Is This the End of KAWS and OriginalFake?

Written on by jeremy


15 minutes ago, KAWS posted the ‘notorious’ coffin image to his Instagram account, along with an announcement definitively ending the OriginalFake brand.

Original Fake: The End

I’m not going to transcribe the “heartbroken” fans paying their “mad respects,” but here’s what KAWS wrote:

May 2013 marks the seventh year anniversary of OriginalFake, and it is at this time that Medicom Toy and I have chosen to close the shop and company. It’s been an amazing opportunity to work with Medicom Toy on this project as well as working with Masamichi Katayama of Wonder Wall to create the interior of the shop and Konno of Nexus7 who’s incredible talent really added sophistication to the clothing that we produced. I really want to thank the staff in production as well as in our shop. If you ever entered our shop you already know how awesome they are! I would also like to thank all the companies that collaborated with us, your friendship and support has always really meant a lot, and to everyone who has supported OriginalFake,THANK YOU! and I hope to see you all in the next chapter! #kaws #originalfake

Interesting timing. I wonder if he, or a friend, read my editorial? Speaking of people who did read it, here’s a message from my mom:

a message from my mom about art

Thanks for the reminder, Mom! And now, you can go back to 9AM this morning when the rest of this story was published.

OriginalFake 2006-2013

OriginalFake recently posted this cheeky coffin illo, which, according to Freshnessmag, has “touched off a firestorm of rumors” about the fate of KAWS’ streetwear and lifestyle brand. Somehow, I remained untouched by the massive flames, but luckily, my friend MD tipped me off. I’ll now quote his forum posting where he eloquently elucidates KAWS’ 4-step plan to success (where hype and hypocrisy are indistinguishable).

Step 1: Huge Kaws fan has massive gallery show.

Step 2: Kaws complains about the way said fan is displaying his companions (in custom made ‘coffins’) citing something along the lines of “violating his proprietary rights because he hadn’t intended the art to be displayed in this way.”

Step 3: Fan changes the display and gallery is expected to hunt down and delete all ‘coffin’ photos online. At this point, Kaws seems like he’s being a bit of a dick, but folks say things like ‘he’s protecting the integrity/context’ of his piece.

Step 4: Kaws comes out with this ‘headstone’ illustration which shows he clearly has no qualms with associating his work with death, coffins, graveyards etc.

I don’t know if he’s just being an asshole in general, or if he just wants to control each and every aspect of his ‘brand’. Either way, the more I look at his pieces, the less art I see and the more business I feel. Just slap 2 X’s, 3 stripes or a fucking swoosh on it and send it off to Target already.

Is this when the Internet collectively shouts: “PWNED”?!

KAWS OriginalFake bootlegs on Instagram

I haven’t covered any of the recent KAWS releases because they’ve been so phenomenally dull that my usually abundant wellspring of words is bone dry. The last time I tried was KAWS x Snoopy: Good Grief. At least the artist finds his own work interesting. Check out the conversation above between KAWS and Selim Varol (mega-collector and protagonist in the “Coffinated Companions conspiracy“). KAWS busts Selim for posting a photo of bootlegs on Instagram, but Selim reveals that the photo is merely “fan art” by one of KAWS’ “admirers.” The toy tiff is summarily smoothed over when KAWS has no choice but to respond affirmatively that he received Selim’s birthday gift. What a curiously contentious relationship between artist and collector!

KAWS Companions in coffins

I like the way “666doll” on Skullbrain highlights the hypocrisy in KAWS’ position during the Berlin museum show:

For someone who has made a living defacing other iconic brands with (clearly) death X’s as eyes as his signature, I find this a great example of calling the kettle black. He is more than allowed to voice his displeasure, but forcing the exhibit to heed his request is completely laughable. To tell people how they should display work in another setting is appalling. Furthermore, I find it stunning that someone who does what he does, and makes the bulk of his money the way he does while not at all elevating the idea of “fine art” can even remotely complain. Caravaggio he ain’t!

Oh snap.

Casually Pepper Spray Kaws: "False Gods"

Anyway, we’ve veered a bit off topic. The matter at hand is whether OriginalFake, like A Bathing Ape and other streetwear brands, will also soon be closing its doors.

Scary Andy says: “Why bother paying Tokyo rent when consumers will pay $180 for a $30 toy all day long online!”

666Doll adds: “The closure of OriginalFake, if that is ‘what’s’ happening is clearly economics. Assuming it’s anything else is you not using common sense.”

And DavidUgly (aka David Horvath of Uglydolls) opines:

Have you checked out your local Japanese super market toy section lately? All of the Japanese markets I have frequented in the US have shrunken their toy section down by 90% or so. Japanese toy magazines are almost unrecognizable….what was once hundreds of pages every 30 days filled with hundreds of new wacky random items now far less pages, now focusing on  core brands and big names (in general). Real Fake [sic] has sections in tons of amazing shops around the world, including two great locations here in Korea. We have our own Uglydoll shop in Seoul and the fever pitch goes up up up, but I would not think 2x about opening a store in Japan right now…

In my own limited view, it seems to me, in my own opinion, that there has been a radical shift in Tokyo away from the directions of a few years ago and a new focus on home grown core brands and characters. Nakano Broadway of even just two years ago has drastically changed. Now it’s Hello Kitty and One Piece yes, random umbrella man with underwear on his head no.

If that makes any sense.


