Aya Takano’s Superflat in the West

Aya Takano Painting

‘Superflat’ artists like Takashi Murakami are well-known, with collaborations with Louis Vuitton, Supreme and Comme des Garcons just to name a few. The fashion world has been obsessed with Murakami’s contemporary aesthetics since the late 1990’s. Objectively, Murakami’s art has been massively influential in fashion and contemporary art.

Takashi X Louis Vuitton, Image from Sotheby’s

‘Superflat’ is a concept that aesthetically comes from the end of the Japanese economic bubble in 1990, and the environmental and societal changes Japan had to make after nuclear destruction during the Second World War. The aesthetics of a flat, androgynous, young, person would come to represent the new ‘soft power’ that Japan exported worldwide.

Aya Takano is a Japanese artist, born in 1976 and is one of the leading artists that depict the aesthetics of ‘superflat.’ There have been several other influential artists in this genre, but through a collaboration with Issey Miyake Fall Winter, 2004, the artist hit a certain accord with certain fans of kawaii culture that was flooding into the west, particularly America, by 2004.

For this reason, I find that the cuteness attributed to that collection, and the art of Takano in general, has drawn out a specific kind of person in 2022. Possibly someone who is artsy and whimsical, yet quiet and relaxed. More recent collaborations with street wear brands like Kiru Made or Mikio Sakabe, continue to suggest a soft revolt. With pastel pinks, blues, and greens, as well as oversized fits coming from both companies, it is interesting to see how ‘superflat,’ and Japanese mori fashion has influenced stylists and designers in 2022.

As many trends approach ridiculous heights and designs to make their point, the art of Takano really speaks for itself when it is on the clothes. I am unsure if the designs will ever remove themselves from the fairy core styles that have grown popular on Pinterest; a style that is oddly polarizing. However, I believe that the world has seen lolita fashion, grown up with media like studio Ghibli, and is now experiencing a great economic and environmental slowdown, like that in Japan, 1990. Fashion in the west is starting to experiment with what ‘superflat,’ could mean in a western/American context.

Issey Miyake and Aya Takano took fashion in a different direction than other Japanese designers of the time like Rei Kawakubo or Yohji Yamamoto. Although not as successful, the 2004 collaboration has sparked considerable interest in the western aesthetics of ‘superflat’ and the artist herself, Takano. Between late 2020 and 2021, the terms ‘shojo’ and ‘Aya Takano’ both blew up in popularity according to google trends. I am curious to see where the prints and art of Aya Takano will end up next in the fashion world. Shojo (Japanese for young woman) is an aesthetic that romanticizes girlish femininity and passivity, in a positive way.

Japan has been exploring this fashion for decades at this point, yet the west has never latched on probably because of the stigma of both cosplay costumes and lolita fashion in general. It seems as though the mentality and style that ‘superflat’ has brought with it has found a place in post pandemic fashion.


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