See more photos from Shannon Cottrell in “Sweet Streets at WWA Gallery.”
In just three years, Sweet Streets has become one of the most anticipated events for L.A. fans of Japanese street fashion. The annual group show/fashion event, which opened Saturday night at WWA Gallery, brings together artwork inspired by the creative fashion on display in Tokyo neighborhood Harajuku and youth culture-oriented Japanese fashion designers. Last year, 6% Dokidoki was on hand to talk kawaii and decora with the L.A. crowd. This year, the Sweet Streets exhibit was co-curated Spank!, a popular Harajuku shop.
With its emphasis on vintage and new fashion all with a sweet, girlie edge that recalls '80s nostalgia, Spank! has developed a large following. Their customers are called Spank! Girls and they mix-and-match pastels with references to characters like Barbie.
“Spank! loves so much of what American '80s and '90s culture was all about,” says Sweet Streets founder Caro. “They really love Barbie and My Little Pony and Jem and a lot of the weird obscure stuff that we grew up with.”
Spank!, who collaborated with L.A. designer Chubby Bunny for this event, is bringing back the '80s, but not in the same way we saw during the last decade's '80s revival. Ten years ago, kids were going new wave with Human League haircuts, Siouxsie Sioux make-up and Adam and the Ants outfits. It was a revival of a darker '80s remembered best by those who were teens and young adults at the time. Spank! takes the perspective of those of who were young children during that decade. The frothy shades of mint green and lavender recall My Little Pony. Popular cartoon and toy characters from the decade turn up on the clothing that makes the brand so popular.
With Spank! as an influence for this year's Sweet Streets event, the show took on an '80s theme. An international group of artists took on the decade, both with references to popular shows and films (Jem and the Holograms, My Neighbor Totoro) and with color palettes that reflect the bold hues of the decade.
Sweet Street's '80s show isn't just a nod to the world of Spank!, it's a sign of what's to come from the L.A.-based artist management company. Next year, Caro says, Sweet Streets will be taking a break. Instead of working on the annual show, Caro and her team will be heading on a year-long journey into the world of My Little Pony. They'll be bringing the toy brand, which has seen a recent resurgence in popularity thanks to the series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, to Japan next year. Though My Little Pony does have a sort of cult popularity in Japan, this will be the brand's first visit to the country.
“We noticed that there is something happening in the streets of Harajuku, Shibuya, where people are taking notice of American '80s nostalgia,” says Caro. “It's really interesting to Japanese youth culture.”
The project is a special one for Caro. She happens to be a big fan of the toy line and has a collection of “hundreds” of My Little Pony figures. (Her favorite is one called So Soft Taffy.)
Caro says that the project is still in its early stages, so she can't give a whole lot of details. However, she can say that this will be an art show– “not too different from Sweet Streets”– and the show will make appearances in L.A. and Tokyo. The L.A. stop, she says, is planned for next May at Toy Art Gallery.
“We'll see where it goes from there.”
No participating artists have been announced yet.