Misha Janette; Globalising Japan’s Subversive Culture

Originally hailing from Washington, United States, bilingual Japanese fashion blogger Misha Janette is an influencer who is playing a major part in globalising Japan’s subversive culture. Her avant-garde style has lead to her iconic status in the fashion world, where she focuses on promoting independent and alternative designers. Misha’s blog ‘Tokyo Fashion Diaries’ has bridged the language gap between the western world & Japan, being written in Japanese, English and Chinese. We caught up with Misha to discuss some of her favourite designers, influences and the impact of social media on street style culture.

Misha Janette

What inspires you creatively?

It seems that I have always been drawn to the subversive side of art; my favorite painting when I was 7 years old was “The Scream” and I was obsessed with the art of Aeon Flux. It makes sense that I live in Japan, which is where subversive culture thrives. It’s often misunderstood from the western perspective, but Tokyo’s never ending supply of small surprises here and there continuously inspire me.

Misha Janette

How did your interest in Japan develop to the point of you speaking the language and living there?

In the 90’s, my fourth grade teacher was second-generation Japanese. She taught all of her students about origami and gave us postcards from Japan when we did well on tests. My love for the country started then… it was so colorful! I knew that I always wanted to work in a creative industry, either graphic design or fashion. So fast forward to the era of Y2k, and Japanese pop culture was becoming a big thing. I was reminded of this inspiring country then, and found that there were openings for study abroad students at Bunka Fashion School in Tokyo, one of the best fashion schools in the world. I decided to take the plunge and I’ve been here for 13 years now.

Misha Janette

How has living in Japan and Japanese culture influenced your style?

In Tokyo, we have two extremes; one is MUJI, high-class sushi, temples & zen…and then on the flipside we have chaotic Harajuku, anime & manga, cosplay, and the neon lights. These two worlds coexist peacefully like nowhere else on the planet. My style is taken from the two worlds, and I have explored both the extremely stoic side aka Yohji Yamamoto as well as the chaotic side with my phase dabbling in Harajuku kawaii style. Now, I take just a little bit of both; I like to wear chic clothing, but add a bit of a twist to it somewhere, usually in the accessories or with asymmetrical silhouettes.

Misha Janette

What sets the fashion scene in Japan (particularly Tokyo) apart from the rest of the world?

Imagine wearing something like a Marie Antoinette style Lolita dress in Manhattan or London, you would get heaps of strange looks, and probably a few people getting into your personal space to question “why” you’re wearing such a thing. In Japan, bothering strangers for compliments or criticism alike is almost nonexistent. Everyone minds their own business and the world turns as usual. This is why we have long-standing fashion subcultures and girls & boys in white mask “shironuri” goth, Lolita, Kawaii style, and even cosplay on the streets. I always say that the “Fashion Crime Rate” in Japan is the lowest in the world. It means you don’t have to be afraid about being assaulted verbally or physically by wearing whatever fashion you want.

Misha Janette

Fruits Magazine was a institution for documenting street style in Tokyo, and their announcement to discontinue impacted followers all around the world. They cited their closure being due to a ‘lack of cool kids’ on the streets. Have you noticed a decline in experimental fashion in the streets of Tokyo?

There are two things at play here that caused the perfect storm of seeing Fruits Magazine cease publication. First of all, it is definitely due to the influx of tourists in Harajuku. I know we used to go walking in Harajuku to see and be seen by likeminded people, and now the area is full of gawking tourists (both from abroad and Japan’s own countryside). And the shops are big brands or cheap knockoffs, which used to be relegated to an area closer to the station but are now in Fruits’ Ura-Harajuku area. Plus, it’ s also the “fault” of SNS (Korean social networking app) and Instagram. Before, one had to actually go to Harajuku to get snapped and receive notoriety from the street style mags, but now one doesn’t even need to leave their house to get famous from their personal style. Personally, I prefer the streets of Shimokitazawa, even though it is a very different vibe than Harajuku.

Misha Janette

Key current trends?

In the Japanese language, the word for clothing “yofuku” literally translates to “Western-style clothes”. There’s a word for Japanese clothes, “wafuku”. So the idea of tailored clothing is still relatively new in Japanese history and doesn’t come with as much baggage in terms of historical context or even gender norms that western fashion does. So then there are lots of boys dressing feminine or girls who look androgynous, and it’s not about crossdressing. I think the K-pop style of “genderless” boys who hold women’s clutches and wear lipgloss and the “boyish” girls who look achingly cool in androgynous styles are my favorite trends right now.

Misha Janette

Who are some of your muses?

The costume designer Erte from the 1920s, Sailor Saturn, Isabella Blow and Daphne Guinness are forever my muses.

Misha Janette

Favourite local designers?

I love so many, but just a few are ANREALAGE, Miyao (ex Comme des Garcons), Noir Kei Ninomiya, Doublet, Akikoaoki, Mikio Sakabe, Roggykei and my favorite shop to find local brands is Xanadu in Harajuku.

Misha Janette

Clothing Credits:

Look 1

Hat – FM Mauvaise, Top – Tender Person, Skirt – Ly by Lyna Kajimoto, Shoes – Adidas

Look 2

Vest – Xanadu Tokyo, Dress – Ryo Tominaga

Look 3

Crown/choker – Ikuko Tanizaki, Top and pants – Meg Miura

Look 4

Jacket – Tomo Koizumi, Skirt – Roggykei, Shoes – Masaaki Matsushima

For more information on clothing check out Xanadu Tokyo @xanadutokyo

Interview with Misha Janette by Sara Nicolette. Photography by Jesse Mullins.

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