Did you know that there are countless cafes in Tokyo’s Akihabara district where school girls are paid to serve and perform in flirtatious french maid costumes? I didn’t. Feeling inquisitive, astonished and awkward as hell, heres what happened when I visited one of Tokyo’s most popular Maid Cafes @Home Cafe and the disturbing reality why you should avoid them.
What Is A Maid Cafe?Naively, at first, I thought that the experience might be similar to that of the subculture practices of the “Sweet Lolita” girls from Harajuku. I pondered whether maybe a Maid Cafe was a place where teenage girls hung out dressed up as french maids for fun (who knows? It’s Japan after all), but alas it turns out that I was wrong. Maid cafes are in fact restaurants that employ teenage girls to dress up as French maids, thus to provide entertainment and service to their customers.
Kyoto is the center of Kimono culture in Japan. Everywhere you look, both Japanese and international tourists can be seen parading proudly around the former ancient capitol in a variety of colourful Kimonos on a daily basis. But what is a Kimono, why is the traditional dress so popular in Kyoto, and where can you get one from?
WHAT IS A KIMONO?
A Kimono is a loose, ankle length, T shaped robe made from one bolt of fabric, cut into 6 rectangular panels. Traditionally worn for formal occasions in Japan, the word Kimono directly translates into “Thing to Wear” in Japanese language.
Kimono is normally worn together with juban (Kimono underwear), a koshi himo belt, datejime sash and a broad decorative belt called a Obi, as this prevents to kimono from opening up and trailing on the floor.
Wearing a Kimono properly can be a complicated task and often requires assistance, especially for a beginners or if you are wearing a ceremonial kimono for a special event. The final look is then completed with white tabi socks and geta shoes. Watch the video below to see what this process looks like in super speed. Continue Reading
Robot Restaurant, Shinjuku, Tokyo: If This Doesn’t Convince You Japan Is INSANELY AMAZING Nothing Will!Posted on August 1, 2016
The Robot Restaurant in Kabukichō, Shinjuku, Tokyo is the stuff that legends are made of. There isn’t a single tourist in town that hasn’t heard of, or is talking about the insanity of this show. Japanese culture is renown for having it’s finger on the pulse for the latest technology, funny fashion subcultures and wacky entertainment, with this in mind, I was intrigued to learn exactly how bizarre things can get, and above all, curious to see the futuristic inspired cabaret costumes and set design.
Watch the madness unfold in this video
A fun, fashionable and fastastical list awesome KAWAII things to do in and around Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan.
Harajuku is a MUST see destination in Tokyo for any fashion fanatic interested in alternative and downright crazy subculture trends, shopping and street style. I spent one week hanging out Harajuku and surrounding Shibuya and Jingumea with Tokyo Way tours in order to uncovered the best shops and most secretive spots that will give Haute Culture readers the most authentic experience when visiting Japan’s fashion capitol.
1. Take a walk down Takeshita street
The beating pulsing flamboyant kawaii heart of Harajuku. Takeshita street has escalated from a small time subculture hangout to a glittering mega brand shopping sensation. Each weekend the 500 meter pedestrian ally is pounded by tens of thousands pink clad teenagers looking to stock up on more cheap and cheer full pink accessories, pink candy floss and pink flavored crepes. I reckon it’s the most pink place in Tokyo. This is the by far the best shopping spot for fun fashion, toys, glitter, costumes, hair accessories, candy, fake eyelashes and sunglasses.
Harajuku district in Tokyo is renown as the cute, crazy and cool capital of fashion subcultures around the world. Every week 1000s of fashion fanatics, shopaholics and costume connoisseurs from all over Japan and beyond flock to Haraduku’s lanes, boutiques and malls. There they stock up on the latest trends, spy on emerging street styles and strut their stuff around local landmarks with high hopes of having their portrait papped for the fashion press.
The Lolita look is one of the original and still most popular styles amongst teenage girls in Japan today, as it symbolises everything sweet and “Kawaii” (cute) that Japanese culture obsesses over. On my 2nd morning in Tokyo I headed straight to Maison De Julietta who are acknowledged as the leading Lolita salon. Based in the heart of Harajuku’s most famous shopping center Laforte, they offer a wide range of Lolita’s most popular fashion brands and styles, cosmetic makeovers (including wigs and eyelashes), in-house fairy tale themed photo shoots and most importantly, an insight into the sugar coated style secrets of Japanese youth culture. How could I resist?
