Kanzashi and Wa Lolita fashion in Japan: elegance, tradition and modernity
Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Kanzashi and Wa Lolita may seem like contrasting fashion statements but many aspects of modern day kanzashi and Wa Lolita mix perfectly together. Of course kanzashi is very broad and this can apply to an everyday accessory to a sophisticated marriage ceremony based on tradition. Therefore, you have multiple factors behind kanzashi and in Wa Lolita this aspect of this fashion statement can look stunning when the dress scheme works perfectly.
Kanzashi goes all the way back to the Jomon Period but during the Edo Period this fashion style came into its own. Therefore, artisans in Japan used greater sophistication and the Edo period witnessed a renaissance for kanzashi.
However, the duality of kanzashi in this period is extremely fascinating because these elegant hair ornaments were fantastic defensive weapons when the time arose. Thankfully, this aspect of kanzashi isn’t part of modern day fashion and Japanese traditional dress styles. However, it just shows you the richness of hair ornaments regarding Jomon to Edo and the duality of this lovely fashion statement.
Wa Lolita is just one aspect of Lolita fashion but this fashion style fuses Lolita and Japanese traditional styles together. This means you have an elegant style which embraces the rich traditions of kimono and yukata. Therefore, when this fusion of Wa Lolita, kimono/yukata and kanzashi comes together and at its best, then it is extremely elegant and graceful.
Kanzashi hairclip styles based on the richness of hair ornaments look extremely exquisite when you see elegant flower designs within Wa Lolita. Also, just like the rich traditions of kimono and yukata, the special fabrics and flower prints really enhances the style of Wa Lolita.
Turning back to kanzashi then at the high end of the market this fashion statement represents beautiful artistry and the stunning and sophisticated hair ornaments are extremely expensive. At the same time, kanzashi can be part of the rich fabric of Japanese culture and this applies to the world of geisha. Ledia Runnels comments that “A geisha wears her kanzashi in different ways to indicate her status. Maiko usually wear more numerous and elaborate kanzashi than full-fledged geisha and progress through several hairstyles where the kanzashi must be worn in a fixed pattern.”
“Typical materials used to make kanzashi are lacquered wood, gold and silver-plated metal, tortoiseshell, silk, and recently plastic. Early bakelite kanzashi are extremely collectible. Basic styles are complex hana (flower) and seasonal arrangements.”
At one point kanzashi was in decline because of the changing nature of Western hairstyles and the onset of modernity challenged many traditional ways. Therefore, kanzashi was mainly only used during traditional weddings or in the world of geisha and other features of Japanese culture. This applies to special occasions when kanzashi is essential.
However, just like fashion evolves and changes the same applies to kanzashi and gradually it became in vogue again in modern Japan. At the same time you had a growing international appeal which focused initially on Japanese high culture and fused this within Western styles. Therefore, prices can range vastly and the artistry of the high end of the market is extremely beautiful.
Of course nothing remains static and modern day kanzashi is really mixed and this applies to price mechanisms, the purpose of utilizing kanzashi and the materials which make these lovely hair ornaments. Pure kanzashi is still based on gold/silver plated metals, tortoiseshell, lacquered wood and silk – but in the world of accessible fashion and accessories, then kanzashi is also being made by using plastics and other materials.
Kanzashi represents many ways of thinking and this applies to traditional makers being focused on high culture and remaining loyal to the firm foundations of this fashion style. However, kanzashi is part of everyday fashion and the more simplistic theme means that this style appeals to mainstream fashion.
Wa Lolita is extremely stylish when everything works out perfectly because it looks so elegant and hip at the same time. This may sound a little contradictory but the hip applies to the uniqueness and the cross cultural influence of this intriguing fashion style.
However, Wa Lolita is complex and shiny fabrics, too much make up and other negative aspects, can make the fashion statement look tame. It is one of the hardest Lolita styles to pull off but when it works to a T then it looks amazingly stunning.
The intriguing aspect of kanzashi and Wa Lolita is the fusion of thinking, designs, and other Japanese cultural aspects which have been transformed domestically and internationally. Also, both styles can apply to elegance, sophistication and culture. Alternatively, both styles can be used in a punkish aspect of fashion and the renewal of a traditional theme is being made to come alive within different fashion statements.
Kanzashi is popular and hair ornaments can be bought easily in order to suit the occasion. However, Wa Lolita is a minor fashion style and buying quality clothes isn’t easy and lovers of this fashion have to shop around.
Irrespective of the popularity of Wa Lolita this fashion style is very intriguing and of course the creative aspect of Wa Lolita means that other designs and thinking can emerge from this style.
The complexity of Wa Lolita and the international popularity of kanzashi, means that the results of both is very mixed and clearly Wa Lolita remains on the margin of fashion and popularity. Despite this, Wa Lolita and kanzashi meet together in many ways because they both highlight the creativity and rich culture of Japan.