“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.