Anime has gone far beyond its original roots and found its way into many areas of Japanese culture, including fashion. From Tokyo, the heart of the Japanese anime and fashion industries, it has also spread to the West and can be seen on the catwalks of Paris and New York as well as the streets of almost any major city.
If ever there was a cross-cultural phenomenon, it would have to be anime. In Japan, the early animators were highly influenced by the cartoons of Walt Disney and other Western pioneers of animated cartoons. They applied their own unique style to their creations, however, and anime became a distinctively Japanese form of art based on the manga comic book style.
As manga and anime grew in popularity in Japan, so did the rivalry between their artists and and producers. Ever more complex plot lines and elaborate drawings were created. From the fairly simple drawings of early anime like Astroboy, anime characters and backgrounds became increasingly sumptuous and highly detailed. Illustrators looking for a fresh and exciting look turned to Victorian England and Rococo design for their inspiration. Especially in the anime designed specifically for girls and young women, costumes became a big part of the creation of anime.
Bold Japanese fashion designers picked up on the popularity of these fashion fantasies and started designing clothing lines that unabashedly imitated anime. Those same fantastical outfits, complete with petticoats, knee-high stockings and platform shoes started appearing all over the streets of Tokyo. Japanese girls had embraced the new fashion with a passion and soon photographs of Japanese teenage girls in full anime regalia began popping up in magazines in Europe and the United States.
For several years, anime-inspired fashion remained in Western magazines and off of the streets. They were considered too outlandish to catch on as a fashion trend in the West, especially since the “Loli” (Lolita) style was the most popular and it offended Western sensibilities. Interestingly, though, that style became popular amongst Japanese girls because it was a way to dress up without having to follow the Western trend of wearing less and exposing more.
The anime fashion became so huge in Japan that a Japanese fashion magazine devoted entirely to the look was produced. Called “The Gothic and Lolita Bible,” it was and continues to be an eagerly awaited annual publication in Japan and has now been translated into English and is available in the United States and Europe.
Recently, New York fashion designers have begun employing variations on the anime style into their collections. In 2009, fashion designer Julie Haus made an entire collection based on Tomoku Hayakawa’s “Wallflower” manga. Her first major runway show, with the ironic title, “Not a Wallflower” was a smash success and put her label in the forefront of the fashion industry.
Where fashion will go with anime and anime will go with fashion will be an interesting development to follow. Clearly, the trend will continue and we will no doubt witness some interesting variations on the theme. Given the trend of cross-cultural influences between Japan and the United States, it is likely that a New York designer will come up with a kimono anime style and the kimono will in turn become a fashion trend in Japan once again!