Once again Kenzo, a pioneering brand in the fashion film world, is coming out with a new short. Narrative this time, just like Snowbird, that won the “Best Film for a Major Brand” award at the Berlin Fashion Film Festival. Sun to Sun is a modern cinematic translation of the famous Japanese fairy tale “Momotaro”, often translated as “peach boy.” But Momotaro is a girl this time, telling a whole different story of female emancipation – through fashion.
In the most common version of the tale, Momotaro comes to earth inside a giant peach floating down a river. He was discovered by an old childless woman who was washing her clothes there when she tried to eat the fruit. The child claims to have been sent by heaven to be the son of the old woman and her man. One day he leaves to fight demons on a far away island, defeats them and takes home their treasure to happily ever after with the old pair. In another (older) version of the story, the old woman and man eat from the peach and transform into their younger selves. The woman gets pregnant, and the child is called Momotaro – in Japan the peach is the symbol for sex and fertility.
But the idea that getting a son is a gift from heaven has been, and still is, changing: what about girls? Kenzo’s retelling of the classic tale empowers the daughter, or the woman, as a strong figure that is just as much capable of martial arts and survival in an urban society. Her role is increasingly shifting, becomes more free and diverse on many different levels, such as higher education and the expression of sexuality.
She becomes a warrior of the urban jungle, something that Kenzo is known for. When Japanese designer Kenzo Takada moved to Paris in 1964, he clashed with Western European fashion. His signature “Jungle Jap” boutique in Paris was characterized by a jungle-like atmosphere, which became the brand’s trademark (perfectly portrayed in Mat Maitland’s Electric Jungle). Through this merge with the Western culture and society in which feminist movements and the emancipation of women has largely emerged, Kenzo questions traditional Japanese gender roles. In Sun to Sun the traditional Eastern folktale meets an industrial, urban, and capitalized society driven by Western values.
The film is a portrayal of an increasingly globalized society in which East and West meet on an increasing number of points through a rapidly expanding industry, creating megacities and pacing up more traditional slow lifestyles (whilst “slow” movements are becoming popular in the West!). Martial arts-like costumes are toned down with darker camouflaging colors matching the urban streetscape, in which the group of girls on sports motorbikes flash by as bright lights. With so many changes happening so fast, the feeling of confusion or “dizzyness” plays a big part – the road seems to be turning around, never stable, full of potential dangers.
But luckily, these kind of “transitional eras” are extremely fertile for the expansion of fashion creativity. With so much energy, it is forced to reinvent itself, attracting and evolving with and through all kinds of creative expressions such as film and animé. The fashion film is not only a means of developing the creative practice of fashion, but it is also fundamental to our way of maneuvering and orientating ourselves in a fast-changing society. Besides advertising and entertainment, this is what makes the fashion film meaningful.