MUSIC, FASHION & EQUALITY with MELISSA LEE
Ending the month of January on a high note, we had the pleasure to talk about trends and influences in Japanese fashion and music, as well as the current state of equality empowerment in Japan with Melissa Lee. Our woman of the week has channeled her passion for Japanese aesthetics and all things kawaii culture into the founding of her very own Berlin-based fashion label, Mademoiselle Opossum. Next to that, she also acts as an outspoken Animé enthusiast and equality ambassador on social media, creating tutorials on Japanese pop culture on YouTube and providing to-die-for fashion content on Instagram. In this interview, she shares her thoughts on the connection between music and fashion trends, Baby Metal, and more!
How did you discover your passion for Japanese fashion and culture?
„It all started with watching Sailor Moon on TV, and then it developed from Animé to Manga, to music, to fashion and to also history and general interests in Japan and pop culture as well. Some people stop at a certain point to watch Manga and Animé and lose interest but yeah, I never stopped and this is how I discovered my passion for Japan.”
Do equality empowerment and feminism play a big role in your work?
"Especially the part of my work where I post stuff online, on YouTube and Instagram and TikTok, there I always try to inspire young girls to be strong and to fight for themselves. I tell them: you can be whoever you want, you can take any job, you can dress how you want and never let anyone tell you any different. And you can also kick ass in a really frilly dress, looking like a princess!”
"You can be whoever you want, you can take any job, you can dress how you want and never let anyone tell you any different."
Do you think Japanese trends in fashion and music influence one another heavily?
“Fashion and music always go hand in hand! I could never imagine a world without music videos and when you look over to Asia, they are so creative and so inspiring. Always pushing borders. I think Japanese music videos are always a big inspiration even if you don’t like the music – you should at least watch the music videos!”
Do you perceive Japanese music, fashion, and culture as a diverse and equality-empowering space?
“Unfortunately, Japan is kinda behind with feminist movements and equality standards, so it’s also showing in the arts. But it’s slowly getting better and I hope for the future that they will work on it and that the next generation will stand up and never stop fighting for their rights!”
"I think there will always be a high influence from Japan – because their creativity is out of this world!"
Do you often see Japanese aesthetics and fashion set trends in Western music?
“When I was in my teenage years – Animé and Manga was a subculture, and there wasn’t much influence. But when you look at it now, big female artists like Ashnikko, Princess Nokia, and Doja Cat – they use all kinds of Japanese-inspired aesthetics. And of course, it’s just one part of the Japanese aesthetics, but there are also these more calm trends like gardens and minimalism that also had their origin in Japan. And they will always develop something new. However, when it comes to music, I think that Korea is more inspiring to Western people at the moment because it’s a bit more Western, and so it’s easier to adapt."
Are Japanese aesthetics usually implemented respectfully and appropriately by Western musicians, in your opinion?
“When it comes to Asian aesthetics it is always hard to make things appropriate and it got better over the years, but you will always find something inappropriate. People don’t really think about Asian culture, especially when it comes to differentiating between Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam. They all mash up one big Asian concept and mix all the cultures.”
Which Japanese trends in fashion and music have made it big abroad, and what was their key to success?
“I think Baby Metal has made it from super sub-culture underground music to a worldwide phenomenon, and it’s impressive to see because it’s still really Japanese and all this idol culture thing – it's just metal. They’re doing concerts, they’re constantly on tour... so I think it’s possible when you find the right way to approach it and always be bold about it. They made no compromises, they were like, okay, we take these young girls, we make a metal thing but they also dance and sing in high-pitched voices. Really impressive if you ask me! Of course, there’s a lot of criticism towards Baby Metal. Of course, all these Animé culture things are now adapted in the pop culture scene all over the world. And you have fashion and makeup trends as well, but some subcultures will stay underground and some will also vanish. When I was in my teenage years, there was something called visual key which was music and fashion, but now it has almost disappeared.”
“There are wonderful old Japanese musicians and this whole city pop movement that started on YouTube is a really nice thing, also when you listen to some of the lo-fi songs. They are highly inspired by Japanese music and the so-called Enka (Schlager) – also really nice and needs more attention – they started making more Western music and made a path for everything that is happening now.”
“Japan is still ruled by a very conservative government and is still a conservative society. Even when you see all these colorful things and all this freaky stuff. It’s still really conservative."
What do you think would have to happen for Japanese music and fashion to become more equality-empowering than they are today?
"There are lots of rules and also a lot of problems. I think for equality, it might still take 50 more years for them to develop a more accepting society towards LGBTQ+ people for example. It has to slowly change with the younger generations. The younger people will be more on social media, they see other people living freely and accepting each other, seeing stuff on Netflix with a nice representation of LGBTQ+ people and STRONG women who fight for everything they want. And I just hope that the next generation will be not too much influenced by Western standards, but in this case, I hope it will happen more and that it will slowly change society from within.”
For more empowering content from Melissa's colorful mind, check out our interview with Berlin's queen of kawaii, wich recorded at least year's most wanted music conference!