Meet Lulu Hashimoto, a “living doll” and the latest trend in Tokyo’s fashion modeling scene.
Lulu - a full-body doll suit consisting of a wig, a mask and stockings patterned with doll-like joints - was born from one woman’s desire to become cute.
“I have always really liked dolls and for me, the epitome of cuteness is dolls,” said the 23-year-old fashion designer Hitomi Komaki, who created Lulu.
Dressing up as a mascot, called “kigurumi” in Japanese, is a popular art form in Japan. Komaki has taken it to a new level by creating a body suit that looks like a doll and lets you move like a human.
“Many people call my project a fetish, but for me it’s not a fetish but fashion,” she said. “It’s like wearing nice clothes or putting on false eyelashes to become cuter.”
There is only one Lulu body suit, Komaki said, but dancers, designers and models are among those who have worn the costume.
The identity of exactly who is inside is secret, she added.
The stockings worn by Lulu were created by fellow fashion designer Koh Ueno, who airbrushes doll-like joints onto the material.
“I want to see women wear these stockings and transform,” said 29-year-old Ueno.
“I want them to experience the extraordinary - to become otherworldly, artificial, or like a doll,” he said.
While popular among fans of Japanese subculture, Lulu is now turning heads at the annual Miss iD beauty pageant where she is among the 134 semi-finalists chosen from around 4,000 entrants.
The pageant, which includes “non-human” characters generated by artificial intelligence and three-dimensional computer graphics for the first time, will announce a winner in November.
Lulu’s ability to blur the line between reality and fiction has mesmerized fans on social media, where the Lulu Twitter and Instagram accounts have drawn tens of thousands of followers.
"I find it miraculous that dolls and humans - two things that exist in different planes - are standing in the same space," said Erika Kato, 24, who met Lulu for the first time at a recent fan event.
The possibility of wearing a suit and becoming Lulu also appealed to fans like 22-year-old Miu Shimoda.
"I'd like to be a beautiful girl like Lulu at least once in my life," she said.