The distance between fashion and the new generations was considerably harder to close thirty years ago, before social networks and influencers existed. In addition to music and movies, comic books, particularly Japanese comic books, were a veritable Pandora’s box of knowledge on the newest trends. Ai Yazawa is still one of the most well-known figures in the anime and manga worlds despite having retired from the oriental comics field for a number of years. When flipping through her albums, it becomes clear that they are not the traditional shjo (manga for young girls) like “Sailor Moon” or “Card Captor Sakura:” the subjects are deeper and more serious, there is no place for magic, and her characters are teenagers dealing with difficult problems. However, his long-standing relationship with the fashion industry, particularly with Vivienne Westwood, is the actual driver of his success, which continues to amaze younger generations.
Ai Yazawa frequents a fashion institute that allows her to develop an unmistakable design aesthetic and a somewhat fanatical attention to detail before she becomes one of the most young and well-known mangaka of the Sol Levante. All of the characters, from “Cortili del Cuore” to the famous and impoverished “Nana,” are united by their love of fashion. The main characters in Ai Yazawa’s shjo sport minimally detailed outfits that are inspired by youth movements from the 1990s, worn by both young fashion designers and older punk musicians. We can see the defining characteristics of her style in her 1995 manga “Courtyards of the Heart,” which depicts characters with delicate, harmonizing features and a sleek physicality that makes them more like fashion designs than real humans. Lolita style, shibukaji (French casual), inspired by Chanel fashion, and retro-cyber style—made of synthetic materials, plastic accessories, wedge boots, and baggy pants—are early examples of early 1990s subcultures that are mentioned.
Ai Yazawa’s manga takes on the form of a veritable encyclopedia of fashion, set against a backdrop of complicated love affairs and adolescent uncertainties, with the publication of “Paradise Kiss” in 1999. It contains early references to the punk/visual kei movement, outfits in pastel shades in full fairy kei style, reminiscences of glam rock, and nods to Victorian lolita style. However, Ai Yazawa solidifies her relationship with fashion and pays respect to the fashion designer who captured her heart with “Nana,” her most famous manga. After an accidental encounter on a train, the lives of two girls named Nana—Nana Osaki, a hard-core punk singer, and Nana Komatsu, a sentimental and naive twenty-something—were permanently entwined. One cannot help but note that Nana Osaki, the main character, wears Vivienne Westwood’s distinctive “Sovereigns Orb” insignia, which is made up of the Orb of the Sovereign of England and the ring of Saturn, in every frame and vignette of the manga.
The “Armour Ring,” a massive silver ring that immediately gives us an idea of the rebellious character of the protagonist and has become the brand’s best seller as a result of the anime, is the accessory that catalyzes the attention from the very first scenes. Other English designer trademarks include earrings, chokers, and safety pins. Another remarkable item Shin, the bass player in Nana’s band, wears around his neck all the time is an orb-shaped lighter/necklace that is still essentially unattainable today. The young bassist resembles the missing member of the Sex Pistols and revives the idea of the punk street style that was so popular in Japan in the early 2000s, from the chain that connects the earring to the piercing on his nose to the ripped tops that seem to come straight from the “Sex & Seditionaries” collection.
The character of Ren, Nana Osaki’s boyfriend, who is nearly a reverse cosplay of Sid Vicious, with spiky hair, a leather stud, and a chain tied with a padlock around his neck, must be brought up while discussing the Sex Pistols. After all, Vivienne Westwood’s top models were the forerunners of British punk music, and Ai Yazawa attempted the same careful styling for the rock bands shown in her comic book, the “Black Stones” and the “Trapnests.” The “Red Heart Jacket” is unquestionably the most elegant item featured in the manga among tartan suits, bondage pants, corsets, and torn T-shirts. It is a double-breasted velvet blazer from the “Red Label” line introduced in 1999 with a black heart-shaped fastening. The “Rocking Horse” shoe, an oriental-inspired shoe introduced at the 1985 “Mini Crini” fashion show, is the most enduring presence on the feet of the protagonists in the wake of this style, second only to the renowned “Ebury Bag” that goes with numerous female characters throughout the shjo. Ai Yazawa, on the other hand, enjoys drawing the “lightning bolt” fashions of the turn of the century, such as the ganguro or gyaru: hyper-tanned young girls with fake eyelashes and pearly powder, discolored hairstyles, and glittery accessories, all of which are decidedly kitschy, in her most recent manga.
On social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter, younger generations (and not only the weeb) are bringing “Nana” clothes back into style, sparking a small cult and a series of viral moodboards more than two decades after the manga’s release. Vivienne Westwood’s most iconic collections manage to reach a diverse and heterogeneous audience in “Nana,” which is undoubtedly due to the anime’s recent arrival on Netflix. This phenomenon of “resurgence” goes hand in hand with the growing obsession with archival pieces by more established designers. Ai Yazawa’s interesting production, which once again immortalizes the numerous characteristics of a self-expressive style that never ceases to change, introduces many young people to punk fashion.