Tokidoki, Cute and Sexy Fantasies between East and West: Contemporary Aesthetics for the Global Market

Emiko Okayama, Francesco Ricatti


Abstract

Italian art has long been identified with its nation, in spite of the complex history of Italian migration and exile, which many of its prominent artists have also experienced. This may be because Italian art has enjoyed a privileged position as a leading and somewhat self-contained centre of art and culture for many centuries. Yet, in the present globalising world, it is becoming increasingly difficult for any nation to maintain cultural identity, Italy included. This paper is both a recognition and an exploration of a significant connection between Italian art and a non-European culture. It focuses on the work of a young Italian artist, Simone Legno, who works through his US-based label Tokidoki, with Japan as his artistic inspiration. We avoid considering Legno’s work as a unilateral projection of Western fantasies of the Orient, focusing instead on a complex and reciprocal set of cultural and economic influences between Japan, Italy and the USA. Japanese anime and manga are relevant to Legno's work not only for their impact on his design, but also for the emotional attachment that references to Japan can produce in consumers in Italy and other countries, consumers who grew up with Japanese anime and manga. We also challenge the centre-periphery conception of Europe-Asia relations, particularly when commenting on the recent phenomena of globalisation. Legno’s mixture of Italianess and exotic Orientalism has built bridges in the global market between Western companies and Asian consumers, as well as between Asian companies and Western consumers. We conclude that Tokidoki’s success lies in its hybridisation in a global context: the creation of new cultures of feminity by an Italian designer arising out of Japanese artistic forms of production and distribution within an economy dominated by US and multinational enterprises.

Keywords

Italy; Japan; Design; Gender; Popular culture; Orientalism

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