Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Substyles Mini-Series: Dark Mori



Hello my deers! Welcome to the first post in my new mini-series about mori substyles! I have been meaning to talk more about these substyles in-depth for a long time, but I just never got around to it. Today, I'll be starting off with one of the most well known (and most often misunderstood) substyles, dark mori.

There are a few posts about Dark Mori still floating around the internet, a lot of outfit photos, and the name of the style generally is common in the collective mori consciousness. A few posts I would recommend for more information about the style are Miss Kellie's post, Crow Fairy Laura's post here, one by Milk Teeth here, and one by Carnivale Salt here. However, although it is well known, the specifics about the style are often confusing, and the history of its creation is almost unknown to most.

CREATION

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The history of dark mori is quite interesting. Unlike mori kei, dark mori was not created in Japan, but rather on the internet by western audiences sometime around 2012. The style also appears to never have spread to Japan at all, and there are no street snaps of dark mori, or magazine looks, at least not that I can find. Regardless of its creation, the style is still considered to be an official substyle by almost everyone in the mori community.

The style was actually created by a group of various people on Tumblr and other social media platforms. One person who was well known for helping create the style is Mai Magi (previously known as shortcuttothestars). Eventually, the base ideas for dark mori and those who created it would create a new style, Strega, and leave the dark mori community. However, although they left the community behind rather quickly, the term dark mori and its style still lived on and grew to become almost as well known as mori kei itself.

DARK MORI VS STREGA

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As the official creators of dark mori created the style, they came to realize that many of them desired a different sort of style, one focused less on rules and the silhouette and ideals that are attached to the mori kei style. This led to the creation of Strega fashion, which has now become well known amongst online fashion communities. The style is often confused with dark mori, partially because of their similar origins, and also because of some style similarities. However, Strega officially is quite different from dark mori.

The official description via Mai Magi of Strega is as follows:
  • Strega means witch, and that theme is, therefore, the center of the fashion
  • There are no other rules
  • There are no established color schemes
  • Inspiration is taken from fairytales, folklore, and myth, all things magical and witchy
  • Inspiration is drawn from goth, boho, mori and whatever else you prefer
  • It is different from mori in that it doesn’t have any ties to japan or Japanese street fashion
  • It is different from goth in that it has no inherent ties to goth culture or music
  • NO ONE can demand to know what Strega is or exclude anyone from the fashion or tag! Strega is the witch inside us, coming out through our clothing.

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You can learn more about Strega here if you are interested. But to sum things up, the creators grew tired of the restrictive nature of mori kei, and sought to create a more all-inclusive style. Because of this, Strega outfits may often resemble dark mori. But although Strega can sometimes be dark mori, dark mori cannot be Strega, as it follows the guidelines of traditional mori kei style.

THE FASHION

So what exactly is dark mori? What makes it different from traditional mori kei? The main difference is its focus on dark color schemes, the aspect of the style that gives it its name. Black is by far the most popular color scheme for the substyle, but dark blues, dark reds, and dark browns, as well as white, are all used occasionally.

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Similar to mori, dark mori focuses on the use of lace, many layers, knit fabrics, and natural fabrics. Its silhouette is almost indistinguishable from traditional mori kei, although dark mori outfits may add some "creepy" or "witchy" elements, such as ripped clothing, or witchy stripes. 
Overall, fewer prints are used in the style, with mainly stripes being used if anything. Additionally, more block colors are used in the style than mori, especially in the form of large blocks or continuous color.

