If you’ve been on Pinterest for the past year, you’ve come across images of Yūn Mago (@yunmago on Instagram and TikTok) and her incredible high-tech fashion creations. These intricate headphones made out of Gundam model parts are something that any cyberpunk or mecha fan would enjoy.
Yūn Mago isn’t the only person creating models and accessories that would fall under the title of mecha fashion. Designers like Ikeuchi Hiroto (@_ikeuichi on Instagram) have been designing high-tech fashion pieces for years, but there’s no denying that mecha fashion has grown in popularity in recent years. But first, what is mecha and the fashion inspired by the genre? And why has it grown in popularity recently?
What is “mecha?”
Mecha is a genre of manga and anime that features mechanical innovations like robots, androids, and cyborgs. In the genre, these machines, also called mecha or mechs, are often large robots that are controlled by people. This isn’t always the case because mechs and their designs vary from series to series.
Mecha became popular following the release of Osamu Tezuka’s Mighty Atom (Astro Boy) in 1952 and Mitsuteru Tokoyama’s Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantor) in 1956. As Japan experienced economic and technological growth following the end of WWII, mecha reflected this growth with the arrival of ginormous robots battling one another. Mecha experienced the height of its popularity in the 1970s and 1980s with the release of Go Nagai’s Mazinger Z in 1972. Mecha experienced another boom in popularity in the 90s as mecha became a prominent genre in the US with Hasbro rebranding Takara Tomy’s toy lines as The Transformers.
Alongside manga and anime, another popular aspect of mecha is Gundam model kits, also known as, gunpla. Gundam model kits are kits that people use to build models based on the designs of their favorite Gundam characters. There’s a variety of figures to choose from, but all Gundam model kits come with trays of parts. There are different grades that people can choose from with varying levels of difficulty.
Inspired by the aesthetics and machines from the genre, mecha fashion utilizes mechanical accessories and high-tech inventions to give the appearance that the wearer is part machine or a member of a futuristic (usually dystopian) society. While appearance is one aspect of mecha fashion, functionality is also important. Most mecha accessories and fashion pieces serve some sort of purpose and function as more than just accessories. Through their creation of functioning models, artists like Yūn Mago are bridging fact and fiction in fashion.
A popular accessory in mecha fashion is headphones, often customized with parts from Gundam modeling kits. Although an accessory, mecha headphones have taken on a life of their own as a result of one of Yūn Mago’s creative projects titled ŪNIT.
As described on Yūn Mago’s website, ŪNIT is “a dream, a distant reality, an identity.”
As a persona, ŪNIT expresses the multidimensional aspects of oneself and its translation into physical forms. This installation within the “ūniverse” envisions the future as a tangible reality, drawing inspiration from cyberpunk, technology, and mecha.unit0214.com
Although still in its initial stage, Yūn’s website includes an archive of some of the ūnits she’s created. Each ūnit has a personality– its own identity. ŪNIT is more than just a website, it’s a community where fans of mecha and Yūn’s work can gather. Ūnits, members of the ŪNIT community, can gather, enjoy mecha and create mecha headphones.
Why has mecha fashion grown in popularity recently?
Mecha, and the fashion taking inspiration from the genre, reflects the relationship between humans and technology. As technology is integrated into our daily lives and habits, our relationship with technology grows stronger. Mecha fashion reflects this connection as it integrates high-tech accessories into everyday outfits.
What’s interesting about recent iterations of mecha fashion is that it features accessories we’ve become accustomed to recently: headphones and masks. Recent mecha fashion could be seen as an artistic response to the quarantine and a representation of how our lives have changed as a result– technology has become an even bigger staple of our daily lives as we begin to emerge from isolation.