"Iki"

jcrew fall2014 - emi ito illustration

Drawing from a Photo from J. Crew September 2014 Style Guide 

Don't hate me when I say this, but I've always been kind of annoyed by the American female obsession with French women.  There are hundreds of articles, books, and other guides on "how to be like a French woman," "how to dress like a French woman," and "how to think like a French woman."  (Seriously -- Google it.  It's hilarious how many results there are.)  I have nothing against France or the French, but it's just really odd to me how French women, and Paris, have been singled out as perfect and have become so idolized in American womens' eyes.  Yes, Paris is beautiful, and yes, many French women are elegant, chic, and have that "je ne sais quoi," but so are many other places and women all over the world.  In any case, I do understand why women want to have that special spark and effortless but captivating look.  I just haven't ever felt comfortable with the whole "wanting to look and be like a French girl" thing, when it is really more of a general aura and look that women want.  So, I was very excited (and dare I say, relieved?) the other day when I came across this Japanese version of the same concept, but with a meaning that I felt was more worth aspiring toward: "iki."

"Iki . . . [has] the meaning of 'elegant, distinguished but not arrogant or flamboyant.'  . . .  We could say a person or thing is iki if he, she, or it is original, calm, refined, and sophisticated without being perfect or complicated."  -- Hector Garcia

Original, calm, refined, and sophisticated without being perfect or complicated.  Now that's a non-country-specific look and vibe worth aiming for!

Relatedly, I found this article interesting, albeit a bit harsh/extreme.