DARK MORI CHECKLIST

Those who created the style actually worked together at its inception to create a dark mori checklist The checklist was originally hosted on the now-deleted blog Strega's Forest, which was originally a dark mori blog, that later moved to Strega with a large portion of the community. The checklist has been reuploaded to various blogs, although the original post has been lost over time. I have copied it here for you to read, and have reworded some points slightly for grammar's sake.
  • Style:
    • Wants to look like a witch or a dark fairy from the woods.
    • Likes to wear dark, dusty colors, but also jewel and earthy tones.
    • All white outfits can be pretty for a ghostly look.
    • Vintage clothes are a must.
    • Antique, used, or ragged laces and silks.
    • Flowers, leaves, feathers, or antlers make pretty headpieces.
    • Natural stones, bones, taxidermy and silver jewelry is best.
    • Leather accessories (belts, pouches, cuffs, corsets…)
    • Anything fur related could work.
    • Knitted items are good, and handmade is best.
    • Layering is the key,
    • Medieval, Victorian, Folklore and 1920’s inspirations.
    • Ethnic clothes.
    • Hats are big, quirky and always decorated.
    • Floral patterns and animal prints.
    • Might have some Lolita or Steampunk inspiration
    • Helena Bonham Carter is a great style icon.
    • Dramatic silent movie makeup, tribal paints or very natural looks works fine.
    • Legwear is fun to experiment with. Wearing stripey socks can be used to create a witchy look.
    • Can look flirtatious and seductive at times. Corsets are welcome for this look.
    • Crushed velvet.
    • Prefers dresses and skirts, the longer the better.
    • Shawls, ponchos, and hoods.
    • Laced up boots, pointy shoes, victorian heels, and clogs.
    • Braided hair, messy curls, or dreads are good hairstyles.
  • Lifestyle:
    • Likes anything spooky or creepy.
    • Collects oddities.
    • Might be attracted by witchcraft and esoterism.
    • Might tend to have a natural lifestyle.
    • Believes in Fairies, and Spirits.
    • Crafty girl.
    • Has a familiar/pet, and most likely a cat or rats.
    • A rather solitary girl, kind of an introvert.
    • Might prefer Dark Music scenes, from traditional goth, ambient to Black Metal.
    • Likes Tribal Fusion Dancing.
    • Strangeness over prettiness.
    • Loves books. Old bookstores are a favorite place.
    • Somewhat rebellious, strong-willed and free-spirited, but still ladylike.
    • Romantic and melancholic.
    • Might have little quirks, or superstitions.
    • Loves tea.
    • Folklore, fairytales, legends, and myths from the North are favorites but might like Oriental cultures as well.
    • Loves antiques.
    • Thrifting is a favorite activity.
    • Always thinks "warm and cozy."
    • Might be a bit messy, but always with style.
    • Might drink alcohol on occasions. Mead and spicy wines drunk in a horn, or strong alcohol in a pretty flask.
    • Collects bottles and other glasses.
    • Likes to take walks in the forest, after the rain, at dusk, or event at night.
    • Preraphaelites, Arthur Rackham, William Bouguereau or Brian Froud are favorite artists.
    • Sort of like Mori Kei x Antique Kei x Gothic x Naturalist Kei x Curio…
This list is useful in understanding the basis for the style, but it is by no means official or even widely accepted by the mori community. It is important to note that not even the original creators of dark mori would follow this list religiously, and would pick and choose from these items. Additionally, most of these points came to describe Strega more than dark mori as time went on, leading them to become less relevant to the style.

Have you heard of dark mori? Do you like it or wear it? I find the style quite charming, and I have worn it occasionally. But it is its unique history really interests me. It is interesting to see how much the style has grown and changed over time, and how it has become such a core part of the fashion community!

Until next time my deers!


For more information on mori substyles, check out the posts below:

Mori Boy: Link Coming Soon!

Mori Lolita: Link Coming Soon!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Almost Mori: What is ナチュラルコーデ (Japanese natural fashion)?



Hello my deers! We have finally made it to the last post in this series. Although I do have a few more mini-series planned to talk about a few more styles related to mori, this is the last "almost-mori" fashion I want to discuss. So, today we will be taking a look at Japanese natural fashion. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to the style here as natural style, since it is a bit quicker to type.

Natural style is a new, more modern trend in Japan. In some ways, this is the evolution of the mori trend in Japan, and what happens when a more extreme fashion style becomes mainstream. Although it is not directly tied to mori, it is similar enough that I thought it warranted its own post.

THE NAME


The name ナチュラルコーデ (also known as ナチュラルファッション) directly translates to mean "natural code" or "coode" in English. Coode, for those of you who don't know, is a term that means "outfit." It is a newer version of the word coord (or コード),  short for coordinate, that old-school j-fashion communities used to use. The name stands directly for what the style is, a natural fashion, and is the term used to tag outfits in this style on Instagram and other social media.

Although this name can be referred to as a specific style, it is not a "style" in the sense of those that have come out of Harajuku, but rather more of a trend. It follows new ideas and changes with what is popular at the time, and it does not have a community or lifestyle attached to it, unlike other Harajuku styles, or "kei" styles. Although some may argue that mori might not have all of those criteria all of the time, the fact that such things are often attached to the style is what sets it apart from a general trend, especially that it has a community.

