I’m heading to Tokyo Girls Collection (TGC) tomorrow, which in some circles, is a far, far better thing than the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby and the Lower Oakland Roller Derby Finals all rolled into one. This is the kind of Japanese youth culture extravaganza to do up either (A) as a participant-observer anthropologist heading towards the dissertation or (B) totally gonzo, but alas, I am the wrong gender, three decimeters too tall, and too suspiciously foreign to blend in. And judging by the draconian press rules provided by fax, I will most likely spend the nine hours trying not to get blacklisted for life. There will be real deal celebrities in attendance, which means a tighter crackdown than during the G8 summit. God forbid someone snap a unapproved picture of a famous model and post it on a “we-bblog.”
Last Saturday, Team Mekas headed over to Kobe Collection, which is the exact same format as TGC but with a laid-back underdog charm. I finished typing up my relatively dry account here (with some nice photos from Sean Wood), but I had some leftover observations that needed airing before my perspective was tainted with another “real clothes” celebration.
1) There is a Japanese non-arty, but fashionable aesthetic and it can be boiled down to ultra-bright artificial sparkles. Everything sparkles like a tiara. This has an accompanying sound effect in the high treble range.
2) In the US and UK, fashion follows music preference, but in Japan, fashion seems to be the main course. Come to think, Kobe Collection and Tokyo Girls Collection are long overdue. But fashion shows are generally an inefficient way to actually view clothing. And putting everyone in a stadium doesn’t help much. Fashion ends up being the anchor to bring together young women in celebration of models, TV celebrities, and music, but it is a good way to justify spending the money to come.
3) One of the official Kobe Collection goods is a Tartan check bag with the button “We are Fashion Victim” [sic]. Notice the “we” rather than “I” in embracing the epithet. To be honest though, I am not sure “fashion victim” accurately describes a large group of girls who dress in a relatively static way that revolves around their own inherent tastes. The magazines may all say “leopard print” and they all wear leopard print, but they like leopard print anyway. And they generally look good! The whole point about “fashion victims” is that they look ridiculous after following the extremes of the high-fashion world. The girls in ViVi just look like they are maximizing their style potential.
4) This is the kind of event that older men take their favorite hostess/mistress to.
5) No real-deal gyaru at Kobe Collection. I doubt they could pay the ticket price.
6) I thought the appeal of the show would be seeing the famous magazine models “in the flesh,” but they are so far away from everyone that we rely on the jumbotron. And once they are projected up on the screen, they are mediated and feel just as distant as they do in the magazines.
7) Huge cheers for Yoshikawa Hinano of all people. Bigger cheers for the ridiculously diminutive “tough guy” celebrities, the transsexual model Tsubaki Ayana, and the comically overweight girl who does an impression of Beyonce.
8 ) When did all the models do their orthodontic work? They all have perfect smiles, which is not exactly common in Japan. Most of the models are also extremely talented at smiling in a friendly yet evocative way. I no longer take this skill for granted.
9) The soundtrack is fun. “I Kissed a Girl” works and makes me think: no J-Pop artist would ever be allowed to make that song. And yet, they need its bad-girl charm to sell clothing. Later “Sunday Bloody Sunday” comes on and I remember how much I liked it when I was 9. I think someone used a Pylon song too.
10) About 20 brands show and they basically look exactly the same. And I am an ideal candidate for learning the differences. But it’s impossible.
11) Basically everything is an advertisement, and yet, you pay entry price. There are “interviews” with the models between brands, and they talk about special pink Visa cards and other products.
12) When did Urahama Arisa get so tall? When did Capsule start being Daft Punk instead of Pizzicato Five?
13) Ebi-chan was #1 for a reason. All the JJ girls are attractive enough, but they generally look kind of mean. Ebi-chan had an “adult cuteness” but could stay pleasant looking.
14) Who thought that “Pearly Gates” was a good name for a golf brand? Is golf now a metaphor for death? Do only nearly dying old people play golf?
15) Some white models come out at some point for Shiseido and they feel like representatives of a boring, adult world that has nothing to do with anyone.
16) I am no Kato Miriya fan, but girl can sing.
17) Secret guests: Leah Dizon and Ueto Aya. Ueto is brought out in the grand finale, and the response is tepid. Fancy this: the girls liked the celebrity guys best. So long for girl power.