Monday, June 15, 2009

Seventy thousand were nuked in Nagasaki. Now you can buy the T-shirt from Christopher Kane (L)
mushroom cloud over nagasaki/AP via

It has been a few days since frockwriter raised questions about the provenance of the mushroom cloud graphics in Christopher Kane’s Resort 2010 collection. Kane told the images depicted “nuclear test explosions from the '50s to the '70s” and were sourced from the “free public-access database” of the UK Ministry of Defence.

Frockwriter asked, did Kane require permission for commercial use of the images and if so, had the MOD licensed him to make a nuclear fashion statement? This might prove awkward, we noted, in light of the recent compensation case initiated by 1000 war veterans over radiation exposure incurred during the MOD's 1950s atomic tests.

Although the MOD confirmed a license would be required for the commercial use of its images, the organisation has yet to get back to us with any other information.

Meanwhile, Kane’s sister and business partner, Tammy Kane, told frockwriter there is no link to the Atomic Veterans Group case and that although the graphics were “inspired by the images on the MOD website”, no MOD images were used. The images were sourced, she added, from “more conventional picture sources”, with all necessary consents duly organised.

Why drag the MOD's name into it? No response.

Would she provide the real source? Not a chance.

Noted Tammy Kane, “We don’t intend to reveal the source of the images. We have enough problems with people copying our work without making it even easier for them”.

Unfortunately for the Kanes, you don't need to be a nuclear astrophysicist to track down some of the images. And one of these images has nothing to do with atomic tests.

Page one of a quick Google Image search under the term “mushroom cloud” yields two images which bear uncanny resemblances to those used in at least three garments from the collection.

Most notably, one black and white T-shirt is emblazoned with a mushroom cloud print that shares at least 30 commonalities with - and appears identical to - one of the best-known photographs of WWII (both pictured above ^).

The original image was taken on August 9, 1945, three minutes after the US Air Force dropped a 21 kiloton atomic bomb on the Japanese port town of Nagasaki, killing 40,000 people instantly, with an additional 30,000 estimated to have died from injuries and radiation exposure.

The Nagasaki blast, which prompted Japan’s surrender, came of course three days after an even more devastating US nuclear attack on Hiroshima, which killed 70,000 instantly and an estimated 200,000 within five years.

Here is the original image, credited to the US Air Force via Associated Press:


There are many reproductions of the Nagasaki image online. This one bears the closest resemblance to the image in the Kane print.

Wikimedia claims the photograph is in the public domain because it is a work of a US military or Department of Defense employee, taken/made during the course of an employee's official duties.

Frockwriter is curious just how well the T-shirt will fare in the Japanese market.

There are also many similarities between another historic image - this time taken during the Cold War - and a print on Kane's blue and yellow sheath dress which featured on page one of last week:

christopher kane Resort 2010/

The striking horizontal band of light in the middle of the cloud, the shapes of the smaller, darker clouds at the base and even the degradation of blues which appears at the top of the original image, depicting a mountain range - and which have been incorporated into the neckline of the dress - are identical.

The original image was taken on June 24th 1957 and shows the detonation of a 37 kiloton bomb called Priscilla at the Nevada Test Site, part of a series of US atomic tests called Operation Plumbob (aka Operation Plijmbbob) which were conducted between May and October that year.

Although in several places online a colourised version of the image is credited to Associated Press, the original source appears to be the United States Department of Energy. Wikimedia credits the photo to the National Nuclear Security Administration – a separate body that was created by US Congress in 2000 within the USDOE.


Acording to Wikimedia, this image is also in the public domain in the US.

Over two hundred thousand military personnel, workers and civilians are estimated to have been exposed to radiation as a result of US nuclear activities during WWII and the Cold War – with most of that exposure incurred in and around the Nevada Test Site.

In observance of the US government's role in the immediate, and potential longterm, health impacts of this radiation exposure, a raft of legislation has since been passed by US Congress, including the Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (1984), the Radiation-Exposed Veterans Compensation Act (1988) and the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (1990).

Of his reasons for choosing the mushroom cloud prints for his Resort 2010 collection, Kane told

“I wanted something natural, but I'm so fed up with florals”.


Bryanboy said...

excellent research! :-)

Bang said...

Is it that you think Kane was being insensitive about the subject matter he used, or that you don't think he sought out access for the use of the images? I fail to see the story, other than the sporadic use of assertion.

A Time To Be Selfish said...

Very well researched! I can understand why Kane's camp would be tetchy about giving away the information if one of the images was from Nagasaki. Nuclear test images are one thing, but slapping an atrocity that killed thousands on a shirt is something altogether different and more exploitative.

JC Superstar said...

Doesn't this remind you of NOM*d's "Operation Bombshell" collection a few years back which used practically the same nuclear test prints on t-shirts? Except that NOM*d's images were all definitely nuclear tests from the 1950's and fortunately weren't from images that were from the bombing of Japan. And the NOM*d shirts were kinda cooler...Go NOM*d!

Anonymous said...

I agree im failing to see the story in this.. do you think that christopher kane is being insensitive? i dont think he woul dbe intentionally. or do you just think he didnt go about getting the images in the correct manner. if so who cares!!! seriously youre just looking to pick a story!

