Tokyo is widely known for its interestingly unique street fashion but one doesn’t have to fly halfway across the globe to catch a glimpse of what hot trends are hitting the Shibuya streets. From super tan gyaru of yesteryear to the brightly colored Lolita-style maids of today, one can find any and every style online. And if you dig into the Tokyo fashion scene a step further, you will surely come across this London native, now based in Tokyo: Meet Choom.
1. Tell me about yourself.
I’m a Londoner currently living and studying in Tokyo, Japan. I am the Editor-in-Chief of the online magazine, The COMM, and I go to Bunka Gakuen University, where I am pursuing a master’s degree in fashion.
2. You were studying Japanese for four years at university. What was the most challenging part about mastering Japanese?
Absolutely everything — and I am still no master of the language! Being half French and studying Spanish at school, I thought that having a natural aptitude for languages would somehow miraculously make learning a non-romance language easier. It did not. The hardest part was, and still is, speaking Japanese. You have to have the confidence to just go for it because there’s no way of improving your speaking ability of you don’t talk. Once you get around the long, super polite keigo sentences, Japanese becomes way easier.
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3. What brought you to Japan?
During my year abroad, I got to come to Tokyo and I studied at Waseda University. Outside the university, there is a bus that goes straight to Harajuku, so after class, I went there to shop every other day. My style got more and more outlandish and eventually, I got noticed by 6% DOKIDOKI, a famous shop in Harajuku, who asked me to model for them in a fashion show. After the show, they asked me to be a shop-girl, which was such a huge deal! Only the coolest, most fashionable people get to work in Harajuku, so I was thrilled.
“I didn’t want the narrative of ‘crazy Japan’ to continue to be the predominant angle on the culture.”
While working there, I learned so much about Japanese street fashion and the Tokyo fashion scene. It was totally different from what I expected and what I had been reading about online and in books. I thought western media had a stereotypical image of Japanese pop culture that hadn’t really changed in the last ten years or so, so I thought, “I have to do something about this!” So I decided to start my own online magazine and of course, I had to be in Tokyo to be able to interview and do photoshoots with people. As soon as I graduated from university in 2017, I moved straight to Tokyo to pursue my dreams.
4. Although born and raised in the UK, a lot of young black British people feel like outsiders in their own country. Do you feel more like an outsider in Japan or the UK?
I don’t really feel like an outsider. I mean, I know I don’t fit in but I’m okay with that. I think the topic of race is really difficult for me because I’m mixed race so I’m never going to belong in one box. But that’s definitely a positive thing for me. So to answer the question, both, but it really doesn’t bother me!
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5. Your online magazine, “The COMM,” publishes photoshoots and articles about Japanese street fashion. Was it a difficult process to create such a platform?
The COMM has been the most challenging yet rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I wanted to create a platform that was not only about Japanese street fashion but the creatives that make up the community. I wanted to put their voice at the forefront, and allow people to speak about their fashion and creativity for themselves. Japanese street fashion is such an interesting topic and Tokyo has the most amazing fashion scene. I didn’t want the narrative of “crazy Japan” to continue to be the predominant angle on the culture. Also, it was super important to make it accessible to everyone to be able to read the articles. Far too often, articles are written about fashion creatives in languages they don’t speak so they don’t understand what was written, hence the need for multiple languages. In this way, we act as a point of cultural mediation, and nothing is lost in translation, literally!
I had to reach out and try to connect with people in the hopes they would agree to shoot and do interviews to get it off the ground. Thankfully everyone was so supportive and willing to give their time! Initially, I did all the photography and articles myself. On my lunch break for my English teaching job, I would be at an internet cafe, writing articles and napping. Since then, our team has grown. Now we have writers, translators and photographers, so they’ve definitely relieved a lot of the pressure! (If anyone reading wants to join, feel free to contact us!!) There continues to be learning curves like photoshoot scheduling and the website crashing but the content we have produced and the people we have featured — such as FEMM, gyaru unit Black Diamond and the Harajuku icon Haruka Kurebayashi — have been so incredible. So it’s all been well worth the effort.
6. What first sparked your interest in Japanese street fashion?
I was introduced to anime and idols when I was really young. When I was about 13 years old, I saw a scan of FRUiTS magazine online and I thought, “this is it, this is what I want to look like!” I then bought a few issues of KERA magazine and my obsession got even worse. All the outfits in the magazines were so cool and I was so inspired by the hair and makeup. Actually, I have been snapped for FRUiTS and KERA magazine so it’s like a dream come true!
7. What has been your favorite 2020 fashion trend?
All the funky masks and face shields. One of my friends made a face shield that’s red with devil horns, it’s so rad. I’ve seen Hello Kitty ones floating about on the internet too.
8. Any idea as to what the next street fashion trend will be in Tokyo?
No clue! I’m hoping fashion from the late 2000s and early 2010s comes back. I miss galaxy leggings and scene kid hair.
9. You have a pretty unique style. How would you describe your own style to someone?
Bright colors, shiny clothes, graphic designs and massive platforms. It’s always changing. I’m currently aiming for a Pastel Harajuku Lady sort of look, but I might change next month.
10. As you are a fellow Brit, the question must be asked: English Tea or Japanese Matcha?
I hope I don’t get absolutely slated for this … but neither. I like hot chocolate…