Street Style as you may know as gone stellar in the last couple of years but what I love most about it, is the chance to see how people from all over the world style themselves with inspirations and fashion from their own surroundings.
The new book, Japanese Street Style by Pat Lyttle, takes us into the Japanese culture and shows us how they express themselves with clothing and accessories. From girlie Lolita’s to full grown Man-drag, there are many different characters and their perceptions of Style in this fab new book.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Pat, the mastermind and photographer of this new project and grill him on street style, his career and the future.
What is it about Japanese street fashion that first attracted you to create a site about it and also this new book?
“I was first attracted to Japanese street fashion many years ago long before I was aware of its relevance or even my own personal awareness of fashion.
Without my realising of it I had been digesting a veritable diet of old black & white movies where actors & actresses had been styled by the legendary Edith Head.
I have always been interested in movie stars but my focus always seemed to be on their sense of style and I was consuming fashion magazines from around the world at a vast rate. From Italian Vogue, French Vogue, Japanese fashion mags like Zipper, Fruits which many know now to be a book.
All of this clearly impacted on me long before I was involved in fashion.
Seeing high end fashion magazines displaying well known mainstream designer label fashion a decade ago was the norm, but unless you were or have been exposed to Japanese culture in some way, as I have, it was unlikely you would have encountered street fashion in general let alone the uniqueness of Japanese street style.
Seeing this on my first ever visit to Japan and not just Tokyo but Osaka where looks were fresh, raw and often extreme, made me think I would one day like to have a website of my own.
Years later that became a reality but it specialised on Japanese culture as a whole. Later after taking pictures for some years in Japan and on the streets of London it occurred to me the need to have a website where the prime focus was street fashion, though as we all know today that has come a full circle and street style now influences mainstream fashion.”
There are many different styles of Japanese fashion, are there any styles that are your favourites?
“There are many style of fashion in Japan or rather I should say there are many style tribes. Japan possibly has more than anywhere else in the world.
Most people are familiar with Punk or the Goth look, maybe the Grunge or the Preppy Look but other than high streets guidance or the big luxury brands offerings on how one must dress for the coming season, that’s all most westerners have, unless you’re a young fashion student.
In Japan there are so many more style tribes and they are all individual with their uniquely independent looks and they even have diffusion ranges.
I guess my favourite style tribe from Japan is the Lolita or Elegant & Sweet Lolita looks. Also in direct contrast is the Decora look.
Both have an incredibly strong visual impact. You get the WOW factor so to speak, and for me as someone whose life has always being impacted by visuals, they are important to me.
The beauty and perfection of the Lolita style I love, with an entire culture built around it of tea parties, cuteness and sweetness, highly visible femininity and a refreshing portrayal of innocence, as if being amerced in a period costume drama. Beautiful to one’s eyes.
Decora I like because it is everything the mainstream fashion industry tells you is wrong, yet when you watch the young teens in Tokyo and Osaka do it well. They seem to be having so much fun and the look perfectly complements the feeling of fun. Bright, vivid colours, multiple layering. Random or focused adornments. Tell me you don’t wish you could be young again and get away with wearing different or odd coloured socks and odd coloured shoes like Helena Bonham Carter did at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards.”
You have photographed many famous people, how did you go from celebrity photographer to Street style?
“I have photographed a good many celebrities and movie stars. I always say when I’m asked, that was in a different life time. I now live in this one and what I photograph is different and in the now. I guess after the tragic death of Diana, The Princess of Wales, and the backlash of the public’s opinion on the press it made sense for me to look for something else to do with my creativity. I tried stock photography for a while but it has always been Japan that has been an anchor in my life, grounding me or pulling me in a certain direction usually towards anything relating to Japanese culture.
My awareness of fashion was also becoming more noticeable to me and I really enjoyed being among real people and on the street. I guess it was the energy I got from young teenagers and their self-expression that got to me. Here in the west, if you want to be a rebel you go out and destroy things, add graffiti to things, drink and smoke.
In Japan if you want to rebel, you put on heavy duty make up, dye your hair blond, dress up weirdly and sit down somewhere you can clearly be seen in a form of silent protest. I personally prefer the Japanese way but that’s just me.”