Patty Huntington said...

bang and anon -

firstly, my curiosity was aroused by the fact that kane dragged the name of the UK ministry of defence into this. in so doing, and making a song and dance about the fact that the images were "free public-access", he complicated matters, because anyone who bothered to check with firstly, the terms and conditions of the MOD database and furthermore, the MOD, quickly discovered that there is - apparently - no such thing as free access of UK military images for commercial purposes. so this posed two questions: if the images came from the MOD, did he just rip them off? or did the MOD license them to him? in light of the high profile Atomic Veterans Group case - which has been going through the courts for five years in the UK - the latter seemed a particularly inappropriate move for the MOD to be making.

secondly, it came to my attention that one of the images used by kane bears a striking resemblance to one of the world's best-known war photographs: the nagasaki bomb image. kane has had ample opportunity to point out that he was making a political statement. however the only information offered so far is that he used atomic test images because he was tired of florals and thought the images were pretty.

kane appears to have told that the images were sourced from the MOD - which has resulted in the name of the MOD now being spread across the net in connection with this collection. his sister now says the MOD was not the source. kane is directly quoted as saying that he used test images. when in fact one image is a WWII shot of a real nuclear attack. there's a raft of people who have simply reported this story straight off the press release, without asking questions - starting with

i gather neither of you earns a living out of your news judgment.

dnee said...

"i gather neither of you earns a living out of your news judgment".


ps.. i think it's a rather crass use of imagery, just quietly.

S.A.A. said...

Ahhh this post is fantastic and this is what I call Gatewatching at its fashion finest! Patty you've done an Awesome job with your research, not only do I expose myself to quality fashion stories when reading your blog but also I see a lot of what I'm learning about good journalism in your work. It's like hitting two birds with one stone and proves that fashion journalism doesn't just have to be the airy fairy designer profile stories you see all of the time! Thank you very much for this, I hope one day I can achieve the level of quality F. journalism that you produce. Ok that was a really long comment but it had to be said.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't care less, frankly. It sounds as though you're trying to find a story where there isn't one.

Annika said...

It will be interesting to see how well this collection is stocked and how it sells, there is no excuse for such blatant misappropriation. You would have to be a real fashion victim to go anywhere near these garments.

If Kane had taken a political stance from the beginning of his conceptualization the product could of had a lot more power and meaning and the outcome could have been quite different. This is a big leap from ape heads and soft organza scallops. At least he can be sure Chloe wont release anything similar.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention Patty.

ginevra said...

I agree with the poster above, if it's a political statement, Kane should have said so upfront. If not, there are some images you can't have fun / muck around with: Nagasaki (or Hiroshima) being prime examples.

If you look at his collection, there's a couple of dresses that don't seem to fit the nuclear theme ... I'd speculate he changed his mind during half-way through development, and didn't have time to fully think out the implications of the images.

Anyway, thanks for thought & debate-provoking research!

Anonymous said...

come on...........please get a life!!!

Jenny said...

Although his dresses could be seen as a glorification of something truly horrific, I don't think that was Kane's intention.
That being said, I personally think the dresses weren't interesting - wish he would have kept up his past style.

M I A N N said...

Your depth of research is amazing. I did a post on the collection but failed to see this side of the story.

I suppose this is why you're one of the best fashion JOURNALIST's around - and why you're my inspiration :)

Patty Huntington said...

thanks guys. FYI the post was picked up by new york magazine's the cut blog overnight.

Anonymous said...

S.A.A, I don't know if your gushing is completely necessary. This post is well researched but I don't agree with you that Frockwriter is all about 'quality F. journalism'. Past posts on models sexuality are strangely juvenile and really more appropriate to other mediums. Where's the good journalism in such posts? CS

For-Tomorrow Online Store / Blog said...

Beat Poet also used the exact same print on their T's last season, here:

Pro Choice said...

What a load of wank, Anonymous 1:05pm.

If those posts are indeed "strangely juvenile", why are they picked up by both mainstream and social media outlets?

Variety is the spice of life. Keep the posts left, right and centre I say.

Mike Huynh said...

It's an unexpected approach to the collection I feel. Especially after his two previous ones. He has gain such attention and industry appraisal for which he so rightly deserves but someone would expect me to do something like that not him when he is shoulder to shoulder with Versace. Although on the other hand, there is that wheel-axing shoot down of creativity but I think if he wanted to re-create the effects of bombarded abomination, he might have better approached by VAT and indigo dying or other textile dying where the washing machine and the sun can yield the effects, bespoke shredded jersey and silk.

I completely didn't realise until now that we're now also on the topic of Rei Kawakubo.

S.A.A. said...

To CS,
To many people who do not know me, my "gushing" is just my over the top way of telling someone that I admire what they do and I just believe that credit should be given where it is deserved hence the necessity. On the other hand what I should have said initially was that Patty's content is admirable because of her ability to create a balance between the airy fairy and thought provoking. After all, fashion is nothing without that balance between the "juvenile" (or as others would put it, trivial) and the intellectual. However I do respect that everyone is most certainly entitled to their own opinions.


Anonymous said... probably asked him 'Where did your images come from?' and he answered. I'm sure he wasn't being all crazy and defensive.. From what I can see, there isn't a direct quote from him on the website, from which you could infer they [] asked him..

Patty Huntington said...

granted, the information about the MOD is not a direct quote, but it is quite detailed and suggests that that is what was told by kane. why else would they report it? and if kane did not have permission to use any MOD images - which is what his sister told me in an email, denying that the MOD was the origin - why bother mentioning the MOD at all? it's not like the shots are artists' impressions. they are real photographs of historic events.

the following is, however, a direct quote from kane. he told

"I came across these images of nuclear test explosions from the fifties to the seventies on the Internet".

the B/W image has nothing to do with nuclear tests. it's a real atomic explosion from 1945.

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