Following on from its Sailor Moon capsule, Uniqlo has turned to another of its homegrown cultural phenomena for the latest UT graphic T-shirt collection. The Japanese lifewear brand tapped artist Kosuke Kawamura to interpret the artwork of iconic media franchise Dragon Ball across a collection spanning 28 styles of signature graphic tees, crewneck sweaters, and hoodies.
"My first memory of Dragon Ball is back when I was an elementary school kid," Kawamura tells Highsnobiety at the Uniqlo showroom in Paris. "I saw Dragon Ball on TV, but living in Japan, I did not realize that Dragon Ball had such a huge international impact until just recently. So when I came to Europe I was very surprised to see that."
It's undeniable that Dragon Ball has struck a special chord with European and American audiences, in particular with those who grew up watching Japanese cartoons on Sunday mornings in the ’90s and early ’00s.
The impact is reflected in the gamut of Dragon Ball references that live in the hip-hop canon. Frank Ocean sings, "That soft pink matter / Cotton candy Majin Buu" in one of the lead songs from his 2012 album Channel Orange, referencing the series' pink, genie-like antagonist, and then there's the self-explanatory "Goku" track from Jaden Smith's third album ERYS.
The new collection is part of a series whereby Uniqlo is connecting art and fashion at an affordable price point. As a brand known for its go-to collection of basics (though the denim range should not be overlooked and has been co-signed by Raf Simons as being comparable to luxury houses), Uniqlo sees the UT range as a blank canvas that can shift elements of Japanese culture – including ramen and pop artist Takashi Murakami – among other niche interests to a global fanbase.
Kawamura is an artist, graphic designer, and art director known for his collages: "About eight years ago, I had worked with Mr. Katsuhiro Otomo [creator of Akira], and we had this exhibition in Japan, and that was very special because it used unprecedented style using manga. So I think this made some kind of an impression on Uniqlo to choose me."
Kawamura's style brings new life into the iconic Dragon Ball characters, in particular on the T-shirt in slide 1 (above), which depicts Trunks and Goten shredded and then spliced on top of one another, creating a dizzying optical effect.
You can shop the Uniqlo UT x Dragon Ball collection via the link below