Tokyo is known for its legendary street style, where hyper-stylized fashion tribes, from Yamanba to cosplay to Lolita, don elaborate outfits. NYC-based photographer Thomas Card spent the spring of 2012 in Tokyo shooting the capital’s street fashion. More than 130 of his photos have just been published in a glorious new book called Tokyo Adorned.
Card made his trip to Tokyo a year after the devastating tsunami had hit. “The country experienced an upsurge of national pride,” he writes, “and participants in street fashion increasingly celebrated their unique placement within the Japanese culture at large.”
Inspired by Richard Avedon, Card chose to use a white background when photographing his 75 subjects, whom he selected from hundreds of photo submissions from Tokyo fashionistas. So while normcore may be in its ascendancy here in the States, Tokyo street style is still full-on maximalist. Some of Card’s subjects look like the love children of Marilyn Manson and Little Edie Beale. Others turn themselves into cartoon characters, channeling Victorian Little Bo Peep with “Lolita” or “Dolly” fashion, a trend (and lifestyle) gleefully exploited by TLC’s “My Strange Addiction: I’m a Living Doll.” Neon wigs and contact lenses are big; so is self-decorating with stuffed animals and plastic toys. On the whole, these girls make Lady Gaga look like she shops at Lily Pulitzer.
Imagining the inner lives of these subjects is as endlessly fascinating as taking in the wild, painstaking details of their ensembles. If clothing is an expression of self and identity, what exactly is it that these subjects are expressing? As fashion guru and Barneys Creative-Director-at-large Simon Doonan writes in his introduction to the book: “Who is she? Is she suicidal or deliriously happy? Does she always wear a Peruvian oven mitt on her head?”
But Card says his subjects understand that they look outrageous: “Everything from the names they choose for themselves to the particular arrangement of items and accessories and clothing often reflects a particular sense of humor,” he said in a recent interview with Slate. “One woman’s name translates to ‘Barbecue.’ The humor of that is not lost on her.”