The Japanese art of storytelling, manga, is known for its distinctive style and widespread popularity. Originating during the 12th century, the early form of comics presented itself as detailed scrolls with vivid visuals and provocative text. The title "manga" became linked to the artistic practice in 1798, during the historic Edo period. By the 1920s, the scrolls evolved into something that closely resembled conventional comic strips and were quickly circulated throughout the public via serialization in newspapers and magazines. Manga generally draws on the themes of satire, romance, and science fiction.
Since its inception, the genre and its video counterpart, anime, has grown to establish a lucrative industry and an international imprint. Well-liked series such as Sailor Moon and Doraemon, in addition to the kawaii character Hello Kitty, have been born out of an explosion of interest in manga all over the world. Moreover, the influence of manga is so powerful, that in recent years the pervasive comics have transcended glossy magazine pages and found their way onto major fashion runways.
Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2020.
Comme Des Garçons Spring/Summer 2018.
But before the biggest designers were turning to manga and anime, the Japanese cartoon world was looking at the Paris runways for inspiration. Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi often fashioned her heroines’ clothes from designer looks from Chanel, Dior, Thierry Mugler, and more. Whereas manga’s influence on fashion is often interpreted as cute or novel, Takeuchi showed how designer fashion co-opted into her magical universe was empowering. In the anime, fashion often underlines the soldier sailor schoolgirls’ powers. When they transform into superheroines, it shows the sequence of their metamorphosis into the mini-skirted, bow-adorned femme fighters.
Princess Serenity from "Sailor Moon.
A Dior Spring/Summer 1992 dress by Gianfranco Ferré.
Today, sought-after manga series have blossomed into brands within themselves. Merchandise with popular characters and themed home goods are just a few things that have precipitated out the collective adoration of the various shows and series. However, the manga obsession does not stop there. Major labels such a Louis Vuitton, Moschino, and Prada have all embraced manga on the runway with statement pieces inspired by the signature comic style and direct allusions to viral characters. Recently, Gucci released a Doraemon X Gucci capsule collection for Chinese New Year, placing the manga cat-robot on bags, tees, and more. The artistry of manga, which is indicative of centuries filled with creativity fused with Japanese tradition, is similarly as detail-oriented and beautiful as clothing design. The intersection of the two feels natural yet nuanced as it mixes exclusive luxury with accessible art.
Gucci x Doraemon
In Louis Vuitton's Spring/Summer 2021 menswear show, creative director Virgil Abloh sought out Reggieknow, an America-based anime artist, to create illustrations to accompany this collection. The manga-inspired motif hit the runway in the form of oversized inflated statues of Reggieknow's characters and clothing adorned with stuffed figures.
Anime styles and allusions are especially prevalent in streetwear. Accessible brands like Uniqlo and Adidas have put out highly successful collaborations with Manga series such as Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z. Moreover, high-end brands, closely linked to hype beast culture, like Supreme and Bape have also engaged in similar collaborations.
Altogether, the fusion of manga culture and popular fashion amalgamates vivid visuals and unparalleled artistry in a way that reminiscent of the playful nature of anime and the importance of clothing design. Many designers have recognized the fine line between the two art forms and have consequently created many memorable runway moments.