You don’t have to be a fashion lover to recognize this design of a flower with rainbow petals smiling right back at you. Without any exaggeration, the Murakami flower has been everywhere the last decade of fashion, often times with no name or story surrounding the origin. It is safe to say that many people have been stealing Murakami’s design and flowers for decades now, and therefore, I feel like, as a fashion lover, it is my responsibility to give him the much-deserved credit.
The flowers can even be spotted in environments that are far from fashion; like artworks and sculptures at the Palace of Versailles or Google’s homepage design for the 2011 summer solstice. Another event where the flowers gained popularity was when Murakami himself attended the Macy’s day parade later that year in a head-to-toe flower regalia. More recently a flowery Supreme and Takashi Murakami box logo collab collection raised over 1 million US dollars for the Covid-19 relief fund. By mixing the concepts of mass consumption and luxury, these flowers became one of the most desirable and popular symbols of the 21st century.
The first Murakami flower bloomed around 1995 in fashion on jewelry bags and gained iconic status with a collaboration with Louis Vuitton in 2003, which went on for 13 years, being the brand’s longest collaboration to this date. Ongoing collaborations emerged and the flowers were now on shoes, silk scarves, handbags, and more.
Murakami has a simple answer when people ask him why all these big brands and celebrities want to collaborate with him: “I don’t know.”
After being the center stage on Marc Jacobs fashion shows in 2010, Murakami collaborated with one of his personal favorite brands, Vans. By this collab, the design that we were so used to seeing in capsule collections or designer products entered streetwear, with the classic Vans slip-on and backpacks.
A collaboration between Murakami and the Virgil Abloh in 2018 resulted in gallery shows including the range of paintings, sculptures, t-shirt prints, and bags printed with flowers and Abloh’s signature script font.
Murakami’s relations to the music industry include the visuals from Kanye West’s 2007 album Graduation and an upcoming animated TV show ‘’kids see ghosts’’ with West and Kid Cudi. The flowers were also in a collaboration with Drake’s luxury brand OVO in 2018 where the flower design was incorporated within the OVO owl.
Murakami also released a merch collaboration with Billie Eilish and also incorporated the flowers and visuals from the 2019 music video for ‘’you should see me in a crown’’ directed by Murakami.
The video includes Eilish as a humanoid spider and we see the flowers’ smiles fading as the city gets destroyed. Murakami directing a video with added violence surprised many but makes perfect sense when the historical origin of the flowers is considered.
Murakami uses characters with cartoonish eyes and bright colors, who are unconditionally happy. However, there are deeper and darker connotations behind his designs. If you take a closer look at the flowers you will see hidden tears. ‘’I got to this idea is when I moved to New York City and had very strong homesickness. Flowers a very important in Japanese traditional paintings, that’s why I made the design in the first place,’’ Murakami says. He took inspiration from the atomic bomb and how scared and hopeless the people of Japan felt at a short period of time and mixed it with traditional flower paintings. Murakami himself explains that the collective feeling of the bombings created layers of compression and contradictory emotions. The sense of powerlessness and desperation ended up as cute Kawaii characters like Mr. Dob. On the other hand, the fascination for power and destruction with such effect was shown with the placement of mushrooms and skulls alongside the flowers.
Therefore, the Billie Eilish video, especially the destroying of the flowers seems quite fitting, regarding Murakami direct chaos in an artistic way.
The charitable power of the Murakami Flower includes a clothing capsule collection with Pangea in support of world bee day and another collection designed to profit the black lives matter movement has raised over 1.3 million u.s. dollars.
The Mixing of modern Western Art and the complicated, traumatic history of Japan to create contradictory pop art was perhaps was executed the best in Murakami’s flowers, which has taken over the world of pop culture, with many people claiming usage over the design. Many celebrities and brands other than the ones
I have mentioned have used the design and acted as if it’s their own, creating a loop of talent not being credited, which is honestly devastating to see, seeing Murakami is an artist that lives and breaths art every day, and sleeps in his studio nearly all his nights.
Takashi Murakami in my opinion is an artist in its truest purest form. His millions of income go to charity or to create more art, and he lives to create and collaborate. Watching his interviews and seeing him sleep on cardboards in the middle of his studio made me feel as if I was watching some kind of pundit speak. His words have so much wisdom behind them and his art and humbleness can be our reminder that art can come in various forms and can be truly healing.
Murakami’s designs and the flower was perhaps the most significant execution of trauma turn into arts and aesthetics in the modern world, and bonds the fight against oppression with fashion. This trademark design was stolen and used by many, however, it never lost its power and value both in the fashion and pop culture worlds and still carries many stories with it, reminding all of us to always remember that there is so much more than what meets the eye, especially if we are talking about someone who lives solely to create.
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