown a sneak preview of the 'Kitty & the Bulldog' display after our animated interview and I can safely say that it is looking fantastic and I would urge everyone to come and see it!
Kitty and the Bulldog is a free exhibition at the V&A running from 23 April 2012 - January 2013 in the Toshiba Gallery, Room 45. The display will feature seven Lolita designs that reflect different British influences on this rapidly expanding fashion phenomenon. A further two outfits will show how Lolita fashion’s fascination with the exotic and alternative has resulted in the re-appropriation and sometimes extreme recasting of traditional modes of Japanese dress.
The outfits in the display are new acquisitions for the V&A from the Japanese fashion labels Innocent World, Baby The Stars Shine Bright, Alice and the Pirates, Moi-même-Moitié, Alice Auaa, Putumayo, Sixh. + MINT Neko, Takuya Angel and Mamechiyo Modern.