According to the official website “It is a brand
that projects a lifestyle fashion of ‘Aymmy’ a 17 year old girl from
California”…who apparently lives the American Dream and is “working in a diner.”
Based on the image illustration, Aymmy looks
like a long lost background character from an Archie comic book, and appears to
have been raised in some kind of hermetically shielded fallout shelter where
the 21st century never happened.
Aymmy’s fictitious bio (which overlaps with
Ayumi Seto’s own catalog of interests) claims her favorite foods are hamburgers
and Cherry Cokes. Her favorite movies are Ghostbusters, E.T., and Return of the
Living Dead. Her favorite groups are the Ramones, the Damned, the Sex Pistols,
and the Dead Boys.
Built on these foundations, the brand is promising clothing and goods in the following genres: Kidz, SK8 (skate), School, and Rock. Coordinates like this have long been the stuff of countless
fashion spreads in Harajuku-kei magazines like KERA and Zipper, where the
tomboyish 20-year old Seto has been regularly featured. Even more, the caps and
sports jerseys “kids” look that batty girls will be rolling out has been a cornerstone for Harajuku and Shibuya style
since the "cutie" 1990s.
I’m not sure exactly how long the batty girls
brand has been in the planning stages, but the official promo pictures look
like they were taken when Seto (along with ASOBI SYSTEM agency pal Kyary Pamyu
Pamyu) passed through California for the J-pop Summit in July 2013. Consider
now what the vanguard of “Cool Japan” found in the wild and opted to bring back
with them: the ruins and ghosts of American pop culture.
The lookbook for ‘Aymmy in the batty girls’
shows Seto stalking the streets of LA with soda pop in hand, paying homage to
Dr. Pepper in a Melrose antique store, posing in front of a juke box, and
contemplating an “old fashioned” milk shake. Some of the photos and
clothes do make overtures to punk and surfer looks, but it’s clear that the
real target of this sentimental journey is a nostalgic nonspecific past: the
post-Elvis fifties or the pre-Beatles sixties. Pure American Graffiti
Of course…it’s nothing new. Retro junk culture
has long since become inseparable from girl’s fashion in Japan. For decades
now, magazines from egg to ageha and all points in-between have continually
shown us models in both cheap and expensive garb gorging themselves on greasy
foods surrounded by trash pop iconography: Hot dogs, super markets, soda pop, ‘50s
diners, superheroes; all of it echoes and symbols of the hyper consumerism that
America hotwired into the DNA of post-war Japan.
But the models in the spreads are usually just
the stand-ins for the real work of stylists and designers: human mannequins. However,
Ayumi Seto appears to be the real deal. Way before Aymmy in the batty girls
was announced late in September, Seto’s Instagram had dedicated itself
to cataloging pop art, old movies, and comic book covers. Even now, copious plates of hamburgers tend to outnumber the selfies.
Indeed, Seto is practically a character from Phil
Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle”, an emissary from an alternate Japan that
won the war and now collects symbols of vanishing Americana. Already invisible in the batty girls fantasy is any evidence at all of the digital world we now inhabit. While
writing this post, I took a break for walked down a city block for a coffee.
Literally everyone was looking at their phone or interfacing with some kind of
device, be it phone or MP3 player. But by gosh, here is Seto's alluring old fashioned world of colorful physical objects and, you have to admit, it looks like fun. And I don't care what you're selling. Fun is the ultimate commodity.
"Ayumi Kidz" book on sale 10/7
You gots ta wonder: Will there ever be a “new” nostalgia? Will strip
malls and Starbucks ever inspire Japanese girls the way junk food and antique
shops do? Will the Westward-gazing batty
girls find an audience overseas, let alone in their own “Harajuku kawaii!!”
backyard? Will girls who look like Aymmy ever work at diners again? Did they ever in the first place? Can a 20 year old Japanese girl get away with pretending to be a teenager from California, and is that any crazier than 30-somethings playing teenagers in "Grease"?
I can't say for sure, except that stranger things have happened and hamburgers never seem to go out of style...
The Cherry Bomb burger, curated by Ayumi Seto, on sale at Village Vanguard. Probably fucking delicious...
In a weird twist that I
could nowhere see coming, I began to ignore Akihabara.
After years of squatting
on the fringes of electric town, the joke felt spent. The corridors of old junk
parts, increasingly haggard maids, and the usual otaku haunts seemed to have
reached an evolutionary impasse known as “kind of boring”. At least for me, anyways.
As my attention drifted
to Shibuya and Harajuku, I probably hadn’t even really gone to Akihabara much
in the last year except for Mandarake runs and last min gift shopping or BD-R DL grabs at
But last May, the AKB slapped
me upside the head and surprised me all over again. The missing ingredient was largely
this: going at night time.
Prodigious use of LED
lighting is changing the Tokyo landscape from blanket flat fluorescent into
unforgiving localized starbursts. Akihabara seems to be the epicenter of
how far that look can physically go and a walk down Chuo-dori – the main drag –
feels like it could do real damage to the optic nerve.
Also, I was struck by just
how dingy the neighborhood had become, especially in areas that were only
recently built or set to be revitalized. After all, around 2005, Akihabara made a bid to
become Japan’s swinging new tech center and the centers of power began to shift.
The gleaming NTT UDX center was meant to be a springboard for all manner of changes, physical and psychological. But the Japanese IT revolution
didn’t happen as planned and backstreet funk has leaked seemingly
everywhere since, over tourists and locals alike.
In my past writing on
Akihabara, I saw things in terms of a struggle between the weirdoes and the
straights, but I didn’t consider how large a role pure inertia would play in
changing the equation. Now, there’s something like a cross between Las Vegas,
Chinatown, a decaying mall, and a short circuiting Interzone to explore all over again. So here we go boldly in the future -- Phase transition from liquid to solid: Cold Japan.