Normally reserved for the likes of Kate Moss, Agyness Deyn and front row figures firmly approved by the serious fashion set, the winter issue of the vibrantly quirky fashion glossy features Britney as seen through the eyes of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and the lens of Todd Cole.
Murakami has developed a reputation as the Japanese Andy Warhol, with his 2D, ‘Superflat’-style works exploring the notion of selling a product and creating exposure for a brand figure. By mass producing merchandise featuring elements of and characters from his creations, classically trained Murakami has crafted an empire that blurs the line between high and low brow art and has helped to redefine the contemporary Japanese art scene.
As part of his quest to generate pieces that better reflect the Japanese zeitgeist, he has frequently returned to the theme of the country's fascination with trying to eerily maintain an aura of innocence when it comes to mainstream pop culture figures. Cuteness/‘kawaii’ is king in Japan and appropriated, anthropomorphised motifs that continually appear in Murakami’s work include vividly coloured mushrooms, teddy bears and staring eyes. Yet in collaborating with Spears, the artist brings consumerism and fetishism crashing together in Technicolor with a parody of the doe eyed, naïve Manga girl.
Posing in a Rodarte lace wedding dress, Spears sweetly gazes up at the camera from the front of one cover, mimicking the shot that appeared on her debut album cover. The picture is slightly blurred and over exposed, surrounding the star in a halo of light as she perches amongst dozens of white flowers. There is even a cartoon Starbucks cup (an ever-present fixture in candid pictures of the star) pasted alongside one inset frame. Kitsch? Most definitely. But sickeningly twee? Certainly not.
Murakami is not seeking to present Britney as having emerged from the cocoon of her highly publicised conservatorship virginal and reborn. Whilst she appears undeniably beautiful and doll like, the effect is not one of mannequin level perfection; of a polished, airbrushed-within-an-inch-of-its-life editorial. Some have already commented on Spears’ apparent resemblance to a young Courtney Love in the cluttered cover shots, and although the bleached blonde hair may have something to do with it, the faded feminine tones and heavy mascara -rather than fluttering falsie- framed eyes add a kinderwhore-esque grungy edge to the Lolita façade.
The persona is slightly worn, the arrangement intentionally a little tacky (somewhere between top self material and these examples of current Japanese teen magazines) and the smile knowing; Britney is under no illusion that her butter-wouldn’t-melt days as a teen star are over, but the image still persists and fits with the history of her brand and name (if not as well). Instead, the fashion story shows a young woman who can now subtly portray satire as well as gritty glam and is worthy of such prominence on a trend-influencing magazine. Spears can still seductively sell fashion and her brand, but now with added savvy commentary on her role as the poster girl for such marketing.
Overall, bravo to both Dasha Zhukova’s POP and Team Britney. In uniting for this shoot, Britney has not only bagged some fantastic fringe-fashion credibility, but together they’ve unexpectedly managed to fuse style relevancy (the seasons 1990s, grunge and lace trends featuring amongst most wanted designer pieces), artistic merit (as the subject fits perfectly with the artist's inspirations, providing a new branch of social commentary) and a fresh approach to high end fashion spreads (by tapping into an aesthetic and personality that hasn't been represented recently in the press).