SUKEBAN GANG BY ERIKA BOWES AND YUKI
Before her latest venture, Tokyo born Londoner Yuki Haze was adorning vintage jackets with raw emotions in the form of eye-grabbing paintwork, something that lead to a collaboration with denim brand Made Gold and a write-up on Vogue.com. Northumbria student Erika Bowes was channelling the flawless style that’d made her internet famous into stunning creative direction and photography, and putting together a zine of her own. Together, the girls have established Sukeban Gang – an all encompassing platform for young creatives. Inspired by the emergence of collectives celebrating females and ethnic minorities, the pair felt that the UK lacked a platform for Asian creatives. ’We’re not here to exclude any race or gender – but we do really want to provide a voice for Asian girls and celebrate Asian culture’, say the girls when we take the opportunity to learn more about the exciting and genuinely refreshing project.
The word ‘Sukeban’ means ‘delinquent’ or ‘girl boss’ in Japanese. Elaborating on this idea the two tell us; ‘Anarchy in Japan, particularly in females, is very rare and pretty much all forms of rebellious behaviour are seen by the general public as completely disrespectful- a lot of people that do behave badly are actually in some form related to criminal activity like the Yakuza, so ‘Sukeban’ isn’t really seen as something to aspire or look up to by most Japanese people. As a result we’ve revived Sukeban and given our own twist to it. We don’t see rebellion or independence, even bad behaviour, as a negative thing- especially when the female Asian stereotype is applied- we’re here to celebrate girls who break rules and fight against stereotypes.’
Clicking onto the Sukeban website, you’ll be greeted by a truly kick-ass selection of ladies photographed and styled mostly by Erika and Yuki. The purpose of the platform being to encourage talented ladies to work together and champion each other, the editorials use clothes from up and coming designers such as Sophie Cull-Candy or Danni Harris. ‘In our opinion, fashion and feminism should be totally synonymous – although unfortunately they aren’t. The fashion industry is a billion dollar industry, and despite it relying heavily on a female, particularly young demographic it’s contribution to furthering women’s rights has been disappointing. Given the position of fashion and the power it has to single out the most desired aesthetic, it could easily improve the way women think about their bodies, their faces and their ethnicity – for the most part it doesn’t’.Sukeban works as a counteraction to this point, stating ‘feminism doesn’t only include women and it doesn’t only include white women’. We ask the girls who their feminist icons are. ‘The first Asian American movie star, Anna May Wong. She was a recognised and successful actress despite the fact that she was banned from having a white romantic interest, resulting in her never achieving a leading role.’ explains Yuki. Erika believes she’s learnt more about feminism from real life girls she’s met rather than famous icons. Yuki points out the worst thing about being a girl today – ‘At the end of the day I’m going to earn an average of 24% less than my male counterpart at the same full time job. To put it frankly, that sucks.’ Erika feels that there isn’t a loud enough voice for Asian girls and women. ‘I feel Asians are always pushed under the rug and racism towards us isn’t taken as seriously as it needs to be’. On a brighter note, the best thing about being a girl today is that she’s been taken seriously as a female creative. ‘Knowing you have an opportunity to be as successful as you can be in your chosen field – I definitely didn’t think that when I was 12-15. I always believed the better job roles went to men’.
Together the girls have important goals for the platform. ’Through Sukeban, we want people – particularly women – to look at the work we put up and feel inspired and encouraged to create things, but most importantly to understand that they don’t owe anything to society and to never feel apologetic for the ‘faults’ that they may think they have. We apply this mentality to fashion as well- despite what people think there is no set criteria to how a shoot or model should look’. For now, alongside Sukeban, Yuki’s working on a fuller collection of designs and Erika’s focusing on graduating amidst ‘2938293’ deadlines, and blogging. ‘I’m working towards photography and creative direction so creating editorials for Sukeban has really helped develop my skills’.
As for Illustrated People, the girls agree that the Octopus shapes are their favourites from SS16. ‘I need them to channel 2000’s Aaliyah’ says Yuki. ‘We actually featured them in our latest editorial and they looked amazing – Illustrated People is for all the fearless females!’ Erika and Yuki are fearless females alright.
Images from Yuki and Erika’s editorial featuring model Jaz Rubin, photographer Danika Lawrence and clothes by Danni Harris