Is This the End of KAWS and OriginalFake?


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!