CURRENT TRENDS IN JAPAN

The rise of fashions such as natural style are generally tied to what I like to call the "trends movement" that is being experienced across Japan in the fashion world. This describes a general move from Harajuku fashions with lifestyles and communities, to the following of common trends. Of course, trends following has always been a phenomenon in Japan and around the world, but this is a more extreme move, with more and more fashion styles dying out in Japan, and no new fashion styles emerging from Harajuku. There are a few reasons for this, such as the overcrowding of tourists in Harajuku, but it seems that for most there is simply a decline in the popularity of more extreme fashion styles. In some ways, we may be witnessing an end of an era in Japanese fashion.

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To understand the basis of natural style, it is important to briefly note the current fashion trends that are popular in Japan at the moment that help fuel the style. Natural styled trends are currently seeing another rise in popularity in Japan, although it is by no means the first time natural styles have been popular. Past variations of natural trends were popular in the 70s and 80s with more prairie styled trends, as well as in the early 2010s at mori kei's conception. However, they have recently seen a new comeback after a period of falling out of style. Currently, things such as floral patterns, linen and natural fibers, loose-fitting clothing, and natural colors are all popular, many of which are features commonly seen in mori kei as well. For more on current trends, I would recommend watching this video on trends in Japan in 2019 by Annika Victoria. Additionally, a fellow mori girl alerted me to the magazine liniere and their associated brand kuraline that are also popular in spreading the current natural fashion trends.

THE FASHION

As natural style is not a true style, it has no real set rules, rather following common trends that fit into the broad category of "natural fashion." But, because it follows trends, most outfits have a lot of things in common that do tie it together as a recognizable style.


For ways in which it is similar to mori, things such as the use of natural fabrics, a natural color palette, some layering, loose clothing, and an a-line shape stand out. In fact, some coordinates often closely resemble mori coordinates, so that many who live in Japan and wear natural style use both tags to describe the style because of its similarities.

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However, although natural style does have some similarities to mori, it has just as many differences that separate it from mori kei as a style. For instance, natural style focuses intently on fabrics above everything else. For example, to qualify as the style, the outfit has to be composed of natural fabrics. Linen is especially popular in this regard. This is different from mori where natural fabrics are certainly encouraged and praised, but not enforced. Additionally, the style is much more simplistic with a lot less layering, almost to a point of being a minimalist sort of style, as well as featuring more muted tones. I like to think of the style as a diluted version of mori. It shares the base similarities but has dulled it down to a more acceptable and mainstream style.

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A fellow mori girl from the mori discord server, Willow, noted that natural style often resembles outfits from a Studio Ghibli movie. Although there is no way to say for sure, it could certainly be that the style is partially inspired by the popular films.

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Willow described the fashion as "Ghibli heroine inspired," which I think is very accurate. Natural style certainly echoes the fashion of ghibli characters with the focus on loose clothing, natural colors and fabrics, and a folk-like silhouette.

Another fellow mori girl Britni also mentioned to me that the style also fits well with the popularity of the Moomin franchise in Japan. Certainly, the style does have a similar aesthetic to the show.

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For more information on those who wear the style, I was recommended by Britni the accounts yoshiyoshi1009 and __sa.ki_ on instagram. Both accounts are lovely, and I would highly recommend checking them out if you are interested in the style.

THE AESTHETIC


As natural style is not truly a "style," as already established, it has no aesthetic attached to the fashion. However, as a general trend, those who post pictures of themselves wearing this style seem to favor a more nature conscious lifestyle and enjoy some "mori-like" things, such as slower living or nature-based hobbies. However, this is not a requirement for the style, nor is it even directly attached.

A "SISTER STYLE?"

Natural style is technically not connected to mori at all. However, I thought that due to the many aspects of mori that can be seen in the fashion, it is worth mentioning as a sort of modern successor to mori. It is not considered a sister style, or even under the mori umbrella, but it is similar enough to warrant some connection to the style in my opinion.

Have you heard of Japanese natural fashion? Would you ever consider wearing the style? Do you also think it is somewhat similar to mori, or do you think it shouldn't be used in connection to the style? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and I hope you enjoyed this post!

Stay tuned for my next series of posts where I will be discussing official mori substyles!




For more information on "Almost Mori" fashion styles, check out the posts below:




Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Mori Music Finds: Misc (4)

Hello my deers! I'm taking another break from my almost mori series to give you another mori music posts! I have another collection of individual songs for you this time. Hope you enjoy!

