We meet Erika Bowes and Yuki Haze, the two half British half Japanese badass girls behind Sukeban. At once creative directors, photographers and stylists, the creative process behind their new online platform was inspired by rebellious Japanese women of the 70s and 80s. Through the use of beautifully strong images, Sukeban seeks to express, with a certain urgency, the clear thoughts about feminism and fashion of its creators. We fell in love with both the visual power and the freedom and freshness of all the contributors’ works so we tried to investigate the origins and the purpose of this project created entirely by women.
When did you guys meet?
December 2015 in Japan.
Please tell us something about your background and how this has affected your work?
Our mixed race identities are very important to both of us, and even though we are very different we find that we have the same opinions on culture, society and racial identity as well as racial issues. Given the heritage that we both share we find that our background has affected our creative work in the sense that we find it necessary to address topics such as intersectional feminism.
How did the idea of this online platform come to mind?
We were very much inspired by already present collectives and magazines striving to push forward the work of individual creatives, however we felt that there was a divide between ‘high fashion’ magazines and magazines that showcased actual up and coming talent. We wanted to cross that divide and focus on people regardless of whether or not they’re models or Instagram famous.
‘Sukeban’ means boss girl in Japanese. This is a great name, would you like to tell us why you chose it?
We chose ‘Sukeban’ because they were actual women in 70s and 80s Japan who rebelled against society, despite the conforming nature of their surroundings as well as the expectations applied to them as women. We also like the definition and history behind the name because we feel that, even today, Asian women are stereotyped to be submissive or non-intrusive – something that Sukeban women definitely didn’t embody.
What message would you like to deliver through Sukeban and who would you like to reach?
We want people to understand that feminism isn’t limited to women or white women, and that fashion deserves to be feminist. We want to reach anyone creative and ambitious.
In your ‘about’ section there are 3 notes: “Feminism does not only include women. Feminism does not only include white women. Fashion deserves to be feminist.” Would you like to tell us something more about your own idea of feminism?
Despite the fact that we live in an age of extreme communication, the definitions of feminism, race and gender are often still misconstrued. There is still a lot of negativity associated with feminism in popular media – and women of colour are often excluded from the subject despite receiving not only discrimination towards their gender but also towards their ethnicity, religion or race. In terms of fashion, we feel that, given its position as the world’s largest say in what is aesthetically pleasing, it could have and should have the power to change things for the benefit of those who are discriminated against or ostracised. Unfortunately, it has often done the opposite.
How do you find all the artists you feature on your platform and what are the main characteristics you look for when searching for new contributors and works?
Usually through platforms like Instagram and Tumblr – and we particularly like illustrators, graphic designers or individuals who focus on topics such as body image, race or gender.
Do you guys have other projects beside Sukeban?
We work together as a collaborative team, doing creative direction, photography and styling together. We recently started an Instagram to showcase all that @sukebangirls and our portfolio will be online soon.
You guys live in London. How has the city and the latest socio-political issues influenced you and your work? What are your feelings about what is going on?
It’s great that people are being active in the Black Lives Matter movement, and that London has participated in protests and social media movements to support it. Given the nature of London, and its position as a very multicultural city, naturally we are inspired to document its range of inhabitants as well as trends.
What’s your relationship with the fashion industry?
It’s a love-hate relationship. We think that it has a lot of power and that the people who work in the fashion industry are incredibly hard working and inspiring. However we also feel that there are elements of the industry that have hugely affected people, especially young women of colour, in a detrimental way. This needs to change.
What’s your relationship with social media?
Social media is great for people aiming to showcase their work as well as social issues or opinions. Again, it also has the potential to divert attention from real issues.
What’s coming next?
First printed issue of Sukeban Magazine!