Japanese teens have a reputation for embracing trends with cult-like fervor. The most recent kid craze of donning Gothic and Lolita garb is now the subject of Phaidon Press’ latest style tome, “Gothic & Lolita,” which photographically documents this scene of medieval getups in Tokyo and Osaka.

“The idea for ‘Gothic & Lolita’ came about after many years of visiting Japan and seeing firsthand the incredible energy of street fashion in both Tokyo and Osaka,” said Mark Sanders, a consulting editor at Phaidon. “What often seemed on an immediate level ‘bizarre’ cultural excess has in fact its own internal set of rules and logic.”

Page by page, “Gothic & Lolita” showcases teens posing in their over-the-top, doll-like or dark getups, from corsets and spikes to lacy Victorian dresses, tutus, bows and wigs. The pictures were taken by Masayuki Yoshinaga, and the book was edited by Katsuhiko Ishikawa. It has little text except for a few bullet points on each subject’s point of fashion and current obsession. And these prove to be as arbitrary as the emergence of the trend itself. For instance, Yuka, age 18, teams crochet tights with a dress of graffiti patchwork motifs, and lists her own funeral as a fashion inspiration, and fermented beans as her current obsession.

“The Gothic and Lolita scene first came in existence in the late Nineties with the explosion of visual kei bands, Japanese rock bands who were characterized by their New Romantic clothing and makeup,” Sanders explained. “But in the decade since then, the scene has taken on a life of its own. Gothic fashion fuses with Lolita style to create this interesting hybrid, which is so Japanese. They take Western culture and put their own personalized spin on it. It is as if you are looking at codes of your own culture regurgitated back at you, a new form of global pop culture for the masses.”

His personal favorite is the shot of Rose, 26, and Giggles, 32. Rose is wearing a white ruffled lace gown, and Giggles’ Victorian shirt is cinched in by a corset held in place with suspenders. Sanders calls the duo “Byronic Goths.”

This story first appeared in the May 4, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“They look so great, a mixture of fantasy with a literary edge,” he said. “The girl even has the melting clock face painted on the side of her head, [with] memories of Dali. There are not many other youth cultures in the world that are alive to the past. It reminds you of the Punk attitude of the Seventies in London, a time when bands could reference Dostoyevsky and get away with it.”

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