Japan from the inside out

Letter bombs (9) After a fashion

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, August 5, 2010

FREQUENT COMMENTER Roual Deetlefs sent this interesting link about the fashion industry and its view of East Asia.

Here’s a taste:

During her Harajuku phase, Gwen (Stefani) physically outfitted herself with four Japanese women, who were, of course, a good two feet shorter than her (making the visual image of a very familiar Orientalist narrative of domination and subordination all but undeniable,) and were all dressed the exact same in contrast to Stefani’s wildly differentiated and individualized outfit (to visually reinforce the same tired trope of the simultaneous conformity and weirdness of Japanese culture, even though Ms. Stefani was the one who picked their outfits!) For more than a year, Gwen paraded herself around in public with these four Japanese women serving as the background to her fashion statement, with virtually no public outcry or criticism, except for the incandescent and brave Margaret Cho. How much more obvious can objectification look? Just look at this photo. Gwen’s Harajuku girls are meant to look like objects, while Gwen stands out as the clear subject. She gets to be an actual person who can articulate and exert her personality, which is defined against the backdrop of undifferentiated small, Asian, female bodies.

The point of the article is that now Christian Dior is doing it, this time with Chinese women.

Some of the comments are worth reading too, such as:

I’m assuming that Dior is being addressed because the ads look like something out of 1938, when Dior first started designing for major fashion houses. It fits in nicely with the 1938 American view of Asia: they’re all the same, their culture is interesting, but only when Americanized, Asian women are safe subservients to have around.


What is it with fashion designers romanticizing colonialism? Whatever the inspiration is, it looks like colonialism to me. Look at the girls in the incredibly simple Western looking dresses. The white lady in the center is dressed in something that looks right out of the British aristocracy.


Thank you for articulating what annoyed me to NO END about Gwen Stefani. People aren’t accessories!

The author, who seems to be an American of Chinese descent, gets a bit too carried away by her rant at the end for my taste: People do have a choice about the jobs they accept, and that choice is sometimes based on their assessment of how it will further their careers. Also, I’m mildly surprised that I agree with Margaret Cho about anything, but there you are. Still, the author hits the bulls-eye more often than not.

Thanks for sending it in, Roual.

UPDATE: Roual also sent in this link, whose headline tells the story:

Anri Suzuki is not offering sex as reparations for the Second Sino-Japanese War

Anyone above the emotional age of 13 should have realized the stupidity of the story on the surface of it, but c’est le monde.

The Nippon Cinema site says it as well as I could:

Given the nature of the hoax-inspired article, it was inevitable that it would eventually catch on with the western media as an oddball “wacky Japan” story.

I don’t follow trends in the fashion or the pop entertainment industry, but it shouldn’t be surprising that anti-Nipponism is just as endemic on any periodical’s back pages as it is on its front page.

The only thing surprising is that people give still give mass media the benefit of the doubt, when all the evidence demonstrates they don’t deserve it.

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8 Responses to “Letter bombs (9) After a fashion”

  1. Roual Deetlefs said

    My pleasure. Keep up the good work.

  2. Roual Deetlefs said

    Maybe you can use these links as well.

    Do you agree with this ?

    And this as well …
    R: Reading and thinking about the first will require some time. I’ve put up the second already. Thanks again!

    – A.

  3. Roual Deetlefs said

    This Asian credit rating agency is getting flak from the Old Boys Club in New York.

  4. […] 9) Christian Dior gets criticized at Jezebel for the heavily orientalist imagery of its latest advertising campaign, Shanghai Dreamers. See Ampontan also for more on its historical context. […]

  5. Roual Deetlefs said

    Yep, even in South Africa.

  6. Aceface said

    Actually,I’m currently in South Africa for the past five weeks and frequent visitor to Wimpy establishments.This CM is aired over and over again.
    I wondered what happened to you.

    How’s the weather down there?

    – A.

  7. Roual Deetlefs said

    @ Aceface.

    Try the establishment in these two ads.


    There is one in Tokyo as well Ampontan.

  8. Aceface said

    It snowed in Eastern Cape at least twice in the past month.Freezing.
    Southern hemisphere!

    While you’re in South Africa, you can check out one of funniest comic strips in the English-speaking world, Madam and Eve. (But since it’s on-line, you can do it even from Japan.)

    – A.

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