Meet Lolita... and dig on New People's Tokyo trends

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Text and photos by Caitlin Donohue

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"Sweet lolita" Maria Elena-Diaz is cute as a button shopping at SF's new hotspot for Japanese subculture

It is rare that you see live baby dolls perusing the racks at an American mall. Abercrombie & Fitch just isn’t cornering the bonnet and bloomer market these days.

But- not to sound redundant- the Japanese do things differently. Case in point: New People, the newest import shopping center to open up in Japantown. It's here that a subculture from the Empire of the Sun based on dressing like Strawberry Shortcake is finding new visibility in San Francisco.

New People is a vast complex of urban Japanese culture, housing five floors of various wonders and accoutrements. One story is devoted to art, a gallery showing sleekly interesting works in a variety of mediums from stuffed animal chandeliers to leaves rendered in ceramic. One floor’s all about film, now featuring a full month of movies about music in the basement theater. They’ve got a small café offering Blue Bottle coffee and bento boxes that encourages leisurely manga perusal and a vast selection of Japanese tchotchkes- smoke machines, psychedelic origami paper and brave vegetable action figures. But it’s their floor devoted to hard-to-find Japanese clothing labels that makes New People a truly unique place.

The mall is the home of Kyoto-based Sou Sou shoes- tabi footwear in stylee patterns reminiscent of children’s bedding with unusual, toe-cleaving designs. It is also the only west coast retailer of clothing brands Black Peace Now and Baby, The Stars Shine Bright- two O.G. names in the lolita/goth scene from Tokyo.