Kyle Chayka on the vanguard of popular literature and popular fashion, via drab Dublin.
Now look at this shot from an upcoming lookbook from Uniqlo, the Japanese basics brand that is now the Airspace of clothing.
Sally Rooney novels provide millennials with a sense of recognition and belonging in an era or a world larger than ourselves, but with our own feelings cast back at us, like a soft-focus mirror. The reflection is beautiful, even in its sadness! Uniqlo undergirds our identities, providing a neutral scaffolding with which to venture out into the world, a preset palette of aesthetics and narratives that is accessible and slightly interesting without being threatening.
Would Rooney’s moony female protagonists wear Uniqlo out to book readings or magazine launches in rainy Dublin? Absolutely. Does Simon, from BWWAY, wear cheap Uniqlo cashmere sweaters to his semi-leftist politics job? Yes. Has there been a mind-meld between Tokyo designers and Rooney’s new lifestyle of Irish countryside / seaside living? Also yes. The two aesthetics are matched in their soothing neutrality, the slipperiness of an experience that is enjoyable while it lasts but fades from your mind as soon as it’s over.
You can read a Sally Rooney novel anywhere. You can wear Uniqlo anywhere. The era of normcore fashion has been matched with an era of normcore literature.
Coincidence? The cover of BWWAY is also influenced by the aesthetics of thousand-year-old Japanese painting.
Its floating golden clouds are taken from painted screens and woodblock ukiyo-e prints.
“Ukiyo-e” translates as “pictures of the floating world,” a 17th-century genre of imagery depicting Japanese city nightlife, courtly goings-on, the romance of men and women. Rooney’s dramas contain the same transitory feelings, the same sense of drifting irresolution. Life is just passing moments of beauty; your friends and lovers are all you have. We don’t know where we’re going, but at least our clothes won’t get in the way. — Kyle Chayka