I want to preface this rambling to say that I am heads over heels in love with this moment of kawaii and want to share it with you. It totally captures my imagination, and I am puzzling over how to intellectually understand this style. Maybe its just an emotional thing, but I will try to spell it out to myself and maybe to you so we can be cute together!
Okay! This is a little intro to where my tooling around the web has ended up. The video above is by the amazing Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Pon Pon Wei Wei which for me is the starting place to begin to try, and I mean try to understand what this Japanese Kawaii styling is all about. Hello Kitty was the kick off for this uber cute, sugary, sugary, teeth rotting cuteness which as it evolves gets more odd, more psychodelic and more insider than ever before. Pokemon, Todoro, Rilakuma (the relaxing bear) and Pikachu, more particularly entered our lives early and continues to live on as something retro for ourkids so how does this Kawaii work? how does it manifest itself and how can we understand it? And most importantly, do we really need to intellectually understand it…but leap into the frothy, sugary goodness with both awkward feet and embrace our inner cuteness emotionally and joyously?I think its the latter, but maybe something will evolve from just swimming around in the pink, glossy pool of Kawaii surrounded by plastic whipped cream, tiny slices of cake and chocolate candy, hard boiled eggs formed into little heads, and airplanes that promise cute fun while flying.
Kawaii, as Wikipedia tells us:
Kawaii, Means, lovable , cute , or adorable is the quality of cuteness in the context of Japanese culture. It has become a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture, entertainment, clothing, food, toys, personalappearance, behavior, and mannerisms The noun is Kawaisa (literally, lovability , cuteness or adorableness ). The words kawaii have the root word kawai which is formed from the kanji ka meaning acceptable , and ai meaning love . The term kawaii has taken on the secondary meanings of cool , groovy , acceptable , desirable , charming and non-threatening .
A great excerpt from Wikipedia on influences on other cultures
The Kawaii concept has become something of a global phenomenon. The aesthetic cuteness of Japan is very appealing to people globally. The wide popularity of Japanese kawaii is often credited with it being culturally odorless. The elimination of exoticism and national branding has helped kawaii to reach numerous target audiences and to span every culture, class, and gender group. The odorless and tastelessness of kawaii has made it a global hit, resulting in Japan s global image shifting from being known foraustere rock gardens to being known for cute-worship .
Odorless and Tasteless you say? Darnright confusing but it is way way beyond stuff. It is so much part of the underpinnings of many Japanese artists, particularly that of Takashi Murakami who fuses products, books, art, sculpture and film along with his distinct point of view and his grounding in the Japanese culture and strong dose of Kawaii.
It is all about theatrical innocence with cake and cookies, ice cream and strawberries, glitter and whipped cream the sugar and spice and everything nice approach to styling. It is about being awkward and naive theatrically, and taking the cookies and candies, whipped cream and candy shop styling to technology (see phone case above) to cell phone charms, flash drives etc. The decorating of cellphones has its own name, Decoden:. As Lovelyish.com explains in its post What is Decoden:?:
Decoden or dekodenis is an aspect of kawaii. For all of us who are part-crow in the sense that we dive for anything that glitters this is primetime. The term deco is intuitively short for decorated and den is short for denwa meaning phone in Japanese [via DannyChoo]. But these fancy facades don t stop at just phones. The deco craze has swept portable gaming systems, e-readers and even fingernails.
As Decoden NYC explains:
“DecoDen emerged from the Japanese pop culture scene as a for people to personalize electronic devices and make their own.
DecoDen combines the paint, colored crystal to form mosaic like designs. By combining the highest quality materials and fun, cute designs it has captivated the imagination of Japanese girls everywhere.
Although this form of personalization is gear more towards a younger demographic, it embodies the design aesthetic and attention to detail that has made products from Japan world renowned. Japanese have a old word for this idea WA, which means harmony, peace, balance.”
Generally, these decoden objects are cellphones with either lots of fake whipped cream (an amazing substance that makes me crazy with love) with fake candy and cakes and little creatures (think Hello Kitty style) all embedded in the fake white swirls—chock a block madness. Sometimes t here is a centerpiece creature, heart or bow that is the main design element that then the littler things cluster around. Or, its the crystal embedded cellphone decoration like the one we see to the right. Big, simple and of course glamoury glittery.
As part of my spinning and searching Kawaii, chasing down decoden and what it means, I discovered Re-Ment collectables. Re-Ment that feeds the kawaii insanity by producing collectable little toys, charms and pieces that spins the DIY of decoden, little vignettes, and the cutesypie-ness….(much in the Kid Robot mode)— Wikipedia on Re-Ment (from Reform the Entertainment) explains:
“Established in 1998, Re-Ment currently sells a line of highly-detailed miniature food, furniture and animal figures as well as mobile phone charms, doll fashions and magnets. Re-Ment miniatures have been featured in two television advertisements by the Kellogg Company for their Pop-Tarts pastry product.
In 2008, the company began a collaborative partnership with Disney on a popular line of miniature toys featuringMickey Mouse and characters from Toy Story, Winnie-the-Pooh, Alice in Wonderland and other stories. In July 2009, Re-ment partnered with Sanrio on a line of Hello Kitty miniatures. Re-Ment’s most recent collaboration is with San-X on a line of Rilakkuma miniatures.
Imagine my delight when I discovered a sushi set that incorporated “Hello Kitty” as the fish in the food? There is this amazing mashup of food or lifestyle with these characters. Why have just one cute thing when you can superimpose a dozen other cute things just to make it, cuter? Or to my thinking, scarier? Does one really want to eat the head of our favorite little happy cat? Please note the rice balls and the pound cake that is poor little Hello Kitty? Or by consuming it, is there something almost mythological that you can become Hello Kitty?
There is a fashion piece that takes this pink and white, yellow and lavendar palette and marries it to Alice in Wonderland, the Candy Shop, fast food and fast food graphics, bread (!I know where is that coming from ), hello kitty cabochons and imagery, packaged food like macaroni and cheese, pizzas etc and food with faces. And its about bows and ruffles, gloves and hair decorations, its about puffed sleeves and crinoline petticoats, little pocketbooks with the same and lots and lots of it. There is nothing minimal about Kawaii as there is never enough antiseptic sweetness in any of our lives.
I am inspired by this insanity and am searching out more roots, more clues, more inspirations to really wrap my head around this. I am on to something I think we will see emerge as soon as the ink hits the paper (blueline exist)…as this is so amazing and non-western that I want to do a bit of a deepdive.