PRIDE: Anne Ishii of MASSIVE on Jiraiya Opening Ceremony Collection

If you’re not wearing something from the MASSIVE x Opening Ceremony collection this pride weekend then you NEED to rethink your outfits and incorporate this awesomeness. Anne Ishii of MASSIVE talks to us about the collection which incorporates the art of Japanese gay manga artist Jiraiya.

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So tell us about how the origins of this collection?
So, Graham Kolbeins, the Creative Director of MASSIVE Goods, was doing the blog for Spike Jonze’s “Her” and had been coordinating with Opening Ceremony for their capsule collection on the film. Graham introduced the OC buyer to our line while coordinating, and one he (Jesse Hudnutt) immediately took to it. That was last November. Anyway, enthusiasm built up in our conversations, and the full idea materialized a few months later, when OC’s Jacky Tang suggested a full gay pride Summer collaboration, featuring work by Jiraiya. The collection represents a lot of disparate themes but most essentially it’s fun, sweet, beefy and 100% Jiraiya. Some of the designs are licensed from artwork he did for a Japanese gay brothel chain (lol), and a couple of the items are original designs he did for us, already featured on our first sweatshirt

What is important about the artist Jiraiya?
Where do I begin? For starters, his work has helped tons of gay men come out, and to embrace their diversity. I think especially outside of Japan, Asian men especially have had to deal with being relegated to the bottom of a masculinity totem pole, so seeing art representing foin-as-f*** diesel trucks half-naked, being awesome and proud, is really encouraging. It’s not just conjecture, either. I’ve heard story after story about young men who said seeing Jiraiya’s illustrations made them feel so much better about being big, or Asian, or just plain rad. Second, we have to bow down to the sheer craftsmanship of his artwork. His full-color illustrations are all done freehand! Not only that, he’s an exceptional draftsman in his manga comics, and a fantastic storyteller. He has said he believes gay men need more optimism in their lives, and he makes an effort to tell uplifting stories. His fans would agree. Lastly, he’s a swell, generous, hilarious dude, and always has something witty to say about culture and society. Positive influence on those around him and what not.

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What’s different about this collection than the original?
First, the size of it. Thinking about how much volume we decided to create for this collection actually makes me a want to throw up, it’s so nerve-wrecking. We went from a tiny business making one or two shirts at a time, to SEVEN pieces, including shorts–something we’ve never designed before. Multiply that by hundreds of units across seven sizes (we go up to XXXL sizes because we’re MASSIVE haha), and the fact that I’m literally fulfilling all the orders out of my apartment and storage unit… forget nausea, I might shit myself thinking too much about it.

The first collection blew up, were you expecting that kind of reaction?
Honestly?

Yes, haha. No but seriously, our artists’ work speaks for itself. The real challenge isn’t in predicting the popularity, producing the work, or financing the line, but doing justice to the artwork and meeting the needs of our die-hard fans.

What does Jiraiya think of it all?
He loves it. He can’t believe his art is being rendered into things people can boast on their person, no longer just prints you keep in a folder at home. He is also just floored that it’s breaking out in of all places, a boutique in New York City… that isn’t necessarily a gay merch store.

the shirt makes such a huge statement, do you think popularity of it speaks to how times have changed in terms of homophobia?
DEFINITELY. The funny thing about these shirts, I have to say though, is that TECHNICALLY, there’s nothing explicitly gay about it. It’s just dudes. We don’t write the words “gay” or “queer” or “homosexual” (hahaha but if we did that would be next level tradge). No rainbows, no hand-holding, no kissing, no dick-touching (and if you’ve seen other goods by artists like Tom of Finland you’ll know that’s not uncommon in “gay apparel.”)
It’s art. Period. It’s art that celebrates the male body as exemplified by Japanese men who adore men in all their bigness, their thickness, their Asianness, their silliness, their sexiness. And the end result is that when you see this, whether it makes people uncomfortable or not, you just know you have to get with the program and be right with queer.

What are you doing this Pride weekend?
Going to LA… for a wedding… between a straight couple… lol seriously. Actually it’s appropriate; the nuptials are for one of my dearest friends and a huge supporter/confidant in all my manga endeavors–Ryan Sands, who runs Youth in Decline. We’ve both always been fans of Japanese fringe art and comics. I’ll just be hanging with peers in our publishing niche.

What’s coming up next?
LEGGINGS, BITCHES!

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