Kawaii, in all shapes and sizes, is well and alive. And Kawaii knows no age limit. Two sixty-something women were seen at the Shu Uemura counter in Robinsons this afternoon, cooing with delight when they spotted a pair of white Bearbricks holding up the make-up brand’s latest update of its popular eye-liner caligraph:ink. With very little persuasion from the salesgirl, both bought two pens, one of the ladies visibly and audibly delighted that she will soon be able to enhance her already Cleopatra-esque eyes.
While we have no doubt the women had purchased a good and useful product, we’re also quite certain that the two plastic anthropomorphic figurines hastened the sale. Cuteness, as modern marketers know, is catalyst to confirming a transaction, from make-up to fashion to digital gadgets (that Nekohako power bank by Sanyo in the shape of a cat!). What’s certain, too, is that sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice adorability—so plainly exemplified by the Powerpuff Girls—is not circumscribed by age.
The recent multi-social platform posts and shares of Cathy Horyn holding a “wiener-dog” under her arm at the Chanel show proved that even a mature “fashion deity” (as Racked called her) cannot resist the charms of the cute. The animal of so many people’s amusement turned out to be a named beast-bag called Hector, first seen in the autumn/winter 2016 show of Thom Browne in New York two months ago. Ms Horyn wrote in The Cut: “Thom owns the real Hector, on whom a litter of wiener-dog bags (is that nice to say?) was modeled.” Nice to say? Boggling. Was she referring to a certain incident in which she called an American designer a “hot dog” and was, in return, referred to as “a stale 3-day old hamburger”?
Dandy dachshund aside, did Hector’s disarming adorability make Ms Horyn less threatening, less feared, less a deity. The effect of cuteness by her side has allowed the pet-purse’s owner to take pleasure in a “modest success during Paris Fashion Week as a street-style star”. Yet, there were times when onlookers thought “Hector was the product of taxidermy rather than fashion”. Is that some kind of ageist reaction there? And are there those who can’t see an older person carrying something that cute as hold-all? Past five decades of life and you should have instead a real companion like Karl Lagerfeld’s Choupette?
Loewe’s leather necklace with perspex resin cat pendant. Photo: vogue.com
Kawaii accessories are so associated with school girls that on older women, the latter’s sartorial judgment could be called into question. While it is not reported (nor witnessed) that those sneakers with teddy bear tongues by Adidas and Jeremy Scott have scored big with anyone about to receive their first CPF cheque, it is blinkered to consider cuteness the prerogative of the young. If shortness and sheerness of dress are no longer equated to mid-life, fashion items with mammalian likeness could well be on the right side of 50 (or insert your preferred decade). Age, as we’re increasingly accustomed to, is no barrier to entry.
Animals have always lent themselves to the delineation of cuteness. Hello Kitty! And that cat necklace that Jonathan Anderson introduced at the Loewe autumn/winter show just two weeks ago. Surely women of a certain age would wear it if they cannot resist its charm. And why should they? Resistance is futile when kawaii has become a global culture. So successful has the Japanese been with exporting their consumable cuteness that, according to Japan Times, search data from early this year is suggesting that “the image of Japan as the land of Hello Kitty upstaged its perception as a country full of swaggering samurai and mincing geisha in the Western mind”.
Chat apps such as Line perpetuate the necessity of cuteness (bear and bunny as a dating couple!) in not only our everyday online conversations, but also our everyday activities, even those as normally unmentionable as going to the toilet to facilitate bowel movement. How do you explain the need for a poo emoji—21 variants, last count? The irony of it all is that as one gets older, there’s less need for euphemistically enhanced images to replace the utterance of natural motions. Who gives a shit!
Loewe Cat Head Necklace, SGD1,150, is available for pre-order at loewe.com