KAWS' Kurfs bootlegs: OriginalFake

You can still get certain Japanese-umbrella-man-type-toys in America. (USA! USA! USA!) But Horvath’s point is bigger and potentially sadder and quite a bit separate from the loss of OriginalFake. IF KAWS’ toy production goes south, big whoop. KAWS is enjoying a good game in the fine art sector, and I don’t see him ceasing to make editions anytime soon. And even if he did:

  1. It wouldn’t even be original! James Jarvis shuttered his much-loved toy company, Amos Toys, after a ten-year run, a few months back.
  2. You can always buy bootlegs.

And besides IF KAWS did kill the Companion (and mind you, the Companion is already dead), well he’s just 5 years late to the scene of Futura killing Pointman. Which brings me to (excuse the pun), my point. And a prediction:

Let’s say that KAWS closes OriginalFake at the end of 2013. With Amos Toys terminated and Pointman already in the grave, who wants to make bets that Michael Lau won’t be far behind? R.I.P. M.F.J.K.

Michael Lau's M.F.J.K. an OriginalFake!

Posted in Editorials, Toys, vinyl | 7 Comments

7 Responses

  1. Posted by: MikeM on January 18, 2013 at 8:25 am

    mad respects yo.

  2. Posted by: Kylo76 (Twitter: @WachineMachine) on January 18, 2013 at 9:06 am

    I don’t really want to get into my feelings on Kaws which really revolve towards the untalented hack end of the spectrum but I for one have no problem cracking a wry smile today. I’m sure he has already planned out his next career arc involving some total and utter lack of creativity.

  3. Posted by: Sergey Safonov on January 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Original fake is an apparel brand and toys was used the same way as originally in late 90s – to keep people on their toes for anything limited from favorite brand (and artist). Came for Kaws darth vader (stood in line for 5 hours didn’t won the lottery), stay for Kaws fleece and pair of jeans. Apparel, that’s where the money was for OF, probably not anymore, but Companion isn’t going anywhere so as xx’ed peanuts and Star Wars.
    No surprise Boba Fett is Japan only release.

  4. Posted by: Kylo76 (Twitter: @WachineMachine) on January 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Really Kaws fleece? That sounds so amazingly awful i cannot even express my dismay in words…sigh.

  5. Posted by: Kylo76 (Twitter: @WachineMachine) on January 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I think this in a nutshell is why I really do not collect very many art toys anymore. Used to be such a large part of my life and i loved the creativity and inventiveness in the scene. Although my life has drastically changed in many ways, I much prefer design objects and other art forms now. Maybe that’s me growing older but I find that hard to believe as I can listen to a Devo lp while I write this post and smile like I did when I first heard it. Some things occupy a permanent place in my heart while some things occupy a place in time more than anything else. I really have tried to never let go of this form of art but it seems like a different time the more I read about or see what is happening in this scene now. There are still many interesting artists out there doing interesting things but they seem few and far between now. Who knows maybe I am not looking hard enough but the whole notion of Kaws and the comparisons to Haring or Warhol simply do not fit and drive me crazy. Oh well too much ranting, maybe/hopefully this is just a phase for me and I will become a little less critical in the near future. I really hope to see more originality and creativity in the future because that is when boundaries become pushed and I really enjoy that.

  6. Posted by: Jason on January 22, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Jeremy, you are hands down the best toy reporter out there :)

  7. Posted by: moodydoom (Twitter: @themoodydoom) on January 25, 2013 at 10:06 am

    @WarMachine I get where you’re coming from.

    Feelings about the actual merit of Kaws work aside, this Kaws example has highlighted a cross-roads that I’ve been heading towards in my own collecting. With the amount of toys being released every month, the hobby has become way too frantic for me. I feel like it’s so easy to get caught up chasing the dragon in this game.

    Part of the problem for me, is that apart from Jeremy, there seems to be nothing in the way of criticizing and contextualising this ‘art-toy’ movement. All I see is a majority that swoops for the fresh new thing. To me there is no longevity in that. Fresh new things become old turds quite quickly so what’s the point really. (The same can be said about the actual producers of the work, a lot of stuff seems to have little to no thought put into it. 90% just seems to be rehashes of old ideas or pop-culture references).

    I would love my collection to be a meaningful chronicle of a certain time in this movement, not just a checklist of things that were hot back then.

    so i’m trying to focus on
    1: Artists i admire for the thought they put into their work.

    2: artists that are doing something that i think has actual artistic value, whether it’s just a toy for toy’s sake or a toy for art’s sake.

    and yes, Kaws falls into neither of those categories.


  • Brutherford Industries
  • Emilio Garcia
  • Frank Kozik
  • Brian Flynn
  • Coarse Toys
  • Jason Freeny
  • FERG
  • Steff Bomb
  • Shag
  • Junko Mizuno
  • TADO
  • Godmachine
  • Mike Leavitt
  • Joseph Harmon
  • Nathan Jurevicius
  • Huck Gee
  • Double Parlour
  • Ron Hollatz
  • Skinner
  • Ryan Roberts Photography
  • Felt Mistress
  • Tristan Eaton
  • Greg Craola Simkins
  • The Toy Hunter
  • The Sucklord
  • Kathie Olivas & Brandt Peters

Studio Visits

  • Doubleparlour studio visit
  • Junko Mizuno Studio Visit
  • Frank Kozik Studio Visit
  • Mark Nagata Studio Visit
  • Huck Gee Studio Visit