“Dropkick Tokyo”: a Glimpse at how the Canadian-Asian diaspora finds meaning and self-expression in embracing and reinterpreting Japanese streetwear2 min read

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“What does fashion mean to you?” is a question that has always resounded among Canadian-Asian youth. Growing up in Canada as a member of the Asian diaspora, be it Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, South Asian, etc. means to live in a constant state of “in-betweenness.” There is a noted tension between maintaining ties to one’s homeland and adapting to the cultural norms of the host society.

Straddling two societies, it is this very tension that makes Japanese streetwear especially appealing to the Canadian-Asian diaspora. To be more precise, the eclecticism, playfulness, and gender-fluidity of Japanese streetwear makes it a favoured mode of self-expression among Canadian-Asian youth.

“Dressing well is a form of good manners” is a principle I gradually started to embrace over time. Over the years, this has become something that I go by everyday – Tuonghan.

Tuonghan is a 25-year old fashion enthusiast living in Montreal with a very unique approach to self-expression. His favorite designers and their respective brands consist of Jun Takahashi’s UNDERCOVER and TAKAHIROMIYASHITA TheSoloist.  For him, the dramatic silhouettes, vibrant colours, and heavily-accessorized nature of Japanese streetwear is a way of escaping the mundane nature of living and working in Montreal.

According to Tuonghan, “When it comes to fashion, everything you could’ve imagined in your wildest dreams could happen and does happen, in and only in Japan. From salarymen to students, wearing brightly dyed hair colours and clothes to makeup and nail polish, regular to rare to thrifted pieces of clothing, famous American designer pieces and so on…I could go on for hours and it wouldn’t even be enough.”

For him and many other members of the Asian diaspora in Canada, there is something very liberating in being able to express himself freely via street fashion. There is a playfulness and a rejection of the ordinary without trying too hard to be different.

“Weirdness is always key”… A little bit of weirdness here and there doesn’t really hurt at all, especially while still being fashionable at some point… that’s the fun part! Whatever it is that you feel like, nothing shall hold you back. That’s the best part.

Biography for Photographer: As a visual artist (@iamshellshot),  T. “Donatello” Fletcher’s style consists of colourful, energetic movement and imagery stemming from his background in dance. He embraces a conceptual approach towards literal wordplay, expressed through photography, videography, and directing. He makes his bed in Ottawa, Ontario but does with the comfort of being close to his birthplace in Montreal.

Biography for model/interviewee: Tuonghan (@tuonghan) is a 25-year old fashion enthusiast who resides in Montreal.

Biography for author/model:  Jenny Yang (@jiaojiao.exe) studied International Relations at the University of Cambridge. She has published articles related to women in peacekeeping, separatism, and the ethics of lethal autonomous weapons.  

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