In Tokyo, New Clothes Let You Wear the City

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Today’s New York Times includes an article on the efforts of Aya Tsukioka, an “experimental fashion designer,” to allay Japan’s growing fears about street crime by creating a new line of clothes and accessories that double as urban camouflage. In a moment of panic, you can transform your dress into a vending machine, your backpack into a fire hydrant, and your purse into a manhole cover. The idea is for the people who wear these clothes to hide in plain sight when they feel threatened, evading their would-be attacker.

Of course, that wouldn’t be likely to happen — I’m sure most muggers would be able to spot the difference between a real vending machine and a fabric one with two feet sticking out underneath. “Ms. Tsukioka said she realized that her ideas might be a bit fanciful. But she said Japan’s willingness to indulge the imagination was one of its cultural strengths,” reports Martin Fackler in the Times. “The fact that such ideas were greeted with straight faces, or even appeared at all, underscores Japanese society’s fondness for oddball ideas and inventions. In fact, Japan produces so many unusual inventions that it even has a word for them: chindogu, or ‘queer tools.'”

What strikes me about Tsukioka’s designs is her eye for the city’s details. At first glance, her vending machine skirt really does look like a vending machine; her manhole purse might not fool anyone paying attention, but it could certainly pass for the real thing in the eyes of a hurried passerby. The Times article goes on about Japan’s willingness to accept oddball inventions, which might explain why it is such a technologically innovative society. But it doesn’t really touch on the relationship between urban dwellers and their surroundings. After all, in a city like Tokyo, what is there to blend in with but the pieces of street furniture that are ubiqutious?

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Photos by Torin Boyd for the New York Times

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Saturday October 20 2007at 06:10 pm , filed under Asia Pacific, Society and Culture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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