Hajime Sorayama’s artwork lends itself well to clothing so well that you’d think it was by design. The Japanese artist renders his retro-futurist “Sexy Robot” pin-ups and shiny metal beasts in crisp brushstrokes of sticker-sharp color innately suited for graphic prints.

But, at the same time, you’d think that Sorayama, a guy whose oeuvre is so inventive that he’s in perpetual international demand, would inspire some more evocative collaborations.

Not so, sadly. As much as fashion loves Hajime Sorayama, it rarely ever translates his creations into deservedly clever clothing.

Consider a few recent examples.

British designer Stella McCartney, for instance, recently released a collection of clothes printed with Sorayama’s robots, with metallic silver bags and shoes to match.

The most provocative element of the partnership iss the imagery, gently reflecting the sensuality inherent to Sorayama’s artwork in the model’s bare skin. But by far the best (i.e. most Sorayama) piece of the collection, a pair of mono-lensed sunglasses, was not produced for sale.

Though McCartney proposed that her Sorayama collaboration came from a place of personal passion for the artist’s work, the results aren’t much more adventurous than, say, the fairly ordinary merch that Sorayama produced for outrage-plagued Pornhub around the same time.

McCartney’s collection is objectively superior but, either way, the end result is shirts printed with a Sorayama “Sexy Robot.”

Not to disparage McCartney, mind you, because she’s hardly alone. Plenty of designers stamp straightforward staples with Sorayama artwork or sell silver shoes as Sorayama collaborations. This is quite commonplace for Sorayama team-ups, really. Such is the nature of art as product.

But still, just like how you’d think that Takashi Murakami’s color-drenched flowers might inspire something more vivacious than printed T-shirts, one would assume that Sorayama’s robo gals might springboard suitably space age-y fashion.

Certainly, some have used Sorayama’s designs as a stepping stone to ingenuity. Kim Jones’ Pre-Fall 2019 Dior collection, for instance, neatly translated Sorayama’s stark shininess into some admirably robotic apparel, a task that Sorayama didn’t initially think possible.

“In practice, it was a challenge to transfer my artwork and context into fashion,” Sorayama told Highsnobiety at the time. “But I trusted him on the result. His position is kind of like a translator, between fashion and art.” 

The centerpiece of the Dior x Sorayama line was a handmade metal iteration of the house’s Saddle Bag, sold to a few deep-pocketed admirers for $33,000 apiece. Truly, the embodiment of artist inspiration into IRL product. And it’s not even the best example, as far as Sorayama goes.

Dior isn’t alone in creating stuff that’s so clearly redolent of Sorayama that you don’t even gotta know he had anything to do with it to know where it came from.

Roger Dubois’ Sorayama-inspired Excalibur watch? Mizuno’s sleek silver Wave Prophecy sneaker? Richardson’s $10,000 robot penis incense chamber? Re-read that last one.

Seriously, there exists hardly any other better physical manifestation of Sorayama’s impudent eroticism and futuristic fixation. Can’t say I’d personally want to display a metallic phallus myself, of course, but also can’t deny that it’s as clever as Sorayama collaborations get.

So, why aren’t more brands channeling Sorayama’s chrome-plated worldview into similarly thoughtful stuff?

Well, you can’t expect every designer to turn into Pierre Cardin or Thierry Mugler and channel Sorayama’s influence into extreme, austere clothing. It’d be nice, sure, but not often profitable, not approachable for a mass market, and not always within the realm of artistic licensing deals.

The point of bringing in a saleable artist like Sorayama is to make, well, saleable product. And the most direct way to translate the artist’s aesthetic is to reframe conventional goods with his broad strokes — graphic prints and metallic tones.

Logistically, it makes sense. It’s the UNIQLO approach: literally wear your love for an internationally recognizable artist on your sleeve with a (semi-)reasonably-priced printed T-shirt or hoodie. It avails the largest possible consumer base.

This holds true for popular artists from all decades, from Sorayama, Murakami, and KAWS to Basquiat, Haring, and Warhol.

But this also makes for less exciting clothing.

Certainly, there’s room for ordinary Sorayama-branded product; there’s always room for straightforward clothes to function as a canvas for artworks and artists.

But, still, it’d be grand to see more designers step into Kim Jones’ translator role, weaving their artist collaborator’s attitude into clothing that’s less about face value appreciation (still valid, though!) and more about reflecting the way that art, like clothing, makes you feel.

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