1) Suddenly by Predawn: This song is both charming and soft in tone, and also in appearance. The music video has such a mori vibe, and I think it is very lovely!


2) Rainy Day by Lucite Tokki: The only word to describe this song is calming. Between the rainy sounds in the background and the cute music, it never fails to cheer me up and relax me!


3)トイレの神様 (Toire no Kamisama) by Kana Uemura 植村 花菜: This soft, acoustic song by Uemura is both lovely and heartbreaking. It follows the real-life story of difficulties between Uemura and her grandmother as she grows up. Although it is rather long, I always find myself listening to it occasionally and humming along, unable to stop listening. It's a lovely, emotional piece, and soothing to listen to.


4) はるのはるか (Faraway Spring) by saskure.uk (cover by Sotte Bosse): This song is soft and melancholy, but quite lovely. I quite prefer it to the original, and I love how they managed to give an older sounding song a new, unique sound.



5) Bloom by The Paper Kites: This song is well known by a lot of mori folk. It's fun and folksy, and the music video is just as mori as the music! It was one of the first "mori" songs recommended to me, and it remains one of my favorites.



Have you ever heard any of these songs before? If so, how did you like them? If not, I hope you enjoyed them! Happy listening!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Shocking Update: Natural Kei Style Doesn't Exist (kind of)

Yes, you are reading that right. And no, it's not clickbait. And yes, I am just as surprised as you at this, and if you'll read on, I'll give you in-depth information on what I discovered, and how I discovered it.

To make a long story short, I had posted my previous blog post about natural kei on the mori discord server, and we were discussing it there. One of the mori folks there, wistwarbler, mentioned that maybe reading more from Japanese sources might clear up the issues with inconsistencies I had found. I thought that was a great idea, and mentioned I might do that in the future.

So, I had some free time that night, and I decided to browse a bit for articles to translate later on about natural kei in Japanese. However, I quickly ran into a massive roadblock when I discovered the term natural kei doesn't exist in Japanese. 

To clarify, the fashion itself that is associated with natural kei does exist. Clearly, pictures exist, PINK HOUSE exists, etc. That part of the fashion is accurate, but it is the term natural kei, and it's status as a collective "style" that does not exist in the way the English speaking community has long seemed to believe.

I'll get more into what terms do exist in a bit, and what the fashion actually looks like, but I ended up going down another research rabbit hole, and finding a lot of answers about many of the inconsistencies I found in the style, its dates, and its popularity.

So I wanted to give you an update on what I found, both for the history of PINK HOUSE and the fashion, as well as its proper names. While all info on the fashion I wrote about is still as accurate as I could find at the time, and still technically correct in the most important ways, there is just a bit more to the story.

I will be including sources in this post, but please be aware that all of them are in Japanese. You are free to check them out, but be aware you might not be able to read them.

So without further ado, let's get into the real state of natural kei fashion!

DATES

I know you are all desperate to know about the term and how the fashion doesn't technically exist, but before I do that I quickly want to talk about dates first. Doing so will set up a lot of context that will be useful to you later on, so I highly recommend reading this section and not skipping it.

To start out, according to Wikipedia, PINK HOUSE was established as an early design concept by its original creators in 1973, but the brand was not officially formed until 1982, making the date of the current styles conception beginning in the 1980s, with roots in the 1970s. This is consistent with the better sources I found, and gives us a clear date for the start of the style: 1982.

Additionally, according to Middle Edge, in the 1990s, Kaneko Isao moved from designing for PINK HOUSE to focusing on his own new brand, Wonderful World. This move is often cited in English sources as the move towards natural kei influencing Lolita, but his new brand continued designing clothing that is similar to his original designs and did not take a new Lolita twist at all. I'm not sure where this idea even came from, to be honest, as the designers associated with PINK HOUSE have maintained a fairly consistent style throughout the years.

Kaneko remained somewhat active throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, and only stopped work in 2007, according to Wikipedia.

So here is what is important to know and keep in mind: One, PINK HOUSE and Kaneko Isao are both still active in creating fashion, both with a similar style despite the split. Two, both are still active (as in PINK HOUSE) or recently active (as in Kaneko Isao).

Keep these things in mind, especially Kaneko Isao's name, as we move on. He will become quite important.

