From Sailor Moon to Totoro, the fashion world is in love with anime

  • Style
  • Friday, 29 Apr 2022

Who doesn't like seeing their favourite cartoon characters appearing on the clothes or accessories they put on? Photo: Loewe

Anime, otherwise known as Japanese animation, has a huge following – and not just in its country of origin anymore. Even the Western world is now enamoured with it.

Fashion is seeing this as an opportunity. The past decade has seen more designer labels trying to co-opt anime fans by releasing special collaborative collections.

In January, Loewe unveiled a capsule range of ready-to-wear and accessories that paid tribute to Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away. This epic film made history as the first anime to win an Academy Award in 2003.

Iconic characters – protagonist Chihiro, dragon Haku, sorceress Yubaba and “no face” spirit Kaonashi – all made an appearance on the products.

Manga and anime iconography is currently popular in fashion. Photo: MajeManga and anime iconography is currently popular in fashion. Photo: MajeThis is not Loewe’s first anime collection though. Last year, it launched designs celebrating another film, My Neighbour Totoro.

The aim was to draw the attention of people from all ages. Such is the relatability of anime.

“When I think of a movie that affords me that kind of solace, speaking just as directly to a child as it does to an adult, that movie is My Neighbour Totoro,” Loewe’s creative director Jonathan Anderson explained in a statement at that time.

Read more: A recent watch collab attracted long lines of buyers, but why the huge hype?

Another fashion label, Maje, released a Sailor Moon collection just this month. It caused quite a buzz among fans, especially those who grew up watching the anime in the 1990s.

For Maje, it was about celebrating the ultimate symbol of girl power. Sailor Moon, after all, has been regarded as a heroine for young women worldwide.

Colours of blue, pink and yellow feature throughout the collection. Cute pictures of the character drew all eyes, and some pieces even sported an original monogram, combining the Sailor Moon silhouette and the Maje clover icon.

Widespread appeal

Anime has fast become a global phenomenon. Netflix released a total of forty anime titles last year – although it should be noted that the streaming service’s categorisation of it is not limited strictly to cartoons made in Japan.

Variety reported that over half of Netflix subscribers watched an anime show or film last year, quoting the company’s director of anime creative, Kohei Obara.

“From diversifying our slate to bringing back fan favourites, we want to continue growing our members’ discovery and love for anime, both in Japan and around the world with this next chapter of anime on Netflix,” he said.

Liking anime is not exactly seen as something “stylish” though – at least, not in the past.

Otaku, a Japanese word that describes people with consuming interests, particularly in anime, is sometimes taken to be derogatory or stigmatic. Those affiliated with it is often seen as lacking in social skills.

Yet, fashion is embracing anime now.

Manga, meaning Japanese comic books and graphic novels to which anime films have been based on, also made the leap into the style industry.

The quirky style of manga fits in well with the bold creative vision of fashion houses like Gucci. Photo: FilepicThe quirky style of manga fits in well with the bold creative vision of fashion houses like Gucci. Photo: FilepicGucci worked with manga artist Hirohiko Araki back in 2013. It resulted in an innovative global window display featuring a fantastic manga-style illustrated story.

The fashion house also released a Doraemon collection early last year, which featured over 50 items.

Read more: What is balletcore fashion? The trend mirrors athleisure, but is more feminine

Nicolas Ghesquiere, the creative director of Louis Vuitton, is apparently a big fan of anime. He has dropped subtle references in the way models are styled for his runway shows – the Sailor Moon-esque tiara spotted in the Spring/Summer 2016 show, for example.

For his Autumn/Winter 2017 event, the 1995 Ghost In The Shell anime film score played in the background as models began walking out.

Not all instances of fashion borrowing from anime or manga have been well accepted though.

When Moschino’s creative director Jeremy Scott designed a collection in 2020, he included prints of characters similar in style to those from manga series The Rose Of Versailles.

He however, did not offer any official acknowledgment of a collaboration. This sparked anger among fans who saw it as an illegal appropriation.

It goes to show that there are right and wrong ways of co-opting popular culture – but if done properly, beautiful magic can indeed happen.

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fashion , trends , anime , manga


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