Street style has grown dramatically other the last couple of years, why do you think it has become so big?
“Street style has exploded in popularity both on the internet and in traditional print media for two very obvious reasons. The availability of quality affordable camera equipment, where one used to have to spend vast sums of money on a camera – today entry level SLR cameras and quality compacts give you the results a professional camera costing many thousands would have done a few years ago.
The blog has also played a major role in fashion, style and photography. Once you had to study hard, buy expensive equipment and then someone would possibly say something that would be based on the fundamental classics of fashion or photography and you’d possibly be disillusioned. Fortunately for the world, thanks to the blog, you can take a set of pictures based on how you feel or what you’ve just see and the entire world can know about it and post their own individual opinions or just simply like it.
The fact that it’s a personal thing is the key to the success. Everyone’s got a blog or wants one because it’s fun. It’s supposed to be that way otherwise it wouldn’t be the success it is today.
Anyone doubting the power and popularity of blogs and particularly fashion blogs, just look at the level of internet traffic during and around the fashion week season. People use street fashion images to compare with catwalk images or to bounce ideas off catwalk or red carpet imagery. Fashion houses use street fashion images to see how and why a particular piece from a collection has been a success or for direct inspiration on how to modify and update a piece.
For me personally, many years ago it was the teenagers on the streets of Tokyo that would buy a piece from John Galliano or from Vivienne Westwood and then wear it or even modify it in a way that the designer themselves wouldn’t have seen to have done. So rules are meant to be broken and redefined and in the world of fashion, the Japanese teenager rules supreme in doing just that, though I feel today sadly it is happening far less as people follow and take as law what they see and read rather than as a young aspiring adult or child should do. Question everything. The question WHY? Is the most important word there is I believe.
For traditional print media, street fashion helps the magazine or newspaper connect on a personal level with its audience knowing that it’s on a level playing field. You can run red carpet images of a stunning celebrity wearing a Dior, McQueen or Chanel Haute Couture gown but a selection of this weeks 10 most stylish people on the street has just as much impact and women can relate to it far greater than see themselves on a red carpet. What’s hot from the high street and freshly spotted is music to the ears of any sound picture or fashion editor.
These are my beliefs on why street fashion has become so popular in the last two or three years.
There have always been stylish people around but the last few years it is easier than ever, to view, seek them out and once you’ve found them rejoice in excitement and tell the rest of the world within a few keystrokes. Before the existence of the present batch of social media sites, this was a difficult thing to do and you would have to have learned actual marketing skills.”
What have you got planned for the near future?
“A great question.
I’ve been so wrapped up with my regular mainstream fashion job which I do love but hasn’t recently allowed me to do the things I truly do love like being on the street behind the camera.
For 2012 I plan to be on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka twice shooting lots of colourful and exciting images, where I can attempt to capture the spirit and fun side of the stylish people I see.
My collection as I call it of an overflowing amount of finely tuned Vintage fashion pieces from Victoriana to the now popular 1920s dresses through to last season’s high end stylish 70s pieces need to see some action, as they’ve been looking lonely of late, so I would like to get back into doing fashion shoots and styling them with these unique pieces.
I would like to have some dialogue with some fashion mags on using my collection for shoots. I’d love to get a few shoots under my arms this year where I’ve styled it as well as shot.
One of my favourite shoots ever is the fashion shoot photographed by Steven Meisel and styled by the amazing Grace Coddington for the famed Vogue September issue. Its theme is the 1920s and every time I see the images I think WOW! Then I say. I’ve got that dress & I’ve got that one too but mine are the originals. I would love to do a shoot on the street rather than in a studio but the models would have to be regular, everyday people, not professional models, as I really like the idea of the excitement you see on the face of a young women when she keeps saying “really” as you ask her can you please try on the Christian Louboutin shoes please and wear this dress here please.
This is all I have planned at the moment but planning is not what I really enjoy. Its’ the fun and the spontaneity of being on the street that I find exciting: when you spot someone from a far and you approach them and they are willing to let you take a hand full of pictures, and in that moment you get one or two images that make you all excited inside because the hunch you had about them paid off.”
All images by Bunnipunch