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Gothic lolitas at Hyper Japan

Hyper Japan Festival, Olympia 2 London, July 22-24 2011 Article & photos: Kerry Ashdown

IF YOUR fashion dreams take you to the streets of Harajuku, following elegantly frilled Gothic Lolitas and day-glo Decoras down the kawaii rabbit hole, then Hyper Japan Festival was the only place to be from July 22 -24.

This year's three day celebration of culture from the Land of the Rising Sun was even bigger and better than last year, moving from Old Truman Brewery to the Olympia 2. And whatever your passion, from gaming to food to traditional crafts, there was something to sate you, with some big names lending a helping hand like Nintendo and Yo! Sushi.

Cosplay fans got into stylish spirit, turning out in force in a variety of colourful costumes inspired by anime, manga and gaming characters. Many took to the stage for the CosParade, while the Hyper Japan UK Cosplay Award attracted strong entries too. Benjamin Hunt and Lettie Shiels were crowned winners with their portrayal of Kaoru and Rei from anime and manga series; Neon Genesis Evangelion, while Kara Hook and Beth Cox were runners up as two versions of Zidane Tribal from Final Fantasy IX.

Cosplayers at Hyper Japan

But Japanese street fashion fans failed to be outdone, as was evident with the impressive array of refined looking Lolitas, Decoras sporting plenty of colourful plastic accessories and bright colours and even the odd Kigurumin-inspired animal outfit. On the Lolita front Sweet Lolita proved particularly popular, with many pastel outfits adding extra cuteness to an already kawaii day, and popular brand choices including Angelic Pretty and Bodyline alongside impressive homemade efforts.

Lolitas wanting to update their wardrobe were treated to a pop-up Baby, the Stars Shine Bright and Alice and the Pirates store and a Lolita bring and buy offered an opportunity to pick up pre-loved skirts, dresses and accessories.

For those not yet immersed in the magic of Baby, TSSB there was a dramatic demonstration onstage by one of their more high profile fans, Kanon Wakeshima, prot'ge of Visual Kei legend Mana. Wakeshima-san took up cello when she was just three and has now combined it to stunning effect with J-Pop and Gothic Lolita. Styled in by Baby, TSSB, she was resplendent on Saturday in a white dress and white veiled hat, both teamed up with black detailing, and shiny black boots, all of which reflected her haunting yet sweet music and vocals.

Kanon Wakeshima at Hyper Japan Stalls at Hyper Japan Now, Voyager stall at Hyper Japan

The stage also hosted a fashion showcase featuring three up and coming Japanese designers based in Europe. Arisa Fukumoto's clothes celebrated femininity, with influences of classical ballet adding sparkle to the delicacy.

Doi mixed power with elegance and Japanese tradition in a dynamic monochromatic display where the models changed outfits before your very eyes. And Satoshi Date, who created the music to accompany his collection, used gentle colours and soft handmade techniques to create a calm and reflective mood.

Other fashion stalls at the event included traditional kimono as well as contemporary items inspired by the fun spirit of Harajuku. Roxie Sweetheart was selling an array of adorable pastel coloured jewellery and trinkets, Dragon Dreads had kawaii accessories (including some delicious looking cake and sweet-inspired jewels) and Now, Voyager had a very eye-catching range of hair accessories, from cake slice and bird fascinators to rubber duck, plastic fish and knitted shrimp hair clips.

If you were on a budget but needed a head-turning hairpiece you need not have headed any further than the Japanese crafts area, where friendly lessons in flower making were taking place. It was astonishing to discover that a humble paper serviette could be turned into a beautiful floral accessory simply by cutting once, folding, tying with a rubber band and teasing out the paper layers, before attaching a simple hairgrip.

Flowers were also being made to send to Japan for the annual Tanabata summer festival in Sendai, one of the areas worst hit by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March, and many people eagerly created blooms, as well as giving donations and messages of support to the Japanese people.

Add to the mix a robot show, a voyage into the world of sake, sushi making demonstrations, the search for UK Kawaii Star of the Year (won by Scarlett Young) and many more treats and you needed three days to experience all that Hyper Japan had to offer; if you wanted an even bigger slice of J-culture you'd have to get on the plane to Tokyo to top it!

To keep on top of news for the next Hyper Japan show visit