entertainment

Clothing ad touting Japan’s beautiful tradition features no Japanese faces

39 Comments
By Master Blaster

Japan is a homogenous country to be sure, but a recent advertisement from clothing chain COMME ÇA ISM boldly challenges this mistaken stereotype that Japan is full of Japanese people.

It’s actually full of white people.

It all makes sense if you think about it. The business’ name is COMME ÇA ISM. Does that sound Asian to you? Not to mention a store would have to be crazy to run an ad featuring only white people to a nation full of Asian people – right?

The caption on the ad reads, “We should never lose Japan’s beautiful tradition, hemp clothing!” and at the bottom “Yes, Japanese Life.” Clearly, these statements describe the true nature of Japanese tradition and life – brooding Caucasian people with hemp.

Okay, clearly this is either some sort of ironic campaign, that few of us can understand, or perhaps, this is just a unfortunate juxtaposition as COMME ÇA ISM is well known for using white people in their ads.

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39 Comments
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I always wondered about that company's marketing strategy. There's one nearby, and every time I drive past, there's always ONLY white people in their ad campaigns.

Also, those people in that ad look REALLY creepy. Like some Stepford hippies come to collect your soul.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

I agree with gaijinfo, Comme Ca has always used western models for their ads and campaigns, so I don't see why they would start using Japanese now. Although touting the beauty of Japanese, and then not including any does seem a bit strange, but then again, this is an advertising campaign aimed at Japanese people, most of them won't be able to understand what is written anyway, or won't care.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

...brooding Caucasian people with hemp

Maybe they just wanted a featureless and uninteresting pastel background to make the clothes easier to see, and brooding Caucasians are good for that. It's all how you look at it. In any case, the company seems to be doing well.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think the message is, Even if your neighbourhood is being overrun with furriners, dress them in Comme Ca and they'll blend in just fine and preserve the Wa.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

The interesting thing about advertising is that it shows what is acceptable or most sought after in a society. I think these ads reflect what Japanese people feel what other societies have and their own lacks. Look at advertising in general (this ad plus others like Yamazaki bread), the use of English in Japan, endless conversations on cross-cultural comparisons and the list goes on.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I am not really sure its a racial thing so much. Back in the 18th century, everything French was in vogue. If the French were black, I have no doubt people of the world, men and women alike, would have used dark make-up instead of white, to emulate the French.

White faces say "America" to the Japanese. That's about it.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I also don't get the only white models used in UNIQLO posters. If you go in a store, you will see the most emaciated and run down anxorexic ridden male model on the planet. So, what's that all about?

1 ( +5 / -4 )

White faces say "America" to the Japanese. That's about it.

I think these ads reflect what Japanese people feel what other societies have and their own lacks. Look at advertising in general (this ad plus others like Yamazaki bread), the use of English in Japan, endless conversations on cross-cultural comparisons and the list goes on.

Exactly. Learn English because Japanese is not good enough in the new global economy. Go to American universities because you can't get a good job with a Japanese education. These are the messages Japanese schoolchildren hear throughout their education. That's a load on the Japanese psyche. So it is no surprise that more and more young Japanese might be attracted to this marketing. Companies are is only taking advantage of a trend - the Americanization/globalization of Japan.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Don't think there is anything beyond simply trying to be "cool" here, seeking to reiterate that this purely Japanese brand (now using very traditional fiber) continues to be universally (ie from a western perspective) appealing, thus the Japanese can continue to feel proud wearing it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There's no way of knowing if the faces in the ad are Japanese or not without checking the citizenship of each model.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

To me it says, "We don't know who we are to be proud of what we have." This is as foolish as an all white person ad for traditional African or Indian fashions.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

TattooVampire: Perhaps more of an "European" image in this case to be more accurate, when it comes to fashion brands of this nature, using French for its brand name as one prominent example.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How do you know there are no Japanese faces in this ad? Some of those models, maybe all of them, could be Japanese citizens. There is no such thing as a "Japanese face" as there is no such thing as a "British face." Being Japanese is a matter of citizenship and not race.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

I would not doubt it for a milisecond if someone told me the darker-haired models were "hafu", born in Japan, had Japanese citizenship, and were thus Japanese. The article is perpetuating the concept that there are national racial characteristics. Hopefully, in 10 years, no editor or writer will ever write an article like this in the context of Japan. (We need to give it some time).

