By TAKAMASA SAKURAI
TSUBASA Maeda, 25, and her younger sister Mamu, 20, yearned to be involved in the fashion industry from a young age.
Now, the sisters are pioneers in importing Japanese trends overseas.
Together, they operate Chu Chu, a boutique selling Lolita-style clothing they design at a shopping mall in Bangkok.
Mamu has lived in Thailand since middle school. At the time, her parents ran a volunteer organisation that helped children in a northern mountainous region of the country. She went on to study at a fashion design school run by an Italian.
Meanwhile, Tsubasa lived in Japan before going to New York to also study fashion design.
As Thailand became a more prosperous country, their parents closed the volunteer organisation and the sisters launched their boutique in Bangkok.
When asked why they chose Lolita fashion, Tsubasa replied: “In Thailand, unlike Japan, there are no fashion categories. Japanese women’s fashion magazines are getting popular here. Local girls have also begun searching for their fashion identity, and the cosplay culture has had a significant influence on them. Mamu often participates in cosplay events in Thailand. We see many local girls wearing makeup, which they rarely used to do, and confidently sporting their fashion choices.
“Seeing these girls, I recognised Thais aren’t shy anymore and readily personalise their clothing if they are presented with fashion categories they like. So, we thought about which category we could provide and landed on Lolita fashion.”
When talking with them, I noticed that many had been drawn to Lolita fashion after their involvement in cosplay and anime.
Cosplay helps us pretend to be somebody else. That person could be a real historical figure or a character in a Hollywood sci-fi film.
Interestingly, many cosplayers worldwide believe the practice originated in Japan, and true cosplayers would wear the clothes of anime, manga and game characters to reflect the wearers’ affinity for fictional worlds.
After a while, they wanted to have the same excitement around everyday fashion and found the Lolita style made this possible.
Looking good to feel good
Female Lolita fashion fans often say: “We don’t wear these clothes for other people, but for ourselves because we like it. We really want to dress like this.”
In other words, Lolita fans don’t care about how they look to others and just want to enjoy wearing the clothes.
“Cosplay costs a lot. The more people get into it, the more it costs. So we thought about how we could provide Lolita clothing that could give them a cool look for very affordable prices. We wanted to tell girls in Thailand how wearing their favourite clothes can be fun and that they can be pretty doing so.”
Tsubasa said Chu Chu customers are not limited to Thais but also come from neighbouring countries.
“Lolita fashion usually has classical touches. But we put priority on designing casual items they can wear anytime and anywhere. The skirts are a bit shorter than ordinary Lolita fashion. Our clothes are not only cute but also sophisticated. They are intended for, well, an active princess.” — The Japan News/Asia News Network