Watch the magical makeover in under 2 minutes
The Rainbow Village of Taiwan is a home makeover like no other. This tiny housing complex for retired military defendants in the city of Taichung is a colorific, childish, surreal, humorous and psychedelic outdoor exhibition that has been on my bucket list for years. Sure, we all liked to doodle as a child, but the story goes that when 93-year-old resident Huang Yung-fu (now known as the Rainbow Grandpa) heard the governments plans to tear down the complex and rehouse the veterans, he picked up a paint brush and let his imaginative illustrations run wild.
Kalinga is both a tribal community and a land locked province in the heart of the Cordillera Region, North Luzon, the Philippines. Until recently Kalinga people could be identified from a distance by their distinctive body art. Immersed in the magnificent mountains and cut off from modern society, Kalinga people lived modest but passionate lives in a world where your skin communicated your social status to the local community.
Conscious Clothing – Sustainable Textiles – Grow Local – Wear Global
Thao Vu, winner of the British Fashion Councils Young Creative Entrepeneur Award is the aspirational visionary designer behind the contemporary conscious clothing brand Kilomet 109.
Established in 2012, Kilomet 109 specialises in seamlessly merging simple yet sophisticated european silhouettes, traditional ethnic details and endangered natural dyeing techniques to create her own sustainable textiles range. The range is practically grown from seed to seam as Thao also owns organic cotton, indigo and hemp plantations employing Nung minority women to weave the natural fibers into her latest collections.
“Put your money where you mouth is” holds a whole new meaning to the Black Dao and Hmong women living in the mountains of Ha Giang, North Vietnam. A sparkling smile catching the light across a corn field can symbolise a few meanings to the unsuspecting onlooker in the ethnic minority market towns of Meo Vac and Don Van.
Caked in gold, silver and holographic metallic’s, wearing neon pink, canary yellow and lime green, the girls flirt in full flare skirts coordinated with beads, sashes, aprons and head scarfs. It was like watching a group of women going out for a night on the town, only it was 7am…
AT – DONG – VAN – MARKET – IN – THE – MOUNTAINS – OF – VIETNAM.
Smiling ear to ear and ecstatically happy to see me, they heckled me over to join them waving a bottle of something alluring above their heads. Before I sat down my tea cup was filled with a black liquid and Chúc sức khoẻ was cheered in the air. The ladies were obviously in the prime of their life and enjoying each other’s girly company on a hot and hazy day. The reasonably pleasant tasting black liquor was some kind of home brew made from herbs and rice wine. It wasn’t their first, nor would it be our last.
Tim Walker Captures Tshecu Traditional Costumes and Couture Fashion in Beautiful Bhutan for Vogue UKPosted on June 4, 2015
Last month Vogue published Tim Walker photography and Karen Elson’s epic expedition into the Kingdom of Bhutan. The editorial explores the striking Himalayan scenery, astonishing Asian architecture and the colourful composition of the countries rich cultural costumes.
Titled “The Land of Dreamy Dreams” the shoot explores a folkloric journey into the wilderness of the beautiful Bhutanese landscape. Couture collections from Céline, Loewe, Prada & Valentino are theatrical styled by Kate Phelan to embrace the drama of the costumes worn in the Cham dances of the monthly Tscheu festivals.
Traditionally part of Tibetan Buddhism (where the Tscheu festivals are now banned), the Bhutanese festivals are large religious social gatherings held on the 10th day of every lunar month. Seen as a form a meditation, Cham dances are performed by Buddhist monks who chant sacred mantras from beneath their costumes. Different dances tell the tales of local gods, myths and legends and are caricatured through garish, comical and often horrifying costumes and masks.
Transcending Ethnicity and Crossing Cultural Identity: Interview with Alisher Sharip about his new photography exhibition Babylon 21Posted on May 31, 2015
A few months ago I was invited to join a photography project exploring the identity of international residents living in Hanoi. The only mandatory obligation was that the model must wear a headdress of some kind in a bid to disguise their traditional appearance. Intrigued I agreed to participate as I saw it as a rare opportunity to appropriate my Vietnamese hill tribe accessories with contemporary fashion trends for a credible cause. (reading time 10 minutes)
About Babylon 21 Transcending Ethnicity
“This series of photographic portraits by Alisher Sharip represents the diversity of Hanoi, an amazing ethnic and cultural melting pot that is home to people from all around the world.
Moving from portrait to portrait, the viewer’s eyes go on a journey of individuals shaped not only by the communities in which they grew up but also by life in cosmopolitan Hanoi, an environment that often triggers creativity and allows a person the chance to develop abilities otherwise repressed by the demanding social-economic reality of the places they came from.
