Many Japanese fashion magazines are suffering from declining sales. To boost their economic prospects and keep creditors at bay, publishers may attempt new directions and types of content, or approach different kinds of advertisers. The fashion magazine Vivi tried both by launching a recent online tie-up with the Liberal Democratic Party, the biggest political party in Japan and which has been in power with only a couple of relatively short intervals since the 1950s.

The “New Generation” tie-up features a series of young female models — the magazine’s nine “Vivigirl” official models — wearing t-shirts with messages about the kind of future they would like to live in. Examples include colorful messages in English about happiness, being a nation more welcoming to foreigners, and expressing oneself. “Happy & Smile.” “Face Your Fears.” “Open Heart.”

The t-shirts, which also feature the logo of the LDP on the shoulder, were then offered to people who posted on Twitter or Instagram their own aspirations for future society with the promotional hashtag #LDP2019.

jiminto vivi liberal democratic party ldp japan tshirt-campaign tieup new generation diversity promo politics fashion magazine controversy

jiminto vivi liberal democratic party ldp japan tshirt-campaign tieup new generation diversity promo politics fashion magazine controversy

jiminto vivi liberal democratic party ldp japan tshirt-campaign tieup new generation diversity promo politics fashion magazine controversy

The tie-up is promoting a vision of diversity and hope, in line with recent buzzwords and campaigns by local governments (particularly Shibuya in Tokyo) and the 2020 Olympics, and an intriguing counter-narrative to the standard conservative stance by the LDP, which usually emphasizes “restoring” values and protecting the interests of business and older voters. On the other hand, it is the LDP that has lowered voter age in Japan from 20 to 18, and the party is aware of the need to woo a younger electorate as its membership and support base ages.

Though the publisher Kodansha has rejected claims that it was a politically biased tie-up, online commentators and liberals have reacted with shock that an influential fashion magazine would choose such a collaboration. Vivi’s official tweet on June 10th announcing campaign has nearly 3,000 replies at the time of writing, including overt criticism of the LDP and its policies.

Whatever your political position or opinion on the neutrality of fashion media, one thing is certain: the tie-up has certainly ignited debate.

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