Imagine if this was a Canadian or American ad, and the models all had Asiatic features, and the title declared: "Hey, why are there no Canadian or American models?!" Of course, that would not happen today because there is no presupposition in those countries that people with Asiatic features are not their countrymen.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

why use white people? uh, because they stand out. as we all know, japan is extremely homogenous, so when japanese consumers see posters with regular japanese people in them, they will just gloss over it. but when they see all white people, it jars them, and they will actually look more at the ad.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japan is a homogenous country to be sure

Um, no. The myth of Japan's ethnic homogeneity is just that - a myth. Try telling that to all the Koreans, Chinese, and other Southeast Asians - hell, even westerners and everyone else.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

The add has nothing to do with the globalization or Americanization of Japan, it's all about what the Japanese consider as "kawai" "かわいい", so the image is for the gullible society that this has become; and learning English should not be about getting into American universities for a nation that needs to articulate its own position on the international scene, the problem is when kanji for common words and expressions are being replaced by katakanaized English words even on TV to give the "I've been to" or "I'm educated" impression (again the かわいい mentality), then to accuse the learning of English as reason for children's poor knowledge of kanji. The society seems to have a problem with being itself in an Asian platform where the one who should be seen as leading, should project the most westernized image... Because western is かわいい "kawai". Marketing for marketing, I see nothing wrong with the adds, it's all about marketing. Only fools buy because of a picture, and you can't imagine how many make great sacrifices to fit the image.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To say nothing of the fact that "Comme Ca Ism" makes no sense. It is like saying "Like This Ism."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Who wrote this article?? This is not the 1100's, it's 2012 isn't it. So what the models features do not scream Hey I'm Asian. There are all types of stores in Japan, So they are a Japanese clothing inspired store with a French name and Caucasian looking models. Notice the Asian in Caucasian?? There are people being born everyday in Japan who do not have Asian features. No need to discriminate, grow up and try not to look at color and features so much. It's what on the inside that counts.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

this is pointless. who cares!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japanese people want to be like caucasians that is why they get eye contacts, dye their hair blonde,red, brown or whatever with super black eyebrows. It's cool !!!!!! It's the look !!!!

Even though asian women has the best skin in the world and look younger. Doesn't matter.

White people look cool in their narrow looking & shallow perspective eyes.

They want the European, western male & female look !!!!!!!

Japanese don't want to speak another language but they want the Mercedes,Italian soccer team t shirt, Rugby t shirts, BMW, Ferrari, Gucci, Prada, blah blah blah the western European selfish it's all about me, materialism, B.S. me me me me me me look.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Pontepilate: Simply put, again, this ad is obviously trying to make the brand look "cool". But when it comes to elaborating or analyzing their thinking and efforts to create "coolness", I doubt whether it has anything to do with the "kawaii(cute)" or the typical "going for the westernized image" mentality you suggest. This in my view has rather come from an alternative way of thinking which seeks to reflect more of the "Cool Japan (a terminology I personally do not at all approve)" mentality in that the key message of this ad is in the use of traditional Japanese fiber, which just happens to be worn by cool western people. This is in contrast to the earlier ways of marketing in use of western models seeking to appeal to consumers who simply wanted to look like, or be like westerners (which I believe is closer to what you are addressing). Here they are rather seeking to jump on the growing notion (and confidence) that fashion originating in Japan has a universal appeal, while differentiating from other Japanese brands through the use of traditional fiber under the catch copy: "the traditional way of beauty should not fade away (from Japan)!".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If it's not sneakers, sports clothing, English School, Hip Hop, Jazz, or R& B music. You will never see a black model (M.J.) or dark spanish model ( George Lopez ) in their crappy commercials or ads.

I really hate the racist Honda & Toyota automobile commercials you will never see Will Smith, Spanish or Asian actor in their commercials. You will never see Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, or a person of different color in their ads in Japan.

I really liked last year's commercial. The caucasian basketball player and than edit to the future he became a scientist performing tests.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What do you expect from the store that brought us ufu and mufu?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@alliswellinjapan:

Good point, re: European "image". This type of ad isn't so surprising. If I were black I might have an issue, though, regardless of the "European-ness" of it.

