Young London Creative Erika Bowes On What It Means to Have “Girl Boss” Style

The 21-year-old photographer, stylist, and co-founder of Sukeban magazine says subculture isn’t just about Supreme or Vetements and thinks fashion needs to be more inclusive.

Erika Bowes / Instagram

Erika Bowes prefers the word ‘Sukeban’ to describe herself, which means ‘girl boss’ in Japanese — although not to be confused with Sophia Amoruso’s memoir of the same name.

The 21-year-old half-British, half-Japanese photographer, stylist and co-founder of Sukeban magazine was visiting her relatives in Tokyo last December when she met fellow fashionable “girl boss,” Yuki Haze. They followed each other on Instagram and discovered through DMs that they were in town at the same time. “We started talking about our careers, how we felt stuck and unsatisfied with what we were doing, and discovered we both had and have the same views on the fashion industry,” said Bowes. “Additionally, we’d always wanted to start a publication, so we thought it would be cool and also a challenge to collaborate on something that empowers not only women, but all young people who, like ourselves, are trying to get their work out there.”

At the end of September, Sukeban, which sounds a lot like the Rookie magazine of the UK, will release its first issue. But in the meantime Bowes, who as over 100,000 Instagram followers, is working to make a name for herself at London Fashion Week. “I’m working on creating a space for myself and other young women of color by using my own social media platforms to speak out about the issues that I, as a person of mixed race heritage, experience,” she said.

What does it mean to be a “boss girl” to you? ‘Sukeban’ means ‘delinquent’ or ‘girl boss’ in Japanese. I travel to Tokyo every year so it’s hard not to be influenced by the style and culture. Anarchy in Japan, particularly in females, is very rare and pretty much all forms of rebellious behaviour are seen by the general public as completely disrespectful. So ‘Sukeban’ isn’t really seen as something to aspire or look up to by most Japanese people.

I don’t advocate violence or breaking the law — I think it’s more the attitude that I admire, in terms of women being aggressive and unapologetically female, despite the efforts around them that may incite them to reform. When I say ‘female’, I’m referring to being a woman — and when I say ‘being a woman’, it can mean being anything. I don’t think there is any real definition of what a female is or what feminine is. I think a woman should be able to be aggressive and overbearing without being described as ‘masculine’ or a ‘bitch’. Why should having more control and being more assertive immediately link back to being masculine? Why do we immediately think of men when we hear the word ‘boss’?

What do you think is lacking in the fashion industry? Do you find it frustrating as a young creative? How are you working with others to create your own space? What about in London, specifically? Equal representation. I’m not only talking about all shapes and sizes, but also the huge disparity between the amount of white models and women of color in fashion. I find this extremely frustrating as a young creative because fashion and media are the most influential industries, and have always been the most influential industries. The fact that women of color make up only 20-30 percent of the models on runways, give or take, is a joke.

I’m working on creating a space for myself and other young women of color by using my own social media platforms to speak out about the issues that I, as a person of mixed race heritage, experience. I have received backlash and people have tried to marginalize my experiences, but I’ve also met and spoken to other girls who were able to relate to and discuss the issues with me. I really want to encourage people who have had similar experiences to start speaking out about it.

How would you describe, in general terms, the London youth subculture right now, specifically in the fashion world? What are some themes you’re noticing (re: politics, art, gender, etc.)? First of all, I just want to clarify that the London youth subculture isn’t just made up of skater boys and kids who wear Supreme or Vetements. I see a lot people focus on that demographic, which is great because this kind of culture is interesting, especially skate culture, but that being said I actually think that the London youth subculture isn’t that much focused on external appearance. The people I’ve met and the people I’ve worked with, who I feel really represent London youth culture, are the creatives who are motivated by their own ambitions and their work, rather than by what they or what other kids are wearing. I wish more magazines would focus on that rather than who’s walked this show or who’s wearing what.

Style icons/inspirations: For style it would have to be Chloe Sevigny at the moment!

Where you look for inspiration: I follow a lot of archive editorial blogs (the Japanese ones are the best!) on tumblr, which are my favorite for inspiration.

Night out look: Black t-shirt, black flared pants, and some gold jewelry.

Preferred footwear: Converse or Tabi’s.

Finishing touches: Lip Balm, highlighter, and over-the-top earrings.

Beauty secrets (makeup, hair products, bathroom rituals, etc.): For clear skin: minimal makeup, three liters of water, low-sodium diet, night and day cream by No.7 and Korean face masks!

Best recent discovery: I bought Smith’s strawberry lip balm when I was in new york last week and it’s my favorite beauty product; I’m addicted.

Style pet peeve: When people wear their jackets on their shoulders and don’t put their arms in the sleeves?

Last purchase: Buckled punk trousers from a vintage store in Camden.

Lusting after: Vintage Jean Paul Gaultier tattoo tops.

What’s always in your bag? Contax T2 camera and a roll of film.

Something you would never wear: Heeled trainers.

Most prized possession(s) in your closet: My vintage Levi’s, which have fit perfectly ever since I was 15-years-old.

Emerging British designers you’re a fan of: Faustine Steinmetz and Clio Peppiatt.

Shows you’re looking forward to at LFW Spring 2017? Ashley Williams, I looooove her stuff!

Favorite accounts to follow on Instagram: @yasminaici, @littlesunlady, @knighttcat, @fiiiiiish, and @retroquest.