See more of Shannon Cottrell's photos in “Rune Boutique World Debut Party @ Royal/T.”
Rune Naito was a Japanese illustrator whose depictions of cute, fashionable girls during the mid-20th century made him a legend. Sebastian Masuda is a fashion designer and art director whose brand 6%DOKIDOKI has helped define Japanese street fashion since the 1990s. Stylistically, the two artists are quite different. The Rune aesthetic is steeped in 1950s and '60s fashion and beauty trends, where 6%DOKIDOKI embodies the colorful, hyper-cute style of the present day. But, despite the differences, Masuda explains that the two have quite a bit in common.
“[Rune] wasn't just drawing pictures or just making cute stuff, he was making things that could be a part of girls' lifestyles and girls' lives in general,” says Masuda through a translator.
Masuda does the same thing. His line 6%DOKIDOKI, a longtime favorite amongst the fashionable youth of Harajuku, has amassed a large following in Los Angeles since he first appeared here last year as the fashion guest for the 2010 Sweet Streets event. Now, certain 6%DOKIDOKI accessories — like the metallic star pins — are ubiquitous at parties and conventions across the city. It seems like an obvious choice to have Masuda work with the late illustrator's archive for Rune Boutique, which opened a pop-up shop at Royal/T last Friday.
However, the popular fashion designer was hesitant to take on the assignment. Taking on the work of such an esteemed artist is certainly a daunting task. Then Masuda took a look through the archive and noticed not just lovely illustrations of young women, but pictures that he says conveyed the girls' personalities.
“When I saw these works, I thought that these works really could be translated into a modern context,” he says.
Central to the collaboration is a series of photographs by Masuda that are based on Rune's illustrations. The photos, Masuda says, are modern interpretations of the illustrations featuring popular models from various Japanese fashion communities. Yuka, 6%DOKIDOKI's “shopgirl” who frequently travels to help represent the brand, stars in a piece called Drugs.
For I Love Candy, Masuda selected model/pop star/6%DOKIDOKI customer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Kyary recently became famous across the Internet when her the video for her song “PonPonPon,” for which Masuda was the art director, went viral. Both Yuka and Kyary were on hand at Friday night's Rune Boutique launch. Kyary played her first performance outside of Japan at the event.
Though the images were revealed at a December 1 press conference in Japan, the L.A. event marks the first time they have been displayed. Masuda's Rune-inspired photos appear on t-shirts and folders available inside the Royal/T pop-up shop.
“The reason I didn't release this in Japan first is that people in Japan already know who Rune Naito is,” says Masuda through his translator. “I also wanted Japanese people to know that the works that Japanese people created are being appreciated overseas.”
Masuda has visited L.A. three times now since last year. Each time, he's brought more than just clothing with him. He's brought a message. At Sweet Streets 2010, he spoke about kawaii, a Japanese term that translates to “cute,” and the evolution of street fashion in Tokyo's famed Harajuku neighborhood. Earlier this year, he returned to the city for Mighty Harajuku, a fundraising effort for victims of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. This time around, he was here to champion Rune, who died in 2007 and whose influential work remains largely unknown in the U.S.
L.A. has been good to Masuda. With each visit, his work has been remarkably well-received and, last Friday, Royal/T was packed for both the VIP and general public opening events. The designer says that he has plans to get his own line into stores across the city, with the hopes of opening a 6%DOKIDOKI storefront in the city sometime in the future. For now, though, he's focusing on Rune Boutique. Check it out this month at Royal/T.