[Marxism] Japanese fashion
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Oct 21 09:27:53 MDT 2007
From Dana Thomas's "Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster":
"He is poor who does not feel content."
Kyoichi Tsuzuki, a Japanese photojournalist and publisher, has spent
nearly a decade taking pictures of luxury-brand-obsessed Japanese in
their tiny apartments surrounded by their collections of clothes, ties,
scarves, jewelry, handbags, and shoes for the Fashion News, one of
Japan's oldest fashion magazines. Tsuzuki calls his subjects "happy
victims" because, while they are victims of brand marketing, the items
seem to bring them a sort of happiness. On a cool November morning in
2005, I visited Tsuzuki in his apartment in Tokyo and, over cups of
jasmine tea, he told me about these happy victims. There is the Hermes
collector, a patent executive who lives in a tiny fourth-floor walk-up
flat. He keeps all of his Hermes shirts, ties, and leather goods in
their original boxes and bags, which are stacked up on his tatami floor.
He spent half a million yen (about $4,000) on an Hermes briefcase that
he carries with an Hermes towel wrapped around the handle to avoid
damaging the leather with his hand perspiration.
There is a Buddhist monk who collects Comme des Garcons religiously.
Once a month, Tsuzuki told me, the monk sheds his robes, dons Comme des
Garcons' avant-garde constructionist clothes, and heads from his temple
to Tokyo to pick up a few more pieces. He is so convinced of their
miraculous powers that he says his delinquent sister cleaned up her act
when she started wearing Comme des Garcons. There's an English teacher
at a prep school who started wearing Gianni Versace's flamboyant designs
to keep the attention of his students. After ten years, he had one
hundred pieces of Versace as well as an impressive Bulgari jewelry
collection. He lives in a shoebox apartment with his unemployed
girlfriend, who spends her days organizing the collection. There's a Tom
Ford collector (she has both Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent), an Armani
man, a McQueen girl, and a Martin Margiela manic who is so fastidious
about his collection that he never cooks at home because he doesn't want
the clothes to retain the odors. The only thing in his refrigerator is
eyedrops. "When he gets thirsty," Tsuzuki said, "he goes to a
convenience shop and drinks there then goes back home. He does not want
to put any kind of trash in the room."
NY Times, October 20, 2007
Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place
By MARTIN FACKLER
TOKYO, Oct. 19 — On a narrow Tokyo street, near a beef bowl restaurant
and a pachinko parlor, Aya Tsukioka demonstrated new clothing designs
that she hopes will ease Japan’s growing fears of crime.
Deftly, Ms. Tsukioka, a 29-year-old experimental fashion designer,
lifted a flap on her skirt to reveal a large sheet of cloth printed in
bright red with a soft drink logo partly visible. By holding the sheet
open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman
walking alone could elude pursuers — by disguising herself as a vending
The wearer hides behind the sheet, printed with an actual-size photo of
a vending machine. Ms. Tsukioka’s clothing is still in development, but
she already has several versions, including one that unfolds from a
kimono and a deluxe model with four sides for more complete camouflaging.
These elaborate defenses are coming at a time when crime rates are
actually declining in Japan. But the Japanese, sensitive to the
slightest signs of social fraying, say they feel growing anxiety about
safety, fanned by sensationalist news media. Instead of pepper spray,
though, they are devising a variety of novel solutions, some high-tech,
others quirky, but all reflecting a peculiarly Japanese sensibility.
Take the “manhole bag,” a purse that can hide valuables by unfolding to
look like a sewer cover. Lay it on the street with your wallet inside,
and unwitting thieves are supposed to walk right by. There is also a
line of knife-proof high school uniforms made with the same material as
Kevlar, and a book with tips on how to dress even the nerdiest children
like “pseudohoodlums” to fend off schoolyard bullies.
There are pastel-colored cellphones for children that parents can track,
and a chip for backpacks that signals when children enter and leave school.