Also, the mods here are certainly heavy handed and seem to have poor judgment about what comments are on- or off-topic. Just my opinion.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

COMME ÇA ISM boldly challenges this mistaken stereotype that Japan is full of Japanese people. It’s actually full of white people.

Thank you for debunking the myth that white people can be Japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well at least tis year they began using asians in underwear ads. I remember going to meet my wife several days a week where she worked (ladies dept of a major dept store) and for years every single poster for womens' undergarments was a white person. As if no Japanese woman head ever bought a bra and panties.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is not something new. Many people in Japan still equate beauty with blond hair and blue eyes and there are many advertisement in japan that show that. Many suit companies used Caucasian models to advertise.

The problem i have is that the ad looks like a teenie bopper horror flick. "Children of the Corn: Summer Vaction"

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Much ado about nothing

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Um, no. The myth of Japan's ethnic homogeneity is just that - a myth. Try telling that to all the Koreans, Chinese, and other Southeast Asians - hell, even westerners and everyone else.

No one ever says that there are only Japanese people in Japan but it definitely is the case that the vast vast vast majority of people here are 'ethnic' Japanese. That might be changing but for the moment, there's a reason why the Japanese census only asks about nationality not ethnicity.

In a country like the UK, there actually is a lot of ethnic diversity amongst people with 'British' as their nationality, so also asking ethnicity has some meaning. Japan is still a long way away from that and you just need to spend 2 minutes in almost any place in Japan to see that for yourself.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The tradition they speak of, is hemp, and the Japanese use of it, in clothes.

COMME CA ISM may feature whomever/whatever they please, as long as it's legal.

That is the beauty of owning/running a company.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

White faces say "America" to the Japanese. That's about it.

God I hope not.... I hate being mistaken for a yank, that's why for the past few holidays in Japan I've had something with a Union Flag on me somewhere.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japanese people want to be like caucasians that is why they get eye contacts, dye their hair blonde,red, brown or whatever with super black eyebrows. It's cool !!!!!! It's the look !!!!

Even though asian women has the best skin in the world and look younger. Doesn't matter.

White people look cool in their narrow looking & shallow perspective eyes.

They want the European, western male & female look !!!!!!!

I think there is a lot of truth to what Whisky is saying here. Many of you gave him the thumbs down, but he is 100% correct, even if some of you don't want to accept it and the reality that we live in. Japan HAS an issue with race, probably more so than Europe or the Americas. Some people don't want to admit it, but Japan really doesn't use a whole lot of people of color. I have seen this time and time again. There IS a favoritism towards "white people" case in point. Where I live in Kyushu, they have a lot of these bogus western style weddings and all the priests are "White" one of my friends is Black and he applied and they told him, in a very apologetic way, they don't hire Blacks, because they outsource and most of their clientele have an image that a priest should be "white" I don't know if other people have seen something similar to that, but that's how it is. Even modeling. Go to the store right now and if you see a foreigner on a magazine, how many Blacks or Hispanics or dark-skinned people do you see in them or on the cover. So if you are Black or any other minority and are trying to get work in the entertainment industry in Japan, good luck, it is a serious uphill climb and almost impossible climb.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

God I hope not.... I hate being mistaken for a yank, that's why for the past few holidays in Japan I've had something with a Union Flag on me somewhere.

I wear a Union Jack and still get mistaken for an American, ahhh, who cares?!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

White people are so mainstream in predominantly non-white Japan, that's until your daughter brings along one of their male specimen to your home for dinner.

It's all just vanity you know, and nothing more.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Um, no. The myth of Japan's ethnic homogeneity is just that - a myth

The myth of Japan's heterogeneity is just that: a myth.

Relative to most countries, Japan is ethnically homogeneous. Well more than 90% of Japanese speak Japanese and are ethnically Japanese. No country is 100% ethnically homogeneous. Yes there are regional differences. Yes there are ethnic Chinese, Koreans, Ryukyuans, etc. But by any reasonable definition, Japan is ethnically homogeneous, and to pretend otherwise is silly.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Nessie, have their been studies to show that less than 10% of Japanese are related to Chinese, Koreans etc?

I'm not saying that what you say isn't true, I just wonder whether something like that has ever been recorded here, or just kind of swept under the carpet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Whatever on the models. I really like hemp clothing!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don't see what the issue is, maybe they used white people because there are not that many in Japan so they would stand out more on an advert?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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