The bizarre culture of anime and fashion

Stemming from traditional Japanese artistic style, manga – and its video format anime – has become beloved in Western culture. Series such as Naruto, Dragon Ball Z and the world-famous Pokémon have spread their influence not only in the cartoon series and comic lover’s crowd, but also within the fashion scene.

Previously, liking anime was seen as being geeky, not cool – I mean, teenage boys watching animated adolescent girls in skimpy outfits in their free time doesn’t really scream popular to me. But more recently, it has become socially acceptable to admit you like anime and finally! I was tired of pretending that I don’t still watch old episodes of Pokémon as a guilty pleasure…

Recent collaborations have seen popular anime series and fashion labels come together; CASETiFY and One Piece, Adidas and Yu-Gi-Oh!, and W.ESSENTIALS x My Hero Academia, to mention the most recent. And this anime-fashion hybrid has actually made for some unique takes on fashion as we know it, with brands such as GCDS which has built a large following simply from its graphic cartoonesque clothing.

So now fashion critics and gamer nerds have united in blissful harmony… but the question is, why? Why has anime suddenly been perceived as cool? After all those years of die-hard fans hiding away? Why does fashion want in on the manga scene? And how do those true anime enthusiasts feel about this?

_shift talks to the owner of Instagram account @animefashion.archives, anime clothing designer @chaos_h.e.a.d, and regular watchers of anime to gain more insight into this popular trend.

So first let’s begin with runway fashion – the so-called gateway into mainstream fashion trends. In 2017 and 2018, Gucci, GCDS and Moschino, to name a few, put anime-inspired designs on the runways. As with many runway trends, mainstream fashion has taken this fad on a few years later.

When asked about the reasons behind anime fashion becoming trendy, Instagram account owner @animefashion.archives agreed with saying the runway shows have inspired fashion now. The owner of the account, who wants to remain anonymous, has been following the lore of anime fashion for a while now, detailing all the runway shows in a helpful guide on their Instagram account.

Image courtesy of @animefashion.archives, Instagram
Image courtesy of @animefashion.archives, Instagram

Now, @animefashion.archives mainly features smaller anime clothing designers, which may seem like a niche audience but there are a lot of smaller designers out there. It just goes to show how popular anime is becoming in the present day.

Speaking to one of these small designers, _shift wanted to find out why they chose to design anime clothing – was it always a love for them or has it become more recent with the rise in popularity in the mainstream media?

@chaos_h.e.a.d is a designer from Germany who creates anime-inspired clothing and has gained notoriety for slightly more promiscuous designs. When asked about why they design clothing heavily influenced by anime, owner Lennart says: “I make anime clothing because anime is a big part of my life. It inspires me and I think it is aesthetically pleasing.”

A lot of Chaos Head’s designs feature anime girls and this has become the brand’s signature style. While a lot of the clothing may appeal to a more extroverted crowd (due to the bold designs) the clothing is certainly unlike anything you would find on the highstreet. Perhaps that is what makes it so desirable in the modern day; that uniqueness that you can’t find elsewhere.

Image courtesy of @chaos_h.e.a.d, Instagram
Image courtesy of @chaos_h.e.a.d, Instagram

As for Lennart’s opinion on the relevancy of anime clothing, he says “I am not a big fan of them. I liked it more when anime clothes were underground and not used by big brands for the hype. The new generation is more interested in the new styles,” he continues. “They appreciate the art and inspiration behind anime and manga.”

It is interesting to hear how true, long-time fans of anime feel about their interests becoming a trend, just because it is now considered cool to enjoy anime. Chaos Head is just one example of somebody who started designing anime influenced clothing for an audience of genuine fans and not, as Lennart puts it, “for the hype”.

Nigel Taruwinga, a student at the University of Hertfordshire who has been watching anime since he was a child, says: “It has been weird seeing this transformation [of anime becoming popular]. Most of these new fans are probably jumping on the hype, or most are coming from TikTok.”

The video streaming platform TikTok has been known to maximise trends, and there have been a few trends involving particular anime styles or scenes, of which fans have risen in popularity.

Nigel continues: “People who have been in love with the arts, the stories, reading manga, etcetera, wouldn’t have much respect for these newcomers and bandwagoners. But it’s nice to see the creators of the anime get the acknowledgement they deserve.”

It is difficult to say whether this will be a trend for much longer, or if it will quite simply die out like many fads over time. Either way, as long as the art of manga is still loved by many, then the fanbase will continue to grow and expand for a Western audience – and just maybe with less judgement for being into anime than previously!

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