Articles

Introducing Mori Kei

Bold colours, chunky accessories, kawaii cuteness by the bucketload, Japanese street fashion is known for it’s colourful, busy, eclectic, anything-goes space-age youthful vibe. It’s often bright, new and modern, often borrows from traditional Japanese garb but also incorporates a cartoon-like version of 1980’s New York hiphop streetwear in bright sherbet and citrus colour palettes.

So what a surprise when a style called mori kei burst on the scene – it seemed like a direct antithesis to all that plastic and neon and evolved more out of the cute girly Lolita style. Flowy, billowy layers of lace and natural fabrics created a soft and feminine look that was graceful, natural, hippie-like and anchored in a nostalgic and wistful pastoralism, using smock-like dresses and loosely layered skirts, ponchos or cardigans. Earthy and pastel-coloured natural fabrics such as textured lace, linen and crochet, often thrifted, were complimented by vintage jewellery. The style was so popular that it has since gone international and is still growing in popularity.

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE: Mori Kei gets natural.
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE: Mori Kei gets natural.

However, beneath the whimsy, there’s an odd strictness to this subculture – it’s probably the only one we’ve heard of that actually has written rules! Just over a decade ago, a girl named Choco, writing on Japan’s facebook equivalent Mixi, created 62 ‘official’ rules to qualify for being an archetypal mori girl. That seems somewhat excessive and specific, I hear you say. Especially as fashion is meant to be a fluid language and also very personal.

But mori kei endures. And, taken from its unlikely urban roots in the Tokyo megatropolis (mori means forest and kei menas fashion in Japanese), it has become not only about fashion but also lifestyle and there are now mori ‘communities’ in places as diverse as Minnesota USA and is especially popular in Scandinavia.

These days, the doctrinaire rigidity of mori kei has been loosened by people of all sexes that are mixing it with all kinds of other styles such as gothic, cosplay, fae style and hippy and that, in turn, has influenced new fashions such as strega “witch” fashion, dark mori and pastel goth.

Being attracted to this trend is about lessons we need to learn – about feeling free to look into a country’s past, collect old things, feel a simplicity, an innocence and connection to the land and to cherish your grandmother’s accessories.

by KATIE LAMBERT
co-founder of Altshop.co.uk

 

Check out Altshop’s Pinterest collection of beautiful mori kei outfits

Interviews

Mai Magi: Heritage and Magic

HER outfit posts and photoshoots, starkly coloured and steeped in mystery and old magic, are an inspiration to her 65k followers.

Sometimes chic and sexy, sometimes baggy and grungy, often layered with delicate lace and always steeped in an elegant and feminine aesthetic, Danish fashion blogger Mai Magi borrows stylistic elements from gothic Victoriana, Japanese lolita fashion, cosplay elven warrior costume, long lacy lagenlook layers, dark fae and even the folklore of her country.

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ELVEN WARRIOR: Social influencer Mai Magi’s style is deeply rooted in her Danish heritage.

In fact, folklore has played a very important part in how Mai dresses. She explains: “The first established style that drew me in was goth and it mostly appealed to me through music. It quickly mixed with my passion for fantasy and historical fashion.

“My appearance is greatly influenced by my country’s landscape and history. As someone who’s interested in history and fantasy, Danish folklore and it’s creatures have always had a big impact on how I dress.

“The weather dictates lots of layers and black is generally a colour favoured by many Danes. My style wouldn’t be the same if I lived elsewhere! My heritage is an important part of how I express myself.”

She mixes new and pre-loved garments to sublime effect and this is what gives her style it’s unique edge. “I grew up almost solely wearing hand-me-downs,” Mai tells us. “I remember looking through the bags of second-hand clothes like they were treasure chests.” Now, she has turned thrifting into an art and many of her outfits include at least one thrifted piece.

You can’t help but notice that many of her outfits contain another message. She paints crescent moons on her forehead, wears moon-shape headdresses and jewellery that signify a reverence that connects her with the sacred feminine and, therefore, to women worldwide.

“Sisterhood is unity, across divisions,” she believes. “It’s what ties me to all women, regardless of factors such as culture, religion or differences in appearance.”

It is precisely this inclusive attitute and open mind that has allowed Mai’s style to develop beyond genres and come into it’s own. To share this wonderful daily creative process with the world, she has become adroit at social media and, after years of experimenting, can do a full shoot, including the styling, in about an hour.

“All my outfit photos and selfies are taken on my phone,” she reveals. “It’s a OnePlus 5t and has an awesome camera and makes the process of posting so much easier. My shoots – the ones I do myself – are taken with a Nikon D3200 and a single softbox.”

This self-professed “elf goth from the dark north” is rooted to her own to history, landscape and lore by the way she expresses herself but connected to the wider world by digital as well as emotional means.

She cultivates a mystical presence but lays herself bare with a cheeky sense of humour. She is at once witch, fairy, moon maiden, gothic queen, elven warrior, Scandinavian shamanka, kooky nerd and wistful muse.

DISARMING: Mai's cheeky smile.
DISARMING: Mai’s cheeky smile.

Altshop.co.uk recommends you check out Mai Magi’s Instafeed here.

Interview by KATIE LAMBERT
co-founder of Altshop.co.uk