Mar 192013

With the recent release of their hit Cider Cider, Japanese pop group Tempura Kidz erupted onto the international stage.  Full disclosure: I can’t speak Japanese.  Yet.  So for the purpose of this post I’m approaching Cider Cider from a purely aesthetic angle as it relates to fashion, technology, and subculture.


Kid-friendly monsters are nothing new and it’s easy to see how Sully and a couple other characters from Monsters Inc might have inspired some of the costume elements.  However, long before the Tempura Kidz, audiences watched a young Jennifer Connelly evade brilliant orange Fireys while they swapped body parts and sang David Bowie’s Chilly Down in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.  Go back even further, and anyone under 50 probably learned their ABCs from the long-cherished cast of Sesame Street.

But what makes the Tempura Kidz different and signals a burgeoning subculture is that, instead of making friends with monsters, they’ve become the monsters.  Their costume headpiece proportions and face makeup draw subtle inspiration from Maurice Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are.  Iridescent green and silver warts, as well as starkly contrasting mini poms, make up a dazzling array of warts.  Each skirt is a mad plume of colors, spectacularly resurrecting DayGlo in all its twentieth century glory.  And that’s before the lights go off.


While I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t directly incorporated into the fabric, the use of fluorescent lights are a critical element to the costumes.  Rather than being set against a black background, the parallel fluorescent bulbs give a kind of aesthetic order and continuity to the performance.  When the lights switch from unfiltered white fluorescent to ultraviolet we start to see that, far from being afraid of it, darkness is their territory.  Look closer and you’ll even notice that the bandaids adorning their noses and knees are glowing, as though bumps and bruises inherent in childhood have transformed into decorations.

If you’re already familiar with some of the finer points of Japanese fashion for young people you may be able to guess where I’m going with this final bit.  Drawing from a long tradition of theatrics and gender play, I can tell you one of the Tempura Kidz is not like the others.  Monster subculture not only makes the night claimable territory for girls, it also makes a dress a safe place for a boy.  You can google it if you really want to know which one.  Or you can just hit replay, and agree that they’re all monsters, together.


Apr 062012

Remember when you would watch a music video, lust after the clothes you’d seen, and then scour the internet searching for similar threads? Gone are those days! Ssense, an online clothing retailer, has styled the “World’s First Interactive Shoppable Music Video.”

The music video “I Think She Ready” features duo FKi, rapper Iggy Azalea, and Grammy-nominated producer Diplo, and they are all styled by Ssense. The video uses interactive hotspot technology to allow fans to view and shop for every item that is seen in the video. During the music video, white square icons with the letter “S” pop up on the screen. Rolling over the icon will expand the “S” to “SHOP THIS LOOK”. Clicking on those icons will take you to a screen that shows each of the products worn in the selected shot. Each article of clothing links to the Ssense product page where the item can be viewed and added to a cart for purchase.

Image Courtesy of

Even though the white icons only appear sporadically throughout the video, do we really want music videos to display these distracting icons each time we watch them? If this trend catches on (and I think it will), perhaps the icons will become smaller or less intrusive in future music videos. Continue reading »

Mar 212012

Perfume 「Spring of Life」 (Teaser) – YouTube.

H/T to the Craftzine blog

This is a teaser trailer for a new song from the Japanese pop group, Perfume.

I agree with Brooklynn at Craft. This color changing dress is indeed cool. As is the song. What I find most interesting, however, is that the dress is placed on bodies that are robotic and puppet-like. So far the characters are shown in fairly passive positions, not doing much more than the Geminoid-F mannequin android about which Janet M. blogged last month.

It is unclear whether there will be a longer video released with the song. From this brief teaser it would seem that the portrayal of cyborg-femininity is one that is passive and devoid of power. The beats are played out in luminescence across a body that cannot even meet the gaze of the camera.

Can’t we do better than fantasies of pretty, puppet-like women in flashing dresses? To what end should a dress blink? And how can we leverage the electrified garment to challenge mainstream representations of passive femininity?

Cross-posted at The Spiral Dance.