Japanese model Ayako Kawahara in 1994.
Season: 6 Episode: 30
Title: Japan Edition
Original Airdate: 3/10/94
Appearances: Ali Larter, Ayako Kawahara
DEMYSTIFYING THE FASHION INDUSTRY: MODELING IN JAPAN
By this point in the run of House of Style, we’ve learned a great deal about what it’s like to be a model in America or Europe. Here, we learn what it takes to be a model in Japan. In the second Japanese episode of House of Style, we talk to the most famous Japanese model of the time: Ayako Kawahara. Ayako won a Japanese fashion magazine’s modeling contest at 16, and went on to walk in shows in Paris and Milan. Being a model in Japan may not be considered a dishonorable profession by the time this segment aired, but even in the ’90s, people who earned money in unconventional ways were still regarded with some suspicion, and considered outsiders. On that note, despite many domestic magazines rarely being seen outside the country, a lot of the covers were still dominated by the Western ideal of beauty, primarily featuring American or European models, and employing Asian models only for ancillary roles.
We’re told that there’s a burgeoning movement to increase visibility for Asian women, so that they can become fashion leaders without mimicking a Western look. That said, in 1994 a white model could make anywhere from $30,000-$60,000 on a 6-week stint in Japan, and we meet such a model: 17-year-old Ali Larter. At her shoot, Larter is highly stylized and fussily dressed; her blonde hair is tidily pulled back, and she wears a series of knee-length, girly suits. Ali is asked to remove her bright red lipstick for its conspicuousness, and to keep her legs closed at the knees so as to appear more modest. She notes that the most significant difference between working at home as opposed to Japan is that American models are instructed to act normal, whereas in Japan her poses are intended to be unnatural, with no sense of irony. She looks like a well-behaved doll.
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STREET STYLE: HARAJUKU
Street fashion in the Harajuku section of Tokyo, Japan in 1994.
House of Style hits up the Harajuku neighborhood once again, but this time our camera simply roves the clothes of passersby, sans interviews. It used to be that looks by designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood dominated youth culture, but style has balkanized into smaller sub-groups. There are oversized bubble goose jackets and baggy jeans; animal print; poet shirts; vertically striped pants; girls dressed to look like schoolgirls; real schoolgirls; printed body suits; floor-length jackets; matching couples; platform sneakers; and one impressive yet upsetting occurrence of UGG boots well before that trend took off in America.
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MUSIC AND FASHION: REGGAE IN JAPAN
The Japanese reggae hip hop scene in 1994.
You may be familiar with “ganguro,” which calls attention to over-tanned girls in white eye makeup and bleached hair employing a sort of “black face,” with offshoots like the “yamanba” trend, incorporating Hawaiian accessories like leis (thank you Internet!). In this segment, however, we visit the Japanese reggae underground, and interview teens in slouchy hats and Rastafari gear in basement clubs. Scenesters use darkening lotions and log time at the tanning salon to achieve a darker skin tone, and for $300-$400, devotees spend up to 10 hours at a hair salon getting their pin-straight hair dreadlocked. There’s a conflict between valuing Japanese Orientalism and feeling oppressed by the country’s conservatism, and a harmonious example of the more racially accepting tenor of this music scene is that Japan’s best-known reggae artist, PJ, is half Japanese and half African-American. The most popular Japanese reggae artist is Nahki, the co-creator of the first Japanese reggae festival Japansplash. Nahki lived in New York in 1988, as a contributor to Reggae magazine, and released his first album, Baddest Japanese, in 1990. The kids make the interesting observation that theirs is a new generation that listens to reggae and hip-hop, whereas rock-and-roll captured the hearts and minds of the generation before.
POP CULTURE AND FASHION: TODD OLDHAM TEACHES RICKI LAKE HOW TO PACK
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