THE NAME

When searching for terms that might bring up natural kei fashion in Japanese, I began with the term ナチュラルケイ (natural kei in Japanese). This is what jumpstarted everything, because the term does not exist at all, and brings up nothing. So my first thought was to look for PINK HOUSE fan coordinates from people on Instagram and other sites, and see what tags they were using.

For best results, I started with ピンクハウスコード(with is PINK HOUSE coord) and later substituted that with the modern word for coord, コーデ (code). This is a popular naming convention for Japanese fashion tags, so I was fairly confident this would lead me to people tagging the style with the term natural kei in whatever form it took in Japanese. But although that brought up a ton of "natural kei" coordinates, the tags were not what I expected.

Instead of finding a tag for natural kei, I found new terms such as ピンクハウスファッション or PINK HOUSE fashion in English, and Kaneko Isao, both as 金子功 (his name in kanji), and カネコ福(コード、コーデ、ファッション) or Kaneko coord/fashion/style in English.

Various brand names were also popular tags for these outfits, such as Mary Rose or メリーローズ, as well as INGEBORG, Karl Helmut, and of course WONDERFUL WORLD.

WHAT IS IT REALLY CALLED?

Firstly, what I am certain of is that the term "natural kei" does not exist in Japan. As for what it the proper name is, that is a bit confusing. As far as I can tell, the name PINK HOUSE is used similarly to big-name English brands, like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, within Japan. Meaning that it is recognizable as a brand name, but does not have its own style name attached to it. 

I'll get more to that in a moment, but first, a few sources as an example.

One example is a PINK HOUSE and Kaneko style resail shop, Daisy, which merely refers to the style as PINK HOUSE fashion, or by Kaneko's name. Additionally, the Morioka staff, a PINK HOUSE specialization store in Japan, refer to styles only by their brand names as well.

The most popular term as far as I can tell are any of the many variations of PINK HOUSE style or coord.

IS IT A STYLE?

So even if "natural kei" as a term doesn't exist, what makes me say it is not a style? 

Firstly, let me say it again. The fashion started by the PINK HOUSE brand that we associate with the term natural kei does exist. What doesn't exist is the "kei" part of the fashion. 

Let me clarify. When we think of mori kei, or dolly kei, or cult party kei, or even other Japanese fashions like decora and lolita, there is a sense of not only a style that goes along with it, but an aesthetic and a community. Think of mori girl and lolita meetups, talks about lifestyle and activities that fit the fashion. "Natural kei" does not have that.

PINK HOUSE as a brand and fashion style does exist, but it has no community and aesthetic. It would explain why I could never find any real lifestyle or aesthetic attached to the style, just a very specific fashion style. It also explains why the style seems so rigid. If it is literally based around one brand, no wonder all of it looks the same!

And now that I know the correct terms, the only things I can find talking about it in Japanese are posts about the designers/brands, or people wearing the clothing from those brands, nothing about an aesthetic of community, or anything similar to that.

You can search for any of the proper terms for the style listed above, and you'll find the same. Many individual outfits, some discussion of its heyday as a style in the 1980s, and discussions of the brands, but nothing else.

POPULARITY

There is one more thing I would like to touch on quickly, and that is the popularity of "natural kei." If you remember from my last post, I mentioned that many claimed the style was very popular, but I couldn't say for sure. But, I was able to find some mention of the style's popularity this time around.

Surprisingly, out of all the incorrect misinformation, the style's popularity is the one thing that is correct. According to NLab, in an interview with a TV actress wearing the style, she claims that the style, which she refers to as PINK HOUSE style, was a staple fashion style in the 1980s.

Additionally, in another source by naver MATOME, they claim that PINK HOUSE fashion, during its boom in the 80s, was even more popular than bodikon fashions (which were considered to be very popular at the time).

Lastly, according to an interview from Healthy Hawaii Foods with Kaneko Isao, PINK HOUSE had collaborations with Hello Kitty in 2010, and the popular idol group Momoiro Clover Z in 2016. They also said the Laforet Harajuku store started selling PINK HOUSE fashion in 2016, proving it's continued popularity within the collective consciousness in Japan.



WHERE DOES "NATURAL KEI" COME FROM?

So now that all this information about "natural kei" has been incorrect all this time, the next question is where did this term and idea come from? Clearly, in Japan, this collective "style" does not exist in the way English speaking fashion blogs have painted it. So what happened? And when?

