According to Wikipedia the term “It girl” is used for “a young woman who possess the quality ‘It’ or absolute attraction. Elinor Glyn, who wrote the original magazine story which inspired the film It with Clara Bow, lectured: With ‘It’ you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. While ‘It girls’ of today are commonly young females in the worlds of fashion or show business, the original concept focused on personality.” We know all sorts of It girls and they are usually from affluent families and do not much more than shoe shopping, party hopping and attend the occasional charity event. Mademoiselle Yulia is a bonafide, 24-year old It girl in Japan but one can hardly say she twiddles her thumbs for fun. She’s a national brand name, a sought-after multi-tasker and an inspiration for generations of young Japanese girls. She’s a DJ, jewelry and clothing designer, pop singer, colorist, toy poodle owner, chocolate lover, vintage shopper and then sometimes, just an It girl who gets recognized in the streets, “especially in Harajuku I get stopped in the street for autographs,” she attests.
I meet Mademoiselle Yulia at her studio in Koenji, a trendy little neighborhood West of Shinjuku. It’s part of pre-boom Tokyo with small houses and shops and known for its young population and flourishing suburban underground culture. The streets are narrow and the signs colorful – it feels like a condensed East Village. Yulia’s studio sits atop Garter, a cluster of young designers shops who sell their own creations and high-end, cheap or customized vintage. It’s a rickety wooden building with low ceilings and steps and stairs that lead to little alcoves and attics. This is where Yulia comes to design her jewelry line, Giza, and work with her friend and Garter founder Koshiro Ebata on her stage costumes.
Mademoiselle Yulia started DJing when she was 17 years old, studying on her decks at home until she got her first paid gig at the age of 19. And though she originally seemed destined to be a full-time hair stylist – she went to hair dressing school and her dad works at a salon called Peek-A-Boo – she quickly realized she preferred to have the trade practiced ON her rather than doing it herself. The only thing she still masters skillfully is coloring. Her hair has been purple, red, black, brown and now blue for the past 5 years. “I always wanted to be a different from the other girls,” she explains. “And over time my taste in clothes changed as well. The hair color is just another accessory which matches my outfits.” Mademoiselle Yulia has made quite a name for herself as a DJ, and not just in Japan. “I play for various clients, from something huge like FNO, H&M, Uniqlo (in Paris), Louis Vuitton, Top Shop and Cartier to magazine parties and clubs events. Recently I have been playing a lot in Asia: Korea, Taiwan, Beijing, Malaysia and Singapore.” One of her favorite gigs was opening for Kylie Minogue, whom she admires immensely. “I felt very honored,” she says with a blissful smile. Yulia released her first “pop-electro” album this October. I listened to it – she has a nice voice! For the past year she’s also been designing ‘Gizmobies’, Iphone cover designs based on the motifs she uses for her jewelry. And now she’s slowly making her way across the pond, starting with a clothing line for Joy Rich in Los Angeles. See what I mean, she’s no twiddler…
There’s a vintage store on pretty much every block in Koenji. Some are experimental, some retro, some American import but every single one has the Japanese touch. After our visit to Garter, where she poses for me in different looks from her supersonic wardrobe, we eat lunch at Hattifnat. I am having a hard time calling this place a restaurant. Everything from the door, to the ceiling, to the chairs – even the toilet! – seem to have shrunk to the size of the living room of The Three Bears. The walls are painted green with anime of every imaginable animal. It’s like a children’s book in here but they have great cakes! After lunch Yulia takes us to Small Change, a vintage store inside the arcade behind the metro station. While I’m holed up in the dressing room trying on dresses and sweaters, Yulia is piecing together a 1950’s look with the poodle circle skirt we saw in the window. She loves vintage because “the pieces are one off items; only you can have it. I can express my originality and identity better. When I look for vintage, I try to find something I have never seen before or has character in it.” And that’s perhaps how I feel about her. Mademoiselle Yulia is unique. She’s the only Japanese girl I met with blue hair. And the only one who doesn’t like sushi.