Teddy Bear Picnic: A look at Teddy Bears through JFashion [Part 3 – Lolita Fashion]
This was originally presented as an educational companion piece to a craft panel at Katsucon 2020. Because it was originally in lecture / power point format, some aspects may not translate as smoothly to written text.
In the 1990s, carrying around a full stuffed bear while wearing lolita fashion was popular.
On the left is a coord from Fruits in 1998. While on the right we have a guide to lolita from Kera magazine in 1999. It actually suggest a bear as part of the outfit!
The bear both girls are holding is a limited edition Japan-only release from Vivienne Westwood, a British designer who was very influential in early lolita fashion and Japanese punk fashion.
The above images show fans of the magazine “Cutie”, commonly known as “Cutie Kids” in their street snaps section. Note how the bear on the left has similar coloring to the VW bear above. The bear on the right is a style that was popular with several Jfashion brands including Jane Marple.
Meanwhile, in teddy bear news…
In 2002 / 2003 Steiff was celebrating their 100th anniversary and as part of that celebration, they had a whole exhibit in Japan where you could go and learn about the bears.
They also had a limited edition model PB28 bear for sale that was highly collectible and numbered. 2002 of the bears were sold, for 35,000 yen each, which is about $350 US.
Note the distinctive ear tag, general fur shape and the black neck ribbon.
The bears held by these lolita below aren’t the 35K PB28 bears (none seem to have the ear tag), but they look really similar with the same fluffy style fur and black neck ribbons, and it’s likely that this style of bear saw a surge in popularity due to the exhibition and the premium limited edition bears.
Pictures with pandas also pop up from time to time in the early 2000s. I suspect that this might be because Moon Kana (right) had a phase where she posed with her stuffed panda Toraboruta (Travolta) in like almost every lolita photoshoot she did.
Another source of bears and bear themed items in the early 2000’s was La Luicie. La Luicie was a hand-made / indie design studio founded in 1983.
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They made mainly bear (but also rabbit) themed accessories and homegoods, often with an abundance of lace. Here are a few example from 2003 from their old website captured using the wayback machine.
They would go on to design a lace rabbit bag which was sold by Putumayo (and presumably Metamorphose). Metamorphose also sold a very similar style bear bag, though it’s unclear if Metamorphose bought the bear and rabbit bags from La Luicie or not. I suspect they did, as Metamorphose sold a number of accessories that were modified with Metamorphose branding by adding a ribbon or charm.
Metamorphose would go on to release several types of accessories using commercially produced mini-bears either as a base, or as embellishments, over the course of many years.
Brand Mascot Bears
Metamorphose had a bear mascot for several years. Punkuma, and his rabbit companion rabbie-chan were early staples of the Metamorphose brand. Punkuma’s name is a play on Punk and Kuma (bear), and unlike many of the other bear mascots in lolita fashion, he retains a lot more of the Vivienne Westwood British punk vibe, though he is also depicted in “cuter” scenarios as well.
In 2006, Meta even released a camo print featuring the silhouettes of the bear and rabbit duo.
After founding designer, Kato-san, left Metamorphose, the mascot duo of Punkuma and Rabbie-Chan seem to have been discontinued, though generic bears still were used in new designs after this point
Angelic Pretty: Shy Bear
Bear mascots pop up in other brands as well. In 2007 Angelic Pretty released Toy Parade, which was a series of clothing with a toy print motif. Among the toys was a bear who would go on to be an enduring mascot character for the brand. That bear’s name is “Shy Bear”. Shy bear was influenced by the Steif bears, having a version of the Steif ear tag (despite being unrelated to the brand)
Ap released another bear series at the same time which was also influenced by the steiff bear under the name sweet bear.
However Sweet Bear didn’t really get the same enduring attention as Shy Bear and his friend Lyrical Bunny.
At first, shy bear was depicted in pastel colors like white, pink, lavender and mint.
But in 2012, he was depicted in brown in the darker/brighter colored toymarch series, and he even got a series of plush bags in various outfits.
Baby the Stars Shine Bright: Usakumya & Friends
Baby the Stars shine bright also has a famous bear mascot: Usakumya! Usakumya first shows up in 2001 in the GLARB I Fashion Show in the form of a very shaggy plush.