First, I don't think there is anyone that should be "blamed" for this. I think this is most likely a spread of misinformation that slowly got worse over time as each new person reported what they had read, and so on. Kind of like a game of telephone, the information became more and more distorted as it went along, and with no way for those who don't speak Japanese to check it, it was allowed to run its course.

Obviously, someone is responsible for spreading misinformation deliberately, but I don't think it was any of the people who have discussed it any time recently. But we also can't say for sure if it was even created maliciously or purposefully wrong in the first place. Maybe the term was created by someone trying to give the style a clearer English name, and somehow people began to believe it was an actual "kei" like mori or dolly or cult party over time? Who knows for sure.

As for when it started, that is unsure. I can't find any source in English that doesn't refer to the style as "natural kei," and I am unsure where the term first started. However, what I do know is that, according to google trends, the first search term for "natural kei" came about in March 2005, with 100 searches that month. Presumably, the term came about sometime around then, although we can't say for certain. 

When looking for myself at search results on google, nothing can be found about the style before mid-2006. And it is not until October of 2006 that the term becomes an active search term at all. 

LET'S WRAP THIS UP!


So, what can we conclude about all of this information? Let's wrap it up in a few points.
  • The term Natural Kei does not exist.
  • The correct terms for the style focus on popular brands and designers.
  • PINK HOUSE fashion is not a "kei" fashion like other styles due to its lack of community and aesthetic.
  • PINK HOUSE fashion was indeed a very popular fashion brand, especially during the 1980s after it's official creation, and still remains somewhat popular to this day.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

So all of this is quite confusing to me, and this was such a deep research rabbit hole, and I was pretty shocked at everything I found. However, what I'm curious about now is what do you think? Is the term natural kei still acceptable to use? Should we switch to the proper term PINK HOUSE? Does it really matter? Should we keep the name since it is familiar? 

So many questions! Personally, I think that the proper history of natural kei/PINK HOUSE fashion should be more widespread, and the fact that it is not the same as other Japanese fashions is important I think, but I personally don't think it matters that much what we call it, especially since it is what the majority of English speaking/international groups know it as. 

Really, what baffles me the most is that we have reinvented the entire identity of a style without anyone realizing it was happening.

Anyways, I'd like to hear your thoughts! What do you think about all this. Let me know in the comments!


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Almost Mori: What is Natural Kei?



UPDATE: I have recently found out some new information about natural kei's identity that I highly recommend reading in addition to this post. You can find it here.

Welcome to the fourth post in this series, my deers! Today we will be discussing one of the longest-running natural Japanese fashions, Natural Kei.

Natural Kei fashion is no longer a very active style, although it is by no means completely dead. However, it exists more now as a style in the collective conscious, rather than having an active community. If you are looking to learn even more about the fashion after this post, a good source on Natural Kei fashion is the now inactive blog Moss Marchen. I recommend this blog the most, as the person who ran it was actually into the fashion themselves. There are a few other sources around as well, although they are few and far between, and are written from the perspective of someone in the mori kei community. They also tend to have some inaccuracies, but I will get into that later. Regardless, if you are looking to learn more about the fashion, I would recommend the posts by Miss Kellie and Little Miss Wonderland.

Before we begin, I will say this post turned out a little different than I thought it would. Originally, I thought this post would be easy to write, but it turned into a bit of a longer project than I expected, but you'll see why as you read.

So without further ado, let's begin!

The Common Belief about Natural Kei's History



When I started researching for this post, I came across a lot of common claims. However, the legitimacy of these claims is a bit dubious. But before I say why, let's lay out the popular description of Natural Kei.

Most blogs claim Natural Kei was started in the 1970s in Japan. They also claim it was influenced by European and American prairie movement fashion. When I joined the mori community, many people told me that, in its height, it was a very popular style in Japan. However, it was almost dead by the time mori kei came around.

I always accepted these claims about the fashion, however, as I began to do my own research for this post, I noticed many inaccuracies and areas of contradiction. Further research showed me that many of these claims are false, or distorted versions of the truth.

I could just leave you with this, but as a historian, I feel like I have a duty to put the correct information out there, so that is what we are going to do.

If you'd like to skip the research stuff and background information, you can scroll to "the fashion" where I start talking about the actual clothing style, or "conclusion" where I wrap everything up. But if you'd like, you can bear with me for a bit as we try to discover the truth about the origins of Natural Kei.

