According to Harumi Kon, Its hard being fat in Japan. Everyone is always judging you based on your looks, and attaching labels to you.
Ms. Kon is the editor-in-chief of la farfa, the first Japanese fashion magazine for chubby girls. Apparently, the magazine proved so popular that in 2013 the amount of preorders of its first issue crashed Amazons Shopping Cart. Even after the publication hit the stands, the response to it was positive enough for la farfa to start putting out six issues a year instead of two as it had planned in the beginning.
The magazine succeeded because it understood the need of many women to be stylish and feel pretty despite being fat. In doing so, its also managed to achieve something really important: making Japanese people question the widely-accepted idea that beauty depends on how thin a person is.
Weve reached out to Ms. Kon and the rest of the la farfa staff, and asked them about the origin of the magazine and their editorial process.Cover of la farfa
Ms. Kon, who happens to be chubby herself, first thought about doing something like la farfa after completing her studies abroad and returning to Japan only to discover that, sadly, none of the clothes she wanted to wear came in her size. In the States, I could buy regular-sized clothing without any problem, but in Japan, my options became severely limited.
People often use fashion to make themselves stand out, so when they cant find clothes that are right for them, its almost as if society was telling them that they dont matter at all. A lot of people become consumed by this type of thinking, and end up with low self-esteem.
But then during the early 2010s, the idea of fast fashion arrived in Japan, and soon, people had access to trendy clothes in large, European sizes. It was also a time when you could see more and more stylish comediennes on television. People were still making fun of fatties back then but when I saw that those women were now being called cute! on TV, I thought that Japanese society was finally heading in the right direction.
Ms. Kon decided to strike when the iron was hot, and created la farfa in 2013. At the time, there were Western, plus-sized clothes available in Japan, but there wasnt really a plus-sized culture in the country. But, with the arrival of la farfa, the stage was set for women of all sizes to start enjoying fashion.
The magazines main characteristic is its multiple personality approach to its content. Typically, publications like to specialize in one fashion style, but the readership of la farfa is made up of chubby girls who are interested in all sorts of different fashions. Thats why the magazine features something for every kind of plus-sized woman out there: Curvy, Adult, Gal (fashion-conscious teens and young adults), Conservative etc. You wont find anything like this in regular fashion magazines.Inside the magazine
Also unlike other publications, la farfa tries to bring their readers and models closer together. Regular magazines for women usually have models who act as their face, and whose fashion choices everyone is supposed to copy. The la farfa, models might not have the same kind of star power but the magazine does offer the readers a chance to connect with them as equals via social media.
Currently, la farfa collaborates with many different models, but finding them had proven to be quite a challenge. Jun Takai, who worked in the editing department on when they launched, explains: We wanted to list all the information about our models in the magazine: their height, weight, measurements etc. However, we were worried that no one would want this kind of information getting out into the world
The first people to model for la farfa were TV comediennes who turned out to be an instant hit with the readership. Soon, people were showering the magazine with praises like Seeing all those lovely models shine has really brightened up my day. After that, la farfa decided to put out a call for models to see what would happen, and amazingly, they received applications from 300 women.
The chosen few not only got to model for la farfa but also gained a little confidence in the process. In the beginning, our models really didnt want to show off their upper arms or legs, but during the photo shoot, they suddenly realized that they looked good, and eventually became comfortable with wearing more revealing clothes. (Takai)
Perhaps following the models example, the readership of la farfa began to change as well. The magazine features a street snapshot corner on which the readers gather from all over the country to be covered, and over time, the staff noticed that the readers clothes have become much more coordinated. Just another example of what happens when a magazine brings their readers and models closer together.
When making a magazine aimed at chubby girls, are there such things as taboo topics? According to Ms. Kon: In the beginning, I got carried away with my vision for the magazine, and became too sensitive. I actually banned the use of the phrase slimming outfits. But it recently dawned on me that there must be fat girls interested in clothing that makes them look slimmer. In the end, I realized that we cannot act like slimming outfits are evil, or deny that they exist.
Of course, the magazine also couldnt deny that some of their readers did want to lose weight. However, Ms. Kon had something to say about that: I think that losing weight is fine, but if you also lose yourself in the process, youll never become the wonderful person you were always meant to be. Nothing can be accomplished by denying who we really are. Whether youre fat or slim, you have to be true to yourself in order to move forward. That is what Ms. Kon believes in.
Thats why she has coined the word pochative (from the Japanese pocchari, meaning chubby) which describes positive chubby girls who are out there enjoying their lives. Its opposite is negadebu (from the Japanese debu, meaning fatty) which is reserved for people with no confidence who have given up on themselves.
Ms. Kon named her magazine la farfa after the Italian word for butterfly (farfalla) because she wanted her readers to become interested in fashion, and spread their wings and fly like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.
Ultimately, though, all la farfa cares about is that girls cherish themselves no matter their size. Thanks to the magazines efforts, the Japanese plus-size fashion market is thriving, with another company coming out with a fashion magazine for chubby men. We might be on the verge of a brand new era where Japanese people finally let go of their prejudices about body types, and everybody learns to love themselves just the way they are.