The devices’ creators admit that some of their ideas may seem
far-fetched, especially to crime-hardened Americans. And even some
Japanese find some of them a tad naïve, possibly reflecting the nation’s
relative lack of experience with actual street crime. Despite media
attention on a few sensational cases, the rate of violent crime remains
just one-seventh of America’s.
But the devices’ creators also argue that Japan’s ideas about crime
prevention are a product of deeper cultural differences. While Americans
want to protect themselves from criminals, or even strike back, the
creators say many Japanese favor camouflage and deception, reflecting a
culture that abhors self-assertion, even in self-defense.
“It is just easier for Japanese to hide,” Ms. Tsukioka said. “Making a
scene would be too embarrassing.” She said her vending machine disguise
was inspired by a trick used by the ancient ninja, who cloaked
themselves in black blankets at night.
To be sure, some of these ideas have yet to become commercially viable.
However, the fact that they were greeted here with straight faces, or
even appeared at all, underscores another, less appreciated facet of
Japanese society: its fondness for oddball ideas and inventions.
Japan’s corporate labs have showered the world with technology, from
transistor radios to hybrid cars. But the nation is also home to a
prolific subculture of individual inventors, whose ideas range from
practical to bizarre. Inventors say a tradition of tinkering and
building has made Japan welcoming to experimental ideas, no matter how
“Japanese society won’t just laugh, so inventors are not afraid to try
new things,” said Takumi Hirai, chairman of Japan’s largest association
of individual inventors, the 10,000-member Hatsumeigakkai.
In fact, Japan produces so many unusual inventions that it even has a
word for them: chindogu, or “queer tools.” The term was popularized by
Kenji Kawakami, whose hundreds of intentionally impractical and humorous
inventions have won him international attention as Japan’s answer to
Rube Goldberg. His creations, which he calls “unuseless,” include a roll
of toilet paper attached to the head for easy reach in hay fever season,
and tiny mops for a cat’s feet that polish the floor as the cat prowls.
Mr. Kawakami said that while some of Japan’s anticrime devices might not
seem practical, they were valuable because they might lead to even
“Even useless things can be useful,” he said. “The weird logic of these
inventions helps us see the world in fresh ways.”
Even some of the less unusual anticrime devices here reflect a singular
logic. A pair of women’s sunglasses has wraparound lenses so dark no one
can see where the wearer is looking. These are intended to scare off
sexual harassers on Tokyo’s crowded trains, where the groping of women
is a constant problem.
The same is true of some of the solutions for schoolyard bullying, a big
problem in Japan. Kaori Nakano, a fashion historian, wrote a book with a
chapter on how to ward off bullies with the “pseudohoodlum” attire. Her
advice includes substituting a white belt for the standard black one in
Japanese school uniforms, preferably with metallic studs or tiny
mirrors, and buying short socks with flashy patterns.
“Japan is so fashion conscious that just changing the way you dress can
make you safer,” Ms. Nakano said. “Culture plays a big role in risk
Ms. Tsukioka said she chose the vending-machine motif because the
machines are so common on Japan’s streets. For children, she has a
backpack that transforms into a Japanese-style fire hydrant, hiding the
child. The “manhole bag” was also her idea.
Ms. Tsukioka said her disguises could be a bit impractical, “especially
when your hands are shaking.” Still, she said she hoped the designs or
some variation of them could be marketed widely. So far, she said, she
has sold about 20 vending-machine skirts for about $800 each, printing
and sewing each by hand.
She said she had never heard of a skirt’s actually preventing a crime.
But on a recent afternoon in Tokyo, bystanders stared as she unfolded
the sheet. But once she stood behind it next to a row of actual vending
machines, the image proved persuasive enough camouflage that passers-by
did not seem to notice her.
She said that while her ideas might be fanciful, Japan’s willingness to
indulge the imagination was one of its cultural strengths.
“These ideas might strike foreigners as far-fetched,” she added, “but in
Japan, they can become reality.”
More information about the Marxism