The Actual History


Early street snaps of the earliest versions of Natural Kei fashion, and PINK HOUSE fashion.



Nowadays, although information on Natural Kei style exists, its history is hard to find, and information can often be conflicting. I speculate that the reason for this is most likely due to its creation before the start of the internet. I will try to clarify truth from fiction here as best I can, but please take everything I say with a small grain of salt, as hardly any credible sources with citations exist at this moment. Regardless, I will try to piece together the best and most complete story that I can.

DATES

First, let's start with the dates. Although mori blogs often state Natural Kei was created in the 1970s, the actual dates are a bit more convoluted.

According to Google arts & culture, the most accurate date I could find is that the PINK HOUSE brand, the prominent brand that basically created the style, was "launched as a separate company in 1982." However, some of the photos on this site of other styles are inaccurate, such as their depiction of Mori Kei where they have a picture of Cult Party instead. Regardless, this seems to be the most accurate.

Another source, Virtual Japan, claims that "Pink House opened their first...shop in 1979." However, their sources are murky and they claim that PINK HOUSE is a lolita brand, which is inaccurate.

PINK HOUSE's own website has no information on when they were formed, and no history either, so it is impossible to say who is right here.

FASHION

The influences of the style are often cited as Prairie Fashion from the united states, such as Laura Ashley and Gunne Sax. Certainly, their influences do exist in the style. However, the fact that these brands were popular in the 1970s usually is used to fuel the idea that Natural Kei was created at the same time. As we have seen, that is inaccurate. However, they certainly still influenced the fashion.

Natural kei is also based heavily off of French fashions and folklore, such as Rococo fashion. This connection to french fashion has led some sources, such as Virtual Japan, to claim it as an early predecessor to Lolita, stating, "known as an elegant, classic form of the Lolita fashion scene, Pink House produced multiple designers and offshoots including the likes of Kaneko Isao, who worked on both Pink House and Ingenborg designs before eventually starting his own labels, Kaneko Isao and Wonderful World."

Although PINK HOUSE may have influenced Lolita designers, I think the claim that it is Lolita's earliest form is most likely false. Some of the influences are the same, but it has a long-running history and has long been seen as distinct from Lolita.

CONCLUSION

So what can we say about Natural Kei for certain?

Most likely, PINK HOUSE was created in the time frame of very late 1970s, or very early 1980s. Regardless, simply saying 1970s is not the accurate date. 1979-1982 is a more accurate timeline.

As for the fashion, my best guess is that multiple truths about the fashion were shoved together and diluted over time. My personal thoughts on the timeline of things is this: In the 1970s, European companies experienced a prairie revival, in the 1980s, Pink House and other similar brands began to create pieces inspired by this, the early predecessors to Natural Kei. Then Natural Kei in its current form came about in either the late 80s or the early 90s, along with other brands that were creating Lolita fashion around the same time. Both had similar influences and were loosely connected, but gradually split and grew into their own subcultures over time.

Natural Kei was a long-running style regardless of how right or wrong any information shared by blogs is, and it has long been well known by mori folk.  It is unsure how popular the style actually was and is, but the fact that PINK HOUSE brand still exists suggests it had at least at one time a decent amount of popularity.

Pink House official outfit coordinates


The Fashion

Natural Kei fashion is much, much more straight forward than its history, so the convoluted stuff is over now! 

Natural Kei style is very often confused or absorbed into mori kei due to its many similarities, but, it is a distinct style. It actually still has an active brand running the trends of the style, PINK HOUSE, which still exists and produces Natural Kei clothing. You can actually still visit and purchase from their website, and they still have shops open in various Japanese cities, such as Hokkaido.



Some of the similarities between Natural Kei and mori kei are a general focus on natural color palettes, layers, and A-line shapes. Natural Kei also uses a fair amount of lace and florals, like mori, and is also focused on being a natural fashion. Sweaters, scarves, baskets, and shawls are also popular in both styles.



Although it is similar in many ways, there are still some major differences that set the style apart.

Firstly, layers in Natural Kei are concentrated on skirts, as opposed to mori kei that can have both upper and lower layers. Additionally, where mori has no real length requirements for skirts and dresses, long layers are essential to Natural kei. No classic natural kei coordinate will have short layers. Instead, the common length is to mid-calf or ankle. Although there have been a few exceptions, they are extremely few and far between, and Natural Kei practitioners and brands continue to showcase the longer silhouette as a staple of the style.

