MilK Helps Your Kids Grow

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“Wait right there, young man! What do you think you are wearing?”
“Mom, Grandma got me this.”
“You think I am going to let you out of the house like that?”
“It’s clean. You just washed it. The other shirt is the stained one…”
“Where is the logo?”
“Mom, this is MUJI.”
“I got you a whole closet full of Louis Vuitton and you want to go out of the house in that and embarrass your father and mother after all we’ve done for you…”

Kids. They come out of the womb and immediately start killing your cool. They spit up and drool like they’ve never read a page from Emily Post. And the clothing…! I would rather give my BMW to charity than have my daughter wear Oshkosh B’gosh overalls.

The top tiers of Japanese society were starting to feel the very burn of inadequately class-identifying children’s apparel, and so media firm X-Knowledge has imported and localized the French children’s fashion magazine MilK. (I am not sure if you knew this, but all I’s in magazine titles must be lower-case — e.g., FRUiTS and CUTiE.) Maybe you can’t outfit your offspring in bespoke suits from Savile Row quite yet or don’t have the time to diamond-encrust your kindergardener’s randosel backpacks, but MilK Japon will give you tips on dressing your kids in APC, Paul & Joe, and Agnes B so they become one step closer in spirit to little beautiful blond children from the Continent.

MilK‘s founder Isis-Colombe Combréas writes the following mission statement on the website for the French publication:

MilK, because we all feel something in common: nostalgic for our childhood. And here we are, new parents with a mission: to pass on a genuine education that also helps children to develop a taste for beautiful things. This transient moment, we want to live it together, like a hedonistic transition where each moment is an occasion to be an aesthete. Milk takes us on a modern journey through the world of childhood. Both the photographs and illustrations reveal our desire to discover together the still unexplored world of children’s fashion. From family way of life to the latest children leisure activities, all the new spheres will be explored.“Kidding” is born…surfing on today’s wave…and it’s Milk’s raison d’être.

Parents automatically instill their own aesthetic values, class-biases, and fashion sense upon their children, but MilK provides greater source material for the successful transmission of the parental taste culture. The French MilK, however, seems to approach the “aesthete” in the classic anti-nouveau riche disposition where “taste” (a rare and natural gift from the gods) trumps vulgar demands for brand labels and conspicuous luxury. The latest issue’s featured stories are freak-folkers CocoRosie, American director Sofia Coppola, environmentalism, and traveling to Cancun, Barcelona, Palm Springs, and La Landelle.

The Japanese version’s cover, on the other hand, seems to advocate a totally different kind of aesthetic lifestyle for children:

  • (The world has been eagerly awaiting) the debut of the Louis Vuitton kids Line
  • 100 kids chairs
  • An essay from supermodel Helena Christensen
  • Cool “adult” T-shirts for your kids
  • A silver egg has been born from Hermès

No real surprise here, but MilK Japon pretty much reads like every other catalog-esque, advertorial-filled consumer guide in Japan. The editors seem to retain a certain portion of the less-boldly consumerist aspects of the French sister publication, but product information dominates the cover and reveals the central appeal to target readers.

Even though I grew up in relatively non-urban college towns across the lower-portion of the United States, I am not going to claim that there was some kind of “pure” classless youth fashion code that we can look back on fondly as an age of innocence. I regularly wore Polo shirts without the slightest consideration that this had an impact on my placement within the schoolyard social structure. MilK‘s introduction of class and taste into the experience of childhood is not especially new, but is a sharp escalation of pre-existing behavior. Instead of pretending like we don’t outfit our kids in our own favorite brands and labels, MilK just clarifies the process so that producers and consumers can find themselves more easily.

Socioeconomic class was intentionally hidden in the post-War period, but this idea that taste-based distinction should begin in early childhood will make class much more obvious for a new generation of Japanese. Hopefully, however, the kids in LV and Hermès won’t have to go to school with the riff-raff whose parents don’t read MilK. Those dirty Pigpens wouldn’t appreciate their peers’ clothing nor understand the amazing capital accumulation of their parents anyway.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

15 Responses

  1. alin Says:

    You know marxy, I do have a lot respect and sympathy for your occasionally marxist and so forth agenda and standpoint but, seriously, how do you see it actually approach anything resembling efficiency, impact and not turn into something totally different ?

  2. marxy Says:

    Marxism? I think for most people at this point it’s an aesthetic disposition rather than a serious political/economic ideology.

  3. marxy Says:

    That’s a bit cynical, but instead of trying to advocate the complete reformation of society, I do think it’s worth saying that class stratified/class-discriminatory/kachi-gumi/Hills-zoku society is less conducive to interesting creative output than the more subtle “we’re all middle class” of before.

  4. Mulboyne Says:

    “I do think it’s worth saying that class stratified/class-discriminatory/kachi-gumi/Hills-zoku society is less conducive to interesting creative output than the more subtle “we’re all middle class” of before.”

    Because it is Japan?

  5. marxy Says:

    Obviously, rich people showing off how rich they are through jewel-encrusted cards is not that interesting anywhere, but I think the illusion of a “standard, universal middle class urban culture as national culture” was integral to the last 40 years of pop culture in Japan in a way that the myth could not take root in more obviously stratified places like the US and UK.

  6. alin Says:

    >aesthetic disposition rather than a serious political/economic ideology

    i don’t know see why these 2 have be set in irreconcilable opposition.

    > less conducive to interesting creative output than the more subtle “we’re all middle class” of before.

    since i don’t remember you ever having anything good to say about the japan 80s, the pinnacle of what you’re praising here, there seems to be a radical contradiction in your spiel. might this be the mark of a true marxist ?

  7. alin Says:

    i

    MiLK.-> it’s actually MilK, you could even say Milk, the big k looks more like a graphic thing than messing with capitals. and since the l had to be lower case, writing MIlk or MIlK might have looked a bit confusing.

  8. alin Says:

    the l had to be lower case
    because a big L would leave too much dead space in the logo which had to be tight enough to fit in the top left corner.

  9. Laotree Says:

    Marxy you’ve been putting in a lot of hours on the blog this week! It’s been a good read!
    This MilK post horrifies me in that it foreshadows the battle I’ll be having for the next ten years with my wife and her family to keep my son (who was literally born yesterday) from being clothed in these European superbrands. So far they’ve been amassing a relatively inexpensive wardrobe, but I just know they’re bound to drop some cash on LV gear. Shudder…
    “Hopefully, however, the kids in LV and Hermès won’t have to go to school with the riff-raff whose parents don’t read MiLK.”
    But wouldn’t the really rich kids be sporting the uniforms of exclusive private elementary schools?

  10. alin Says:

    Congratulations Laotree,

    i wouldn’t worry too much , many things (like a bape-bambini line etc) will come and go by the time the little fellow will start wearing properly.

  11. neogeisha Says:

    i like my babies exclusively in goth-loli duds.

  12. marxy Says:

    “But wouldn’t the really rich kids be sporting the uniforms of exclusive private elementary schools?”

    It’s all in the accessories.

  13. Carl Says:

    A link that might be interesting to you: http://www.henryjenkins.org/2007/06/what_makes_japan_so_cool_an_in.html

  14. marxy Says:

    Ha. I actually had dinner a few years ago with Prof. Jenkins and Prof. Condry and got into a bit of a spat with the latter on the matter of music criticism in Japan and whether or not it existed.

  15. lecky Says:

    that would be Savile Row, one L, unless you’re refering to some place in Spain.