After a flurry of closings that coincide with the end of the fiscal year for many fashion companies last month, if you look in the right place now there is a positive atmosphere.
For all the difficulties some sectors have experienced over the past year, others have charted an upward trajectory. In particular, pop culture themed merchandise has become a real success story.
The sweet spot seems to be a pop culture commodity that has become a nostalgic spot for young people with disposable income.
Case in point: the de facto symbol for Japan’s so-called lost generation, the anime franchise “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” whose long-awaited final work in the film series “Rebuild of Evangelion” is currently doing well in theaters national. To mark the occasion, there were lots of merchandise and collaborations, including Jun Takahashi, who presented his work. Undercover collection in Tokyo to coincide with the Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo in March.
From the very first appearance, an ensemble inspired by plugsuits, mechas, and even the antagonist Angel from the iconic series lurked down the runway. The design exhibits a humble level of technical patterning prowess, as well as hands-on imagination.
Even better, if you cut out the headsets manufactured for runways and get rid of the black light trick, the collection is surprisingly wearable, even with a more literal manifestation of anime aesthetics than any designer would have tried in the last decade. From 2010 to 2020, designers generally aim for the subtlest references to source material possible, but recent market success has made them even bolder.
But not all success is the same. Unfortunately, when anime or video games start collaborating with brands above the upper echelons of the fashion hierarchy, there’s usually a “How many ?!” or “What a scam!” and so on from people who like original media, but resent the feeling that a part of the community is now off limits because of the entry fee.
The first culturally significant example of this reaction was most likely in 1999 (a pre-social-media-driven outrage) when Square Co., now Square Enix, produced the ensemble for Squall Leonhart, the hero of the video game Final Fantasy VIII, in original skin.
The combination of craft and quality – with a hefty price tag to match – is a breakaway moment for “geek chic” as a whole, but not everyone is happy to know that outside forces can change their fandom’s field of play. This phenomenon continues, but as more and more value is properly placed on pop culture mementos, hopefully we’ll start to see fashion as an enrichment of source material, and not an unwanted guest.
Undercover isn’t the only brand involved with the new “Evangelion” film. Bandai’s internal label, the Bandai Fashion Collection – who thought the words would ever be orchestrated – have teamed up with Anna Sui for a dark collection of franchise-inspired accessories. Throughout, Anna Sui’s signature butterfly and rose collided with the bloody spear and the battered face of the series’ titular mecha. Collection pieces will drop throughout the year, with some for pre-order at the Bandai online store now.
Anna Sui also matches the current anime, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba”, because the mini collection that is expected to become so popular pre-orders is your safest bet to ensure ownership. Again, the Bandai online shop is your friend.
Even the two capsule collections barely scratch the surface of the pop culture paraphernalia for grabs. “Harry Potter” pairs up with the super cute Q-pot accessory brand for a collectable ornament-themed collection (as opposed to the clothes you can wear and wear). The series closes with a chocolate-themed Hogwarts randoseru backpack at a staggering 110,000 yen (tax included). Again, if this is something your primary school (or you) want, wise advance ordering is required either online or at Omotesando flagship Q-pot shop.
The separation of shopping from physical stores, and even the need to wear it, is an overall downside for fashion, but an appropriate strategy for brands aiming to outlast the current stay-at-home status quo. These well-crafted pop culture artifacts could play the part they sit in storefronts for now, but hopefully they’ll get their day to wear, and celebrate, out and about someday.
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