Meet the editor of a new Japanese street style magazine

The COMM's editor-in-chief, Choom, tells us about her definition of Kawaii, her views on diversity and her favourite female creators.

by MAKOTO KIKUCHI; translated by Leandro Di Rosa
18 August 2020, 5:00am

Before starting The COMM, Choom had her doubts about the way English media describe Japanese street fashion. “At the time, most of the articles written in English would make fun of Japanese fashion by defining it as ‘weird’ or ‘crazy’, thus spreading antiquated stereotypes,” she says. “My first motivation for wanting to start a new media [platform] was born from the anger towards western media.”

In her third year of university, Choom moved from London to Tokyo and started working as a staff member for Harajuku’s “6%DOKIDOKI.” At the same time, fashion magazines like FRUiTS and KERA started featuring her in their articles. “The people I met at the time were all very creative and fashionable, which helped me develop my creative power,” she says. “It was like a dream come true.”

When Japanese pop street fashion gained popularity all over the world, the word “kawaii” started spreading and became a globally recognized concept, which now includes a vast amount of different meanings. “Something that you want to keep staring at,” as Choom defines it. “‘Kawaii’ is what you think when you see something adorable. ‘Kawaii’ isn’t about fashion; it’s a feeling.”

Kawaii permeates The COMM, the online Japanese street fashion magazine that Choom heads up (in addition to her day jobs as a creative director, stylist, and event manager). One of the defining characteristics of the site is that every piece of content is translated into six different languages, including, of course, Japanese and English, but also French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

“The people who love the Japanese street fashion community are all around the world, so it is vital to share this information globally,” explains Choom. “We have the ability to communicate on a native level in different languages so that we can showcase brands, influencers, and designers from various countries. We also wanted our featured creatives to be able to read their articles in their own language.”

The staff of The COMM are mostly women, and the team is very international: there are graduate students working as freelance writers, but also employees from trading companies. The creatives and topics featured in the articles are also incredibly diverse. “We want diversity to be a standard, not a symbol,” says Choom. “We don’t want to feature minorities because it’s a trend, but because we want to focus on the individual. At The COMM, we feature all people regardless of gender, sex, or race, but we pay attention not to ‘other’ them. For example, when writing about a non-binary individual, we use gender-neutral pronouns and words. It’s hard for the translators, but it’s a job worth doing.”

In Tokyo’s creative scene, it has been only ten years since female creators started getting attention from the media, without the word ‘female’ being written on their business card title. I asked Choom about her favourite female creators based in Tokyo: “there are many” she says. “Event coordinator Kalin Law has been organising an event called Tokyo LoveHotels, which has recently blown up. It’s very similar to The COMM, showcasing various creators and works. Ao-chan from Gyaru unit Black Diamond is incredibly original, I’ve never seen anyone more self-confident than her. In addition, I’m also looking forward to what DJ Elena Midori and fashion student Pio will have in store for us from now on. Stylist Dom, whom I work a lot with is always incredibly resourceful about styling.”

Choom also admires musicians like Katy Perry, SZA and CL, and praises their originality over the “made-up versions” of themselves, as well as as Vogue Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. “She is wonderfully inspiring to me; her style is extraordinarily iconic. In contrast to her, I am still searching for my own original style.”

Female Gaze