Another difference is Natural Kei's use of brighter color palettes and color palettes that are focused on singular color themes (such as all browns, all blues, all reds, etc.) In this way, it shares a more similar composition and silhouette with classic or country Lolita than mori kei.

A few other minor differences are the extensive use of aprons and pinafores, no real style version with pants (save a few odd coordinates with lacey bloomers), and the extreme use of detail.

Modern Natural Kei?

When I first joined mori kei, the mori community (not the natural kei community as far as I can tell) believed that natural kei had evolved to a more mori-esque look with fewer layers and ruffles. Kind of a simplified version of mori, if you will.

However, although this idea is widespread across the internet, this has never been confirmed by the actual community. In fact, PINK HOUSE's style itself has not changed, and still holds firm to the traditional silhouette. I would venture so far as to say this fact is pretty much debunked. However, with so little info out there, it is hard to say for sure. But as this information still exists on the internet, I thought I should address it here.

The Aesthetic




Natural Kei has no real aesthetic that I know of or can find. However, one would assume that the classic mori aesthetic would apply to Natural Kei as well.

Some have tried to explain Natural Kei's aesthetic as being a girl who lives in a small town on the French countryside near the woods, instead of in it. However I would say this distinction doesn't really matter, and more describes the fashion influences on the style than the lifestyle associated with it. One could easily say Natural Kei is more suited for woodland romps than mori, or vice versa, depending on your preferences.

A "Sister Style"



Like hama, yama, and mori gyaru, Natural Kei is also considered to be a sister style to mori, due to its similarities and its state as a natural fashion. However, like mori gyaru, Natural Kei has in the past had its own community, especially since it was created long before mori kei. Regardless, nowadays the style is mainly forgotten, and so most people who wear natural kei are welcomed much more closely than before into the mori kei umbrella with all other natural fashions.

Have you ever heard of Natural Kei? What do you think of the style? Would you ever consider wearing it? I'd love to hear your thoughts!



For more information on "Almost Mori" fashion styles, check out the posts below:




Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Mori Music Find: Chocopurin


Today's Mori Music Find is a small indie group from Semarang, Indonesia: Chocopurin.

Chocopurin is made up of two actual mori girls, Rona who sings and plays guitar, and Stefany who sings and plays bass, acoustic, and glockenspiel. Their musical style is soft and light-hearted. It reminds me of popular mori musicians from Japan, such as Ichiko Aoba and Popoyans. They have produced one EP to date, which can be found on soundcloud. The duo are currently on a break, but their music remains one of my favorites. I hope to see them back to making music soon!

You can find them on Twitter, where they still post occasionally, and their Facebook.


 
 
 
There are a few videos of these lovely ladies performing as well on youtube! It's lovely to see two mori girls making lovely music.



Have you ever heard of Chocopurin? If so, what did you think? If not, I hope you enjoy their music!


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Mori Music Finds: Misc (3)

For today's Mori Music Find, I have yet another compilation of various songs from various artists. All are lovely in their own right, but none are long enough for their own dedicated post. So, I am sharing them here for you all instead!

1) 11.11 by sugar analog:
This instrumental piece is charming and relaxing, with the lovely sounds of birds and airy voices, it makes you feel almost as if you were walking through a field of wildflowers on a sunny day! 


2) Grizzly Man by Rockettothesky:
This song is quite unique. It has very ubiquitous lyrics and a fantastical, mystical sound. The singer almost mumbles the words at times, helping immerse you in the music, feeling almost as if you were in a mystical world.


3) Love by Yozoh:
This song is charming and simple. With a primarily acoustic sound and a soft singer, it's both relaxing and fun to listen to!


4) Oh Whistle and I'll Come To You My Lad (Traditional) by Patricia Hammond: 
This song is a rather average sounding folk tune, but in this case, it's the musician that makes it worth the listen! Ms. Hammond is both an amazing singer, and she plays the unique instrument, the autoharp, in such a perfect accompaniment to her vocals. The acoustics of the room she's in also give the song such a wistful and lovely feel. 



5) A Sunny Spring Day by Three Berry Icecream:
This song is a charming instrumental piece that makes me feel like I am happily enjoying a delicious treat in a local cafe. No other way to describe than happy and cute!


Have you ever heard any of these songs before? If so, how did you like them? If not, I hope you enjoyed them!