12 Aug 2016

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Oh My God! Harajuku Girl


Whether you listen to her music or couldn't care less about it, it's hard to deny Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's incluence on fashion, Japanese or otherwise. Similarly, many Lolitas will be looking to other J-fashions for inspiration or maybe even transitioning to Lolita from them (or the other way round). If you can read Japanese at least at an about an intermediate level, then I definitely recommend Kyary's book, there's plenty for Lolitas and non-Lolitas alike.







I must say that it was quite a shock when I first opened it. Kyary is a very visual artist, so I expected her book to be a lot more visual, quite similar to the two Misako Aoki books I talked about earlier, but with Kyary's unique take on it. However, what you do get is a few pages filled with photos of Kyary, either from the special photoshoot or family photos, and the rest is text.



But don't let that turn you off! You'd really be missing out if you put the book down because of the text to images ratio. While I can’t say whether this has been ghost written or not, the whole thing reads very lightly: it’s written casually and you quickly begin to feel as if you were listening to Kyary tell her story, mostly focusing on fashion and the discovery of her own style, and how she ended up where she is now. It’s quite easy to forget that Kyary is only 23, she’s already achieved so much, but at the same time the book reads young with a very strong teenager feel to it – probably in big part due to the fact that her teenage years are a big chunk of it.



A minor spoiler, so skip this paragraph if you’re waiting to read this book yourself.
Although Lolita fashion is only mentioned very briefly, literally an item in one list, there is something here that I think many younger Lolitas will be able to relate to, and that is parental resistance. Kyary describes the lengths she went to in order to hide her love of unique fashion and makeup from her strict mum, and although I’ve never gone through anything like that, I know of people who did, both those who are into Lolita fashion and those totally unaware of its existence. I doubt that she meant to write this as a manual of what to do when your parents don’t approve of your hobbies/interests, however, it has quite a strong message of perseverance: respect your parents, but don’t allow them to dictate who you should be and how you should look like – do what makes you happy (and maybe wait until you gain some relative independence from them to go full out with whatever it is they dislike). I quite liked the positivity that emanated from those paragraphs, even through the complaining and relived stress of getting caught.



Another great touch was intercepting Kyary’s narrative with a few conversation/interview style bits. Every two chapters or so you get to read Kyary answer some questions with one of her best friends, who are mentioned throughout the book, or with her mum, and those parts give a fantastic insight into what she is like as a person, as well as make her close ones come to life. Yeah, you may read what a great, similarly crazy friend Bon-chan was to Kyary – but it’s so much more fun to read them reminisce together about their shared love of Japanese comedians, makes Bon-chan feel more like a real friend, while at the same time portraits Kyary as less of a “celestial being existing in a sphere where regular humans don’t”. Or, in plain English, makes her seem like a genuine person and not just a face on ads and music videos. This is what I look for in books by and about celebrities: a glimpse of their daily selves, a touch of humanity that makes you feel closer to your idol.



Finally, although that was quite a minor point in the book, there is a moment there where Kyary talks about fan reactions when they meet her, one of which is that they’d love to dress like her. Her response? That she doesn’t quite get it and would love for everyone to dress and be like themselves, not like Kyary. I may have changed a few words, as I’m actually writing this up months after finishing the book and cleverly forgot to bookmark the relevant page, but the sentiment is there. I realise that it’s a cliché, maybe even more so when coming from very visual stars like her, Lady Gaga or Katy Perry, yet given the following that they have I think it’s important that they do reinforce that message to their fans. Don’t become another Kyary or Gaga clone – find what works for you, what you are comfortable in and what makes you feel like a million dollars, and own it! This is another message that I think would resonate quite strongly with Lolitas. Yes, there are rules, but experiment with the fashion, play around and have fun discovering what kind of Lolita are you (and seeing if maybe you could push any of those rules whilst still making it work). If fashion isn’t fun, if you’re not enjoying it, then you’re doing it wrong.


I have to say, I really got into the book and finished it quickly, enjoying the trip along with Kyary on the road towards self-discovery in and through fashion. It’s what I’d consider a good summer read: engaging, but not requiring much commitment, fun and interesting, even if not particularly full of photos which I’m sure most people expect of it. And I think it works for both Kyary Pamyu Pamyu fans as well as those who don’t mind her, but are more into any kind of Harajuku fashion.

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