Nana Magna & Vivienne Westwood Illustrations

The first issue of Nana by Ai Yazawa

┬áI have been rediscovering the Nana manga books I got into a few years ago. I first met the two Nana’s on the recommendation of a friend who knew my passion for Vivienne Westwood. But what do Vivienne Westwood and manga comics have in common? Well let me explain…

Nana Komatsu

The books are about the lives of two young girls who both happen to share the name Nana. Their paths cross by fate as they both embark on new lives away from home. Though they are both very different characters their lives seem inexplicably entwined. The stories of their lives will ring true for most women through tales of love, friendship, jobs, fun and also sadness, I can easily see anyone enjoying the stories. Yet it is the graphic illustrations which first drew me in and made me fall in love with the books.

Nana Osaki

The author and artist Ai Yazawa cleverly uses the fashion the characters wear to instantly help us understand and feel at ease with the new faces being introduced. We all have inbuilt reactions to stereotypes, people often talk about how we need to break them. In some cases we do, yet they also help us understand and interact with the world around us.

The two Nana’s with their very distinct styles

Nana Osaki is the wild punk singer in a band, her look mainly consists of ripped clothes and studded jewellery, further emphasising her ‘devil may care’ attitude. Whilst Nana Komatsu (nicknamed Hachie) is slightly naive and a terrible romantic at heart. Her character is shown through her very girly and lady-like attire, pretty dresses, pearl jewellery and dainty handbags. When Nana K gets a job in an office her style changes to reflect appropriate work attire – pencil skirts, neck scarves, but it also shows us that her character has changed too. She is maturing with her new responsibilities.

Nana K wearing a feminine handbag, full skirt and head scarf

Nana K in her office attire

Both girls and many of their friends wear Vivienne Westwood. There are two things about this which I find especially intriguing, firstly that the author chose to use Vivienne’s designs. Choosing to illustrate a certain brand is quite different to the style process for a film or magazine shoot. Here the author could have chosen to draw her own ‘fictional’ clothes yet she chose to use a brand. Vivienne Westwood designs have been popular in Japan for many years. Her early designs are the essence of Punk and so very fitting to use to illustrate a punk band. Yet Yazawa very cleverly includes the other styles of Westwood’s designs to illustrate other characters. She uses softer aspects such as pearls and mini crinoline skirts to show pretty and playful characters.

Nana O in her trademark Vivienne Westwood heart jacket

There are so many other aspects of Westwood’s designs intermixed with Japanese culture which is something I am currently exploring for my own academic research. I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to the world of Nana and how we can learn more about fashion through unexpected sources, I am sure this won’t be the first time I write about it.

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