Tokyo Dandy: Fashion-blogging scourge of the underworld
“They shut us down!" says Dan Bailey. "The yakuza came over and told us our party was just too popular, and it was taking customers away from their own bars,” explains the photographer and co-founder of Tokyo Dandy, at one of their website-supported parties this summer. “But we just picked up our stuff and moved down the beach.”
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The mafia may be strong, but Tokyo Dandy is also a force to be reckoned with, having emerged as one of the most popular fashion blogs to come from Japan. Tokyo Dandy is equal parts Dan, 29, from York, England, and his Japanese compatriot Joe Kazuaki, 29, from Okinawa.
The two started the site to bilingually showcase their favorite fashion topics and post photos from parties and events that Dan took after sneaking into them. Now they are guests of honor at said receptions and have been invited to blog awards and events in Florence, New York City and New Zealand.
They've even amassed a following of devoted fans among club kids and global fashion insiders alike. The site has evolved into a bridge between street and high-end fashion in Tokyo, and is a platform for local dabblers to become fashion icons.
Chronicling the 'Lost Generation'
The most distinct part of their site is its gallery of voyeuristic photos taken at their namesake parties, where societal norms are checked at the door. Models hobnob with drag queens and costumed debauchery is the rule, not the exception. Those exhibiting uninhibited vanity are put front and center, and lots of pretty faces pout for the cameras.
“These people have been showcased in foreign fashion magazines and street style web sites for years. They know they have style, they know the world is watching.”
Dan and Joe are arguably chronicling the underground high jinks of post-bubble Japan’s “lost generation” subculture. The style is one part excess and 10 parts DIY, which many in the Tokyo Dandy demographic scrounge together by working part-time jobs in the retail sector.
“It’s going to be extremely interesting to see what happens to all of these kids in 10 years. Can they be working at clothing shops forever?” asked Dan.
From hobby to profession
The two Dandies are taking their newfound fame and parlaying it into projects that utilize their gusto for fast living: They have pages in every issue of fashion magazine Commons&Sense, Joe is designing clothing with Japanese brand Fad3 and Dan takes photography gigs with brands such as Gucci and hip-hop artist Verbal.
But they still feel obligated to use their site to promote their biggest supporters. “I feel like I have the obligation to not just take pictures of these people anymore, but to start introducing them to the public and relay their backstories,” said Dan.
While many popular fashion bloggers in the West have turned their sites into legit moneymakers, Tokyo Dandy is taking everything in stride.
“We do a lot of our gigs for free, just taking things as they come. So maybe we could do some Tokyo Dandy merchandise. But we also want to promote Tokyo Dandy in Asia too. We just don't want to do crazy stuff for the sake of showing a “crazy” Japan. It’s just pictures of our friends. This is our reality.”
And although Tokyo Dandy may appear to be a pretentious, “members-only” community, Dan explains, “Everyone here is actually very friendly. That’s what all first-time guests say, that they’re surprised. Really, everyone is cool.”