Gothic & Lolita, the Subculture that Mixes Genres

Photographer Masayuki Yoshinaga took portraits of the followers of a style inspired by Marie-Antoinette and 'Alice in Wonderland.'


WordsHenri Robert

“Saya, 18 years. Blouse: Angelic Pretty; Skirt: Angelic Pretty; Headband: BABY THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT; Fashion detail: a Lolita princess; Current obsession: my poodle, Pop”. Photography: Masayuki Yoshinaga

After Fruits (2001) and Fresh Fruits (2005), in which Shoichi Aoki examined the street style of young people in Tokyo, Phaidon published another photo book dedicated to this subject, Gothic & Lolita, in 2007. The book compiles photographs taken by Masayuki Yoshinaga featuring the style of the same name.

The photographer, originally from Osaka, specialises in fashion (after having worked in the world of nightlife and as a driver) and is now known for his collaborations with magazines like Dazed & Confused and The Face.


Victorian dresses and leather boots

Out of all the subcultures found in Tokyo, Masayuki Yoshinaga decided to focus on one of the most popular, Gothic & Lolita, which emerged in the mid-1990s. The movement, which came out of the Harajuku and Akihabara districts and certain underground clubs in Tokyo, was particularly popularised by the visual kei group Malice Mizer, who created their own clothing line in 1999, and the magazine Gothic & Lolita Bible.

This style combines rococo- or Victorian-style dresses, headdresses, and lace parasols with leather boots, knee socks, and big teddy bears or (live) poodles. Followers also pay close attention to make-up and often have tattoos.

The series compiles full-length portraits of individuals and groups—of adolescents or young thirtysomethings—in their own, often very crowded environment, but also in the streets of Tokyo and Osaka, dressed in their finest outfits. As well as showcasing his subjects’ clothing, the photographer wanted to give them a voice and make known the motivations that led them to join this movement and organise part of their life around this passion.

Also on the topic of subcultures, Masayuki Yoshinaga released Nippon Takaine in 2010, in which he focused on the different communities who emigrated to Japan when the economic miracle occurred.


Gothic & Lolita (2007), a book of photographs by Masayuki Yoshinaga, is published by Phaidon.

“Reiko, 19 years [b] Dress: EXCENTRIQUE; Fashion detail: a customised corset; Current obsession: finding prince charming!” Photography: Masayuki Yoshinaga

“Rose (left), 26 years. Dress: customised vintage; Fashion detail: my accessories; Current obsession: Butch; Giggles (right), 32 years. Fashion detail: choker; Current obsession: Peperoncino”. Photography: Masayuki Yoshinaga

“Hys666 (left), 26 years. Dress: handmade; Corset: vintage; Fashion detail: countess; Current obsession: making figurines, Alice (right), 26 years. Dress: Angelic Pretty; Fan: vintage; Fashion detail: I love black; Current obsession: collecting dolls.” Photography: Masayuki Yoshinaga

“Koharu, 19 years. Skirt: handmade; Blouse: handmade; Socks: Jane Marple; Fashion detail: princess Lolita; Current obsession: finding a prince.” Photography: Masayuki Yoshinaga

© Phaidon