Nana: Punk rock and Vivienne Westwood in the world of manga

6 Mins read

How did Nana inspire fashionistas on TikTok while being on hiatus for almost 15 years?

Since the pandemic, the attitude towards anime and manga has changed. It is not associated with something childish or embarrassing anymore. The popularity of anime such as Attack on Titan and Jujutsu Kaisen has surprisingly turned more and more people into ‘otaku’, which is the Japanese description of people who have an intense interest in manga or anime.

As an old fan of romantic shoujo ani-mangas, I was surprised to see Nana-inspired outfit videos all over my TikTok feed. Since middle school, I spent my free time watching shoujo anime. They were light, funny and targeted to a female audience. You could be laughing one moment and crying the next. For me, that was the mark of a good anime.

Yet, Nana was something completely different from ordinary ani-manga. It wasn’t just the plot that kept me glued to my screen, but the interesting fashion present throughout the entire series. Ai Yazawa, the author of the manga, was a former fashion student. This influenced the style throughout and the punk-inspired aesthetic.

The ani-manga tells the story of two girls called Nana, who coincidentally meet on the train to Tokyo and begin to share an apartment together. Even though both girls are named Nana, they are the absolute polar opposites of each other.

Nana Komatsu, known by the nickname Hachi, is a positive, naïve hopeless romantic who engages in messy relationships. Her personality can be seen through her feminine looks mixed with Japanese Y2K harajuku style.

Nana Osaki on the other hand is the complete opposite of her roommate. She had a troubled childhood and is hardened and sarcastic. She is also the lead singer of a punk rock band, which is one of the main storylines.

On TikTok, I stumbled upon a video with music from Nana in the background, with the creator presenting several outfits based on the style from Nana. Excited to see if there was more, I followed the hashtag and ended up discovering thousands of videos dedicated to Nana. It was clear that the anime had a large online fanbase.

Most videos were fan edits of the series, but what intrigued me was the incredible fashion content. People were sharing their favourite looks from the manga and anime and then re-creating them. Some were dressing up like a certain characters. Others were happy to show their collections of Vivienne Westwood pieces, treating them like official merch.

“I get a lot of inspiration from the characters’ outfits. Every time I put on an outfit, I subconsciously find myself dressing based on one of the characters,” says Julie Hjerppe, known as @you.3.141 to her 85.3 thousand followers on TikTok.

Julie posts her daily outfits, thrifting hauls and outfit ideas based on movies and anime. Her first TikTok on ‘Nana-inspired outfits’ received so many views that she ended up making a series on each character.

The 10-second videos get up to 200,000 views, where the comment section is flooded with excitement from Nana fans. Someone even commented: “I’m glad Nana is getting the recognition it deserves.”

For Julie, making TikToks about Nana is like paying tribute to her fashion inspiration: “For me, specifically, the show inspired me to have fun with fashion. Nana Osaki is the one who made me feel more comfortable dressing both grunge and feminine at the same time.  She also made me super into plaid skirts, which are a huge staple in her own wardrobe.”

Though the plot does not revolve around the fashion industry, Nana is considered one of the most fashionable animes, remaining trendy and stylish for 15 years.

The style of the ani-manga is filled with punk rock culture, and the punk aesthetic would not be complete without the Queen of Punk herself. Ai Yazawa merged the world of manga with designer Vivienne Westwood’s fashion in her work.

You can spot the British designer’s pieces in many of the main characters’ looks. She is mentioned in almost every volume of the manga, making the fans wonder if Nana is Ai Yazawa’s personal ode to Vivienne Westwood.

Leather jackets, tight corsets, plaid minis and enormous black boots – Nana’s style screams punk mixed with ‘femme fatale’. With edgy looks, she draws the line between her and the standard female characters of shoujo anime, whose outfits are often simple school uniforms and casual shirts paired with jeans.

For example, Nana Osaki wears various corsets that are inspired by the ‘Mini-Crini’ — a victorian dress with, as ladies from that century would think, a scandalously short crinoline.

