The debate as to whether certain fashion is Cosplay is one with increasingly validity, mostly thanks to an over-specialization by the key brands that lead the respective subcultures. Certainly when you reach a point when, say, the Lolita look has become so defined as to the point where creativity is discouraged it can feel like Cosplay as your success or otherwise hinges on accuracy to a pre-approved example rather than a purely aesthetic appreciation. No wonder then that the new-comers to that demographic in Japan have emphasised creativity and freedom of expression – aka – Mori or Fairy. The point is that the more rigid the fashion, the closer it comes to Cosplay.
Turning this relationship between uniform and fashion on its head are people like Junya Suzuki and the NeoCos group who start with Cosplay as their inspiration and then work backwards integrating it into fashion. By working this way round they are free from the usual criticisms of particularly stylised fashion, that it is costume-like, because they are acknowledging that very fact at the start of the process. At the same time it allows them to build in iconic visual elements from the Otaku subculture into fashion – with stunningly thought provoking results I might add.
An Otaku Meets his Heroine.
The reason I mentioned Junya Suzuki at the start of this article, is because he is without a doubt the best exponent of this aesthetic and to get a handle on it I am going to take a brief chronological tour through his work from Paris, to Candy in Shibuya right up to the CHAOS LOUNGE project which the above picture is from.
The earliest work I ever saw from Junya Suzuki was ironically the closest to conventional fashion and was developed when he was studying in Paris.
He was clearly concerned with form and volume right from the start, concentrating on clothes that changed the body’s form entirely.
Needless to say, this all won him an enormous amount of praise and was marked out early on as one to watch.
But a do think that even at this early point you could see influences of certain aesthetics from the Otaku subculture. Elements of neo-gothic imagery and armor definitely found their place in his work right from the start.
Then he found himself stocked in Candy where his work started to take on an accesible geometric form. From this period there are a whole host of layers that you could really integrate into an outfit with great ease.
At the same time as he was perfecting this signature exaggerated corset/armor like aesthetic he was starting to exhibit his work in an art context which led him to combine his clothes into his installations.
And as time went on the anime and manga influences were becoming more and more apparent in his work.
I like this one as some kind of figure kit to be assembled along with the exaggerated plastic-like texture of the fabrics.
Courtesy of Student Voice.
At this point Junya Suzuki started to explore the cosplay-like origins of his fashion through art with the CHAOS LOUNGE group which creates some of the most stunning installations you have ever seen.
The man at work.
A CHAOS LOUNGE exhibition.
The most striking of their work comes when they integrate models into their installations which are then broadcast on the internet at the same time as they are open to the public.
Junya Suzuki made the clothes (what little there are!) for these displays.
In isolation these can look like something for an Otaku to gawp over, but in context these installations are far more disturbing then moe…
It certainly identifies the Otaku space/room with both reality and the 2D at the same time and recalls the blunt criticism of Otaku that they cannot distinguish reality from fiction.
Like all art, this should have given you something to think about at the very least. Junya Suzuki’s work does not serve to answer questions, but more to challenge your preconceptions of the aesthetics of cosplay and fashion, he is after all only one part of the group that is aiming to fuse fashion with cosplay that includes Galaxxxy, Hatra, Spank, Balmung and many more. It is also a project that unites the two biggest forces in Japan’s Soft Economy – Fashion and Otaku, which have traditionally been in isolation from each other, but given the rich aesthetic back-catalogue that latter represents it was only a matter of time before it was pillaged by the former.
If you are interested to see more from his, he does have a blog and I will keep you posted if he acquires a regular stockist. Till then I will be visiting his booth at White Exhibition later today so I am sure I will have more to report very very soon.