Listening to: Besame Mucho – Marichi Vargas
Hello again and happy weekend!
Today’s theme is on cute Asian paraphernalia, the Western equivalent and the effects of combining the two. I recently received my first package from yesstyle.com (an online Asian fashion site) and I love it! I’d been wanting to order something from there for a long long time. Years in fact. What amazing patience!
Well, not exactly. More like chronic procrastination (a spade is a spade after all).
Personally, I’m a fan of some Asian fashion trends, which as you can imagine would be a bit hard to shop for in the UK. As a half European, half Oriental mix, I like the best of both worlds and will occasionally look up trends across the the other side of the world. Generally-speaking, when Europeans think of something popular and Asian, what easily comes to mind is the eponymous Hello Kitty from Japan; a globally iconic image still very much around today since its debut in the 70’s.
However, what most don’t know are the dozens of other unique characters Sanrio (the Hello Kitty brand) have created and gained good profit from. As a kid, when I got to travel to Hong Kong, I loved Badtz-Maru merchandise, and the character’s unwaveringly unimpressed look and spiky hair (who thinks up these things?). Across Asia, Sanrio is most definitely not the only famous brand to merchandise their own characters, create stories, and to gather a huge following.
The amount of creative brands, particularly targeted towards young people, that I see in Asia has always surpassed the amount I’ve known in Europe. Here, there seems to be a clearer hierarchy where the globally famous high-brow and high-street brands sit at the top, while lesser known unique ‘back-street’ designers are recommended within smaller circles. In Asia a whole mixture of brands tend to stand side-by-side, with many brand names screaming to be heard, most of the time using bright colours and dizzyingly detailed designs. I may be wrong, but that’s always been my impression; the competition there seems tougher.
If we look at popular Korean fashion brands for example, I find there isn’t one brand that sticks out or is vastly different from another (apologies for my lack of knowledge regarding Korean high-street fashion) which for me is a good thing as in general the Korean styles I’ve seen suit my tastes. My yesstyle package contains these kind of Korean-imported clothes and twee stickers I find oh so charming.
Yes, you read that right; stickables.
A guilty pleasure of mine. I can’t help but dismissively spend a ridiculous amount of money on these expressive imaginary characters to liven my belongings, when they cost about a quarter of the price in the country itself. Damn taxes and marketing strategists. Of course, I’m only speaking for myself here, I have a fair few friends who see it, find it sweet then forget it ever existed a second later, and others who think it’s on the childish side. And it’s no surprise really, given it isn’t exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to see being sold in Topshop nor see older teens excessively decorate their school books with. Why is that? Do Western teens have more mature tastes? Do they desire to grow up quickly? What has this got to do with Western culture?
The often-seen collectivist East and individualist West is certainly something I’d like to discuss in another post given the incredible complexity behind both cultures. But in terms of this post as to what’s considered popular culture, it seems fair to say that Western ideals are based on a trendy, edgy and cool image, harking back to James Dean, while Eastern ideals generally prefer the clean, simple and often sweet image embodied in an ingenue.
Many Asian dramas I find love to typecast the protagonist, often a girl, as an ingenue; their excessive naivity and infantile behaviour is most of the time so annoyingly portrayed to the point of stupidity (though happily not in all cases, especially concerning modern dramas such as Protect The Boss, that have boisterous, street-wise and stronger female leads). Continuing with this European perspective, most would also find Asian music videos to be rather cheesy and melodramatic, and certain adverts to be over-the-top cute, thus making it hard to take seriously. But with the rise of Kpop a.k.a. the Hallyu Wave, we see a successful combination of what’s considered cool in the East and West. As a result, it creates a middle-ground on which both cultures look to each other to produce something appealing and unique, but not so different it’s unrelatable. Many fans can attest to this, given that they hail from all over the world, as far-reaching as Peru. Many famous artists from both cultures have collaborated such as JYJ and Kanye West, and there’s been much talk on Kpop fansites about Will.I.Am and 2NEI.
On that note, I leave you with Korean boy band Big Bang’s recent music video ‘Bad Boy’ below; filmed in New York, containing Korean and English lyrics and trendy multi-racial pairings – a clearly perfect example of this emerging updated East meets West popular culture combo. If you don’t believe that this will last, know that Big Bang won last year’s Best Worldwide Act at MTV’s 2011 Europe Music Awards and have just recently won Best Fan category at MTV’s Italy TRL Awards 2012; an outstanding achievement having been pitted against other popular acts such as One Direction and Avril Lavigne. Go team!
Til’ next time!
Are there any online products you’ve been dying to buy? If so, which ones? Do you agree that the East prefers the cutesy side of things while the West prefers to look cool and hip? What do you think about this Eastern-Western media combination we’re seeing in the likes of Kpop? Is it good or just a whole globalised mess?
Make your comments below!