Interestingly, they actually note Usakumya as female (うさくま（♀）) in an early coord shot, however, Baby is inconsistent with Usakumya’s gender, and based on some prints it’s implied that there probably are several usakumyas (or at least, that’s my understanding).
The 2002 version already is a little stubbier and rounder. By 2005 we see a very different shape, and by 2007 Usakumya has basically become the same shape that she is still today.
In the Baby the Stars Shine Bright Usakumya Mook, the designers give the backstory for Usakumya:
“Deep in the forest of a faraway land, there lived a stylish little bear. On a sunny afternoon, the little bear happened upon a very long-eared bunny. In that moment, his heart was stolen by those lovely ears. The little bear wanted nothing more than a pair of long ears for himself. Thinking he too could have long ears, the little bear sat in front of the mirror and pulled on his round ears until they turned red. The little bear cried and cried every day because his ears remained the same.
Then, one day, the little bear saw a lovely girl wearing BABY’s clothing. She listened to his story from beginning to end, and decided to grant the little bear’s wish! As if by magic, the girl presented the little bear with an exquisite bunny-eared bonnet. The little bear placed the bonnet on his head, and looked at himself in the mirror. All of a sudden, the tears stopped. The little bear looked just like a little bunny with red eyes from endless crying and long ears atop his head.
The girl exclaimed, ‘So cute! Where I am from, we call bears ‘Kumya.’ From now on, you will be known as ‘Usakumya-chan.” The little bear was so happy, he traveled to Candyland, where the girl resides. Everyone in Candyland wears BABY’s clothing, and everything there is cute and sweet. Usakumya-chan and the magical girl spent many fun-filled days in Candyland.“
(Translation via lolita-hime )
While Usakumya is a bear pretending to be a rabbit, her friends include Kuma Kumya who is a bear, pretending to be a bear and Neko Kumya who is a bear pretending to be a cat!
Maxicimam: Chocomint Cotty
Maxicimam has several mascot characters, and they print a line up of them in their catalogs. Most of them are cats, but there is a little bear named Cotty who describes himself as a Chocomint Bear (チョコミントくまのコテイちゃん).
He has his own twitter (@ChocomintCotty) where he mostly tweets facts about chocolate, but it’s not very active… he basically tweeted for a month or two in 2020 and then stopped.
In addition to being the star of two of Maximam’s few custom sweet prints, he also shows up on a lot of small goods like notebooks and pinback buttons.
He’s sometimes depicted significantly lighter, like basically cream colored, but the print description calls him the same name.
1920s Antique Bear
Innocent world frequently uses antique bear motifs, but doesn’t seem to have a named these bears. According to interviews, Innocent world’s Marine Bear series is based on a real antique teddy bear from roughly 1920 that the designer bought in Vienna Austria.
There are a few other plush in the print, and after seeing the bear, I feel like he definitely shows up in some of the other bear prints they have done in the past.
When I originally gave this presentation, IW didn’t have any named bear mascots, but 2021 actually changed that.
This year, IW introduced us to Rose-chan who looks like a bear bag similar to the ones made by Baby and AP, but as far as I can tell, she doesn’t open, so she can’t hold even a quarter or a chapstick.
～New character of Innocent World～
Rose-chan is our teddy bear character with Innocent World’s original rose corsage on her ears.
A ribbon with the brand logo and a heart-shaped IW charm are decorated on her chest.
It is adorable to wear a matching ribbon and enjoy fashion with Rose-chan.
She also comes with a removable shoulder strap, so you can take her out with you like a pouch.
Bears pop up in several other brand’s work, and are a pervasive and enduring theme in lolita, and if I tried to write about them all, we would be hear for weeks. While these are some of the more famous bear mascots, I’m sure there are tons more. Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite who was left out!
By the way, while I was looking for old school lolita posed with bears, I actually found a ton of pictures. These are just a few of the others. Unfortunately, some of these come from random caches of old photos and I’m not 100% sure what the sources are…
Thank you for joining me for this bear-filled series, and I hope you had a beary good time.
- Photo: Gothic Lolita in Harajuku 原宿 日本