Life in Hanoi challenges identity at all levels, professional, social, religious and cultural. By stepping out of the stream of daily routine and creating unconventional images, the participants question the concept of ethnicity itself and demonstrate how contemporary cities eliminate ethnic boundaries and create global citizens.” For more information visit the event page on Facebook.
Interview with photography Alisher Sharip
- Can you briefly describe your background and experience in relation to working creatively and living in a multicultural society.
In a way I’ve lived in a multicultural societies for all my life. Born in a mixed family in Uzbekistan (USSR at that time), I grew up in Belarus, did my MA and PhD in St. Petersburg, worked in the US and Vietnam. In all those countries I’ve always been a foreigner occupied in creative fields like icon painting, copywriting, journalism, TV production and scholarly research. The camera has been my working tool since early 2000s and a few years ago I started to make a living as a freelance photographer.
- How did the project start? Are there any personal experiences that inspired the project?
It started spontaneously. I was working on a series of portraits of Mai Khoi the singer, and one day we were having a session with her and another singer, Dong Lan, they both wore scarves on their heads and I was amazed how the beauty of their facial treats stood out. Combining headpieces with ethnic clothes, I experimented the concept with a few other people. Hoang Minh Chau suggested making more similar portraits for an exhibition.
- You previously named the project Ethnica, why did you change the title to Babylon 21: Transcending Ethnicity?
Ethnica sounded too broad. At some point I started thinking how to narrow it down and focus on the national and ethnic diversity of Hanoi. Then the metaphor of Babylon popped out in my mind and I decided to use 21 as a reference to both 21st century and the number of participants that equally distributes gender presence.
- How many people from different cultures and ethnicities are involved in the exhibition?
There are people from different Asian countries, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Quite a few people in the series have mixed ethnic origins.
- What is the significance of the cultural costume, headdresses or props in the portraits?
My idea was to take people out of their everyday context, make them look different but still the way they wanted to look. So I asked them to prepare any sort of ethnic outfit they could think of – not necessarily representing their ethnicity but anything they associated themselves with. It was interesting to observe how some of them preferred their traditional costumes and others experimented putting together various national elements of costume, accessories and props to construct their identity.
- Working in fashion design and specialising in cultural costume I understand that our first impressions are often heavily influenced by the way individuals dress, do you think Babylon 21: Transcending Ethnicity challenges social stereotyping?
In a way it does. When we see a person dressed like that we are puzzled for a moment trying to classify what we see. Traditional “hippie” label doesn’t always work these days so we might have to think of a new decoding system to read people’s style.
- As a participant for me the project aspires to explore, challenge and combine the visual identity of the diverse ethnic and cultural community currently residing in Hanoi, would you say this is a accurate perception?
Yes and no. I didn’t try to show what people really wear in Hanoi in order to create or highlight their identity. It was rather an attempt to change the frame, get rid of conventional brand clothes that we usually wear without thinking twice. I wanted people to look different. And I liked the transformation. Human beauty shines when our ordinary perception is shaken a bit, when we visually slapped in the face and puzzled for a moment. I can’t wait to see participants at the opening, browsing among their portraits, taking selfies next to their framed images and comparing themselves with their photographic doubles.
- Will you reveal the portrait participants true ethnicity or will the observer have to guess?
I decided not to reveal their ethnic identities. Let it be a little hide and seek for the audience.
- How do you think multicultural communities have changed the creative scene in Vietnam over the past 10 years?
Dramatically. I came here 8 years ago and couldn’t find a joint with live music. Vietnamese artists were trying to create new forms coming up with something that had been out of date at the Western art scene for decades. I observed the emergence of the musical groups and was myself a part of it for a few years. I remember how traveling musicians Jason and Luke started Cinemusic Wednesdays and Phuong Dang was a part of it too and the place was always packed with local and foreign listeners. Now you can just open Grapewine or TNH and pick a gig where to go every day. It’s a completely different world and huge part of this change is multicultural influence.
On Wednesday 3rd June 2015 my portrait and 20 others will feature in a photography exhibition titled Babylon 21, exploring how contemporary multicultural living in the 21st century can challenge, change and create continuous conversation questioning who we perceive people to be based on their appearance.
Babylon 21 photography exhibition opens on Wednesday 3rd June 2015 at 6pm at Chula 43, NHAT CHIEU , 396 LAC LONG QUAN, Hanoi, Vietnam.