The ‘Mini-Crini’ first appeared in the Autumn-Winter 1987/88 ‘Harris Tweed’ collection. Vivienne Westwood was the first designer of the 20th century to change the structure of the corset, allowing it to become a staple of modern wardrobes. To this day, such corsets have become Vivienne Westwood’s speciality.

“I love the fact that Nana Osaki specifically has a lot of recurring clothing pieces, which she continues to style in so many iconic ways,” says Julie. “She does a great job with what she has. This just goes to show that you really don’t need a huge wardrobe to look cool. I also really admire the way ani-manga shows how much accessorising can affect your outfit.”

This is true, as jewellery is an essential in all the main characters’ outfits. The character of Nana often wears the ‘Armour’ ring from Vivienne Westwood. It symbolises Nana’s desire to be protected from the external world and the problems that it contains.

“The fashion itself is so iconic in Nana. After all, it keeps inspiring people to feel confident. Personally, after watching Nana and trying out new styles because of it, I found a new way to look at clothes and I got into, specifically Vivienne Westwood. I also always used to think that I needed to dress one way, but Nana showed me that you can mix styles together,” Julie told us.

Another iconic Vivienne Westwood piece is Nana’s Rocking Horse shoes, first presented in the Autumn/Winter 1995 “Mini-Crini” collection. The British designer was inspired by traditional Japanese geisha shoes, ‘Okobo’, where the platform can be from 7 to 13 cm. These shoes were for geishas to not damage their kimono with dirt while walking.

Iconic for several reasons, Super Elevated Gillie heels were spotted in Nana as well. The extremely high heels were inspired by a ribbon-lace design from the 18th century. However, they became iconic for the incident that happened on the runway of the Autumn/Winter 1993/94 ‘Anglomania’ collection.

Naomi Campbell wore the 30.5 cm heel and fell during the show. That moment is still legendary in the fashion industry with the Super Elevated Gillie getting free product advertisement from it. Many celebrities were spotted wearing the shoes after the incident, and of course the character of Nana Osaki.

The male characters in Nana do not disappoint either. Shin Okazaki is one of the fashionable male characters present in the manga.

Shin’s transformation from a naïve high schooler to the bass player of the punk band reflects in his appearance. Strong inspiration from punk culture comes from his desire to accept a new personality and finally leave his past behind.

Casual teenage clothes change into ripped T-shirts with vulgar slogans and costumes inspired by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s Spring/Summer 1976 collection. In 2003, the V&A displayed Vivienne Westwood’s iconic pieces, including the Bondage suit that as they described “borrows elements from army combat gear, the motorcyclist’s Belstaff and fetish wear, and was the archetypal Punk outfit popularised by bands like the Sex Pistols.”

Similar to Nana’s ‘Armour’ ring, Shin’s orb lighter necklace is another iconic piece. The orb is Vivienne Westwood’s famous logo created in 1986, which is still present in many designs today.

Ren Honjo is another fashionable character. Guitarist of the band Trapnest and Nana Osaki’s romantic interest in the ani-manga, with his hairstyle, clothes and mannerisms on the stage, he is inspired by Sid Vicious.

Both Sid and Ren wear a padlock necklace. Vivienne Westwood’s husband Malcolm McLaren was the manager of the Sex Pistols, and also wore one, which is where the inspiration may have come from.

After all these years, Nana stays relevant without being promoted, as Ai Yazawa hasn’t appeared in the public eye for 15 years. Ai Yazawa put Nana on hold to focus on her health. However, since then, there have been no updates regarding the author and the manga.

Julie, as one of many dedicated fans, who even has a tattoo dedicated to Nana: “I feel like there’s a very specific connection between resonating with the story itself and getting into fashion. There’s something so raw about the series that keeps drawing people in, specifically the younger audience. When watching the series, I think it’s impossible not somehow to be influenced by fashion and punk culture.”

With Nana having no ending, fans are still holding out hope for a proper finale. But, considering the news of Vivienne Westwood’s death this year, their chances are most likely minimal with the main muse of Ai Yazawa not being present anymore. Despite this, Nana continues to be a fashion inspiration to many fans around the world.

Featured image by NANA © 1999 by Yazawa Manga Seisakusho